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Opposition Candidate Elected Istanbul Mayor in Local Vote

In a stunning rebuke to President Erdogan, voters elected the opposition candidates in Istanbul, Ankara.

After much fuss and wrangling on Sunday night and early Monday morning, Turkey’s Supreme Election Council (YSK) confirmed that opposition candidate Ekrem Imamoglu won more votes than his rival Binali Yildirim in a neck to neck contest in Istanbul as voters delivered a strong rebuke to President Recep Tayyip Erdogan‘s party in major cities in the critical local vote.

In a press conference on Monday, YSK President Sadi Guven announced that Imamoglu received 4,159,650 votes while Yildirim garnered 4,131,761 votes. His final remarks came as confirmation of what the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) had already been saying since the election night.

Guven’s official numbers also came as a rebuke to state-run Anadolu news agency, which sparked ire of the people by its sloppy reporting and refusal to enter official results from the YSK headquarters. When asked about the discrepancy, Guven said, “the Anadolu agency was not the customer of his [institution].”

“Where did they get those results? I don’t know. You should ask them,” he told reporters in Ankara.

After the YSK press statement, Imamoglu shared the news on his Twitter account and offered his wholehearted gratitude to the voters in Istanbul for his victory.

The opposition won mayoral cities in major big cities, including Ankara where Mansur Yavas, the joint candidate of the CHP and IYI (Good) Party, won with three percent lead ahead of his rival Mehmet Ozhaseki.

The CHP candidates also won in Antalya and Izmir. The results came as a shock to President Erdogan less than one year after Turkey’s transition to an executive presidential system. The vote became a referendum on his one-man rule. While the two-year emergency rule came to an end last summer, the majority of the extraordinary governance measures became the law of the land and are still in place.

The nagging bread and butter issues seemed to heavily weigh on the calculations of the voters. The government’s sale of subsidized vegetables and goods in several cities failed to sway voters whose purchasing power dramatically decreased in the face of soaring inflation and a weak lira.

The 1994 local elections gave Erdogan the mayoral seat of Istanbul and paved the way for his ascent in national politics. According to a commentator, the 1994 local vote opened a new chapter for political Islam in Turkey. This election would well herald the end of that era.

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