Counting begins as voting ends in Istanbul election rerun

23 Juin, 2019, 20:20 | Auteur: Anatole Charbonneau
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In the initial March 31 vote, the opposition Republican People's Party (CHP) candidate secured a narrow victory over Erdogan's AK Party (AKP) in Turkey's largest city, a rare electoral defeat for the president.

"According to the result as of now, my competitor Ekrem Imamoglu is leading the race".

The city of 15 million is Turkey's economic powerhouse and has been a crucial source of patronage for Islamic conservatives since Erdogan himself won the mayorship a quarter-century ago.

His upbeat message under the slogan "Everything will be fine" is in contrast to the usual aggressive name-calling of Turkish politics.

Polls have shown Imamoglu, a former district mayor, retaining a lead over his AKP rival, former prime minister Binali Yildirim.

But he faced the juggernaut of the AKP, which has ruled Turkey since 2002 and remains the most popular political force nationwide thanks to years of dramatic growth and support for previously excluded religious conservatives. Millions of Istanbul residents voted Sunday, in a re-run of a mayoral election that has become a referendum on President Erdogan's policies and a test of Turkey's ailing democracy.

It came as an economic slump and rising prices have dented the president's reputation for economic stewardship, with the AKP also losing the capital Ankara in March. "A flood of people are coming to Istanbul, cutting short their vacation to vote", said Jale Ucmaz, a retired teacher voting in the district that Imamoglu ran for five years.

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"Today our people will make the best decision. for the sake of our democracy, for Istanbul and also for the legitimacy of all future elections", he said after voting.

But many AKP supporters have wholly accepted the line that there was fraud in the first vote.

But the controversy over the re-run may have explained his relative silence, with no repeat of the tireless rallying for the March polls, which included 102 appearances in just 50 days.

Last weekend, he played down the Istanbul vote as "only a change in the shop window" since the AKP already runs nearly two-thirds of the city's districts.

Yildirim travelled to one of the main Kurdish cities of Diyarbakir this month and uttered the word "Kurdistan" - a taboo in Turkey.

There have even been signs of dialogue with the jailed leader of the Kurdish insurgency, Abdullah Ocalan, who this week called on the pro-Kurdish Peoples' Democratic Party to remain neutral in the election, though it has continued to back Imamoglu.

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