Turkish PM Erdogan's party loses controversial replay of Istanbul election

The loss of Istanbul would be a major blow for Mr Erdogan at a time when he faces a number of challenges to his rule

The loss of Istanbul would be a major blow for Mr Erdogan at a time when he faces a number of challenges to his rule

The results are likely to trigger a new chapter in Turkish politics, with the country's top three cities now held by the opposition, and could trigger cracks within Erdoğan's AK Party, while bringing the economic troubles more to the centre.

The opposition candidate for mayor of Istanbul celebrated a landmark win Sunday in a closely watched repeat election that ended weeks of political tension and broke the long hold President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's party had on leading Turkey's largest city.

The election board said it would announce the election results as soon as possible.

Istanbul was awash with vibrant supports of Mr Imamoglo, who took to the streets to celebrate.

The victory by Ekrem Imamoglu, 49, is a stunning victory for the opposition party in Turkey, which had initially won the mayoral election in March before the vote was challenged by Erdogan's governing party.

Erdogan has indeed already played down the importance of the re-run, saying last week that the choice of mayor was "only a change in the shop window" since the AKP controls nearly two-thirds of the city's districts. Imamoglu served 18 days as mayor and was stripped of the post with the board's order for a another election.

"You protected the dignity of Turkey's democracy in front of the whole world", the CHP candidate said.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan poses for photographs, as he casts his ballot at a polling station, in Istanbul, on June 23, 2019, during local elections.

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Critics accused Erdogan of refusing to give up control of Istanbul, Turkey's economic powerhouse and a crucial source of patronage for Islamic conservatives since he won the mayorship himself a quarter of a century ago.

The previous result was annulled after protests from Erdoğan's Islamist-rooted AK Party, which said there had been widespread voting irregularities.

He had already struck a conciliatory tone earlier on Sunday, saying "if we have wronged, knowingly or unknowingly, one of our fellow Istanbulites or our challengers, if we have done something unjust, I ask for your forgiveness".

Imamoglu said that, despite differences in their political views, he was ready to "work in harmony" with Erdogan for the sake of Istanbul and promised "a new beginning" for the city. The president has previously signalled an unwillingness to do so.

Erdoğan has ruled Turkey since 2003, first as prime minister and then as president, becoming the country's most dominant politician since its founder, Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, almost a century ago. Straddling Europe and Asia, Istanbul accounted for 31% of Turkey's GDP in 2017. "We will build democracy and justice in this city".

A key advantage has been his ability to reach beyond the normal demographic of his staunchly secular Republican People's Party (CHP).

"It's a colossal defeat for Yildirim but also Erdogan".

Al Jazeera's Hashem Ahelbarra reports from Istanbul.

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