Ekrem Imamoglu becomes Istanbul mayor, re-run appeal still pending

Newly elected Mayor of Istanbul Ekrem Imamoglu of the main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP) addresses his supporters after taking the office in Istanbul, Turkey, April 17, 2019. (By Reuters)

Turkey's main opposition party candidate in local elections has been declared mayor of Istanbul after recounts of the votes despite a pending appeal from President Recep Tayyip Erdogan ruling AK Party for the vote to annulled and re-run.

Ekrem Imamoglu of the Republican People's Party (CHP) on Wednesday received his certificate of election from electoral authorities to become mayor of Turkey’s economic heartland, state-owned Anadolu news agency said.

The formal mandate followed recounts in districts of the metropolis such as Maltepe, Buyukcekmece, and Fatih.

Speaking to reporters at the Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality building on Wednesday, Imamoglu said, “I’ve received the certificate of the election on behalf of the 16 million people [of Istanbul].”

“We are aware of our responsibility. We know the needs of this city. We know the demands of all the people living in this city and we will immediately start serving them,” he said.

Binali Yildirim, Istanbul mayoral candidate of the AK Party, tweeted, “The Provincial Election Council has given the certificate of election to Mr. Imamoglu. I hope the decision will bring well-being.”

“Our party continues to use its legal rights. The YSK [Supreme Election Council] has the final say,” he said, hinting that legal challenges to the race may continue.

Yildirim had earlier said that it was "clear" that his votes had been stolen during the March 31 elections and gone to Imamoglu.

Imamoglu, however, said he hoped the election board would deal with the AKP challenge in a “just way,” adding he had won his mandate from the voters and only they could take it away.

Following days of appeals and recounts, the AKP on Tuesday asked the High Election Board to annul and re-run the election in Istanbul over what it said were irregularities. Its nationalist MHP allies made a similar request on Wednesday. Imamoglu won the city by a slim margin.Any decision to annul the elections rests with the High Election Board.

The board has already once rejected an AK party appeal to recount the votes cast in 31 of Istanbul’s 39 districts. The electoral body has only agreed to a recount of 51 ballot boxes in 21 of the districts.

The polls saw Turks voting to elect scores of mayors, municipal councils, and other local officials. Erdogan’s AK Party secured an overall victory with some 51 percent of the votes.The AK party, however, suffered major defeats in the elections, which handed a victory to the main opposition party CHP in the political power base, Ankara, and the third-largest city of Izmir.

The final count put him about 13,000 votes, or less than 0.2 percentage points, ahead of the AKP candidate and former prime minister Binali Yildirim

A defeat in Istanbul will be particularly sensitive for Erdogan who commenced his political career as mayor of the city.The AKP or its predecessors had held Istanbul and Ankara since 1994.

The latest local elections were also a test for the country’s new Erdogan-backed presidential system, which the Turkish public voted in favor of in a referendum in 2017, awarding sweeping powers to Erdogan.