THOUSANDS poured onto the streets of Istanbul last night after the opposition candidate for mayor secured a landmark win over power-mad Turkish President Erdogan’s party.
Ekrem Imamoglu, 49, said thank you to his supporters after his victory on Sunday – the second time the election took place amid weeks of political tension.
13 Ekrem Imamoglu, mayoral candidate of the main opposition Republican People’s Party, celebrates with his thousands of supporters
13 Tens of thousands gathered in Istanbul to celebrate the victory – which was a major blow to President Erdogan’s party
Imamoglu narrowly won an earlier mayoral election on March 31 – but Erdogan’s Justice and Development Party, AKP, challenged the vote over alleged irregularities.
He spent 18 days in office before Turkey’s electoral board annulled the results after weeks of partial recounts.
Last night, unofficial results showed he won a clear majority of the vote – beating former Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim 54 per cent to 45 per cent.
Imamoglu increased his lead from the March mayoral election by hundreds of thousands of votes – suggesting a voter backlash against Erdogan’s efforts to further seize power.
But analysts say the president – who is grappling with an economic downturn and several international crises – could limit the mayor’s power or undermine Imamoglu’s authority in other ways.
It was feared after the initial result was voided that AKP – which has governed Turkey since 2002 – would never accept any electoral loss.
Imamoglu told jubilant crowds last night: “You have protected the reputation of democracy in Turkey with the whole world watching.”
Supporters chanted “Mayor again! Mayor again!” while others hung out of cars, blaring horns and waving red-and-white Turkish flags.
13 Imamoglu raises his fist in victory as crowds cheer in Istanbul on Sunday nightCredit: AP:Associated Press
13 Tens of thousands came out to celebrate the stunning win – the second in a matter of months for Imamoglu, after the initial vote was deemed voidCredit: AP:Associated Press
13 Supporters cheered and waved flags through the streets of Istanbul
13 The city of 15 million ground to a halt as the stunning election victory led to mass celebrations
Erdogan will be devastated after campaigning hard for Yildirim in Istanbul – where the president started his political career as mayor in 1994.
AKP also lost control of the capital city of Ankara in Turkey’s March local elections.
It came as the country battled high inflation and two credit rating downgrades in the past year.
Istanbul – a city of more than 15 million – draws millions of tourists each year and is Turkey’s commercial and cultural hub, accounting for 31 per cent of Turkey’s GDP in 2017.
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Erdogan has previously signalled an unwillingness to work with an opposition mayor.
But Imamoglu will have to work with his party to govern Istanbul – and he promised to do so on Sunday.
Addressing Erdogan in a speech, Imamoglu said: “I’m ready to work with you” to solve Istanbul’s problems.
13 Imamoglu said thank you to his supporters and vowed to work with Erdogan’s party to improve the city
13 A supporter of Imamoglu waves a Turkish flag amid mass celebrations in Istanbul last night
13 Crowds lit flares and waved Turkish flags during the victory rally
13 The victory of Imamoglu will be seen as a crippling blow to President Erdogan
13 Imamoglu addressed his supporters in Istanbul after winning by 54 per cent to 45 per cent
13 Imamoglu raises his fist in victory last night
13 A supporter cheers for the camera amid jubilant celebrations in Istanbul
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