Support for the Istanbul mayoral candidate of Turkey’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) plummeted by almost a quarter of a million votes in an election rerun in the country’s largest metropolis.
In Sunday’s mayoral election rerun on Sunday AKP mayoral candidate Binali Yildirim according to preliminary results had polled 234,835 fewer votes than in the March 31 election, the Sozcu daily reported.
The state-run Anadolu Agency (AA), which has announced 99.37 percent of the Istanbul re-run results so far, stated that Turkey’s opposition candidate Ekrem Imamoglu had once again been elected the Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality Mayor on Sunday.
Imamoglu, who won a narrow victory in the March polls against Yildirim and was ousted from office in early May, gained 529,000 more votes on Sunday’s re-run than he did in the March poll.
The narrow difference of 13,729 votes between the two candidates in March has reportedly seen nearly a 57-fold increase and expanded to a margin of 777,581 votes on Sunday, the initial results also showed.
The main opposition secular Republican People’s Party (CHP) candidate Imamoglu has also broken a new record among Istanbul mayors by garnering 54.03 percent of the votes against his rival’s 45.09 percent.
His predecessors in Istanbul, Kadir Topbas and Tayyip Erdogan were only able to collect 47,9 percent and 25,2 percent of Istanbul’s votes in local polls of 2004 and 1994, respectively.
Seventeen independent candidates, Necdet Gokcinar from the Islamist opposition Felicity Party (SP) and the left-nationalist Patriotic Party (VP)’s Mustafa Ilker Yucel also participated in the Istanbul mayoral race on Sunday.
While Gokcinar received 0.50 percent and Yucel 0.17 percent of the votes, the 17 independent candidates have taken 0.16 percent in total.
The state-run AA’s initial results have also indicated that 83.90 percent of Istanbul’s nearly 10.6 million voters went to the ballot box on Sunday’s election re-run, with almost no increase compared to March’s voter turnout of 83.88 percent.
According to the ANKA News Agency, which also covered Sunday’s mayoral election rerun and released 100 percent of the results, Imamoglu received 54.21 percent of the Istanbul votes while Yildirim remained at 44.99 percent.
Soon after the announcement of the initial results, AKP candidate Yildirim conceded defeat and congratulated his secularist rival.
“According to current results, my opponent Ekrem Imamoglu is leading [the Istanbul mayoral race]. I congratulate him,” Yildirim said, adding “I wish that our friend Imamoglu will provide good service to İstanbul.”
Imamoglu called the June 23 re-run “a new page, a new beginning in Istanbul” in his speech following the release of unofficial results on Sunday.
Emphasizing that one of the most important benefits of the election was its great contribution to Turkey’s democratic process, he added: “May the results bring luck [to all of us.]”
Turkish media reported that Erdogan, the president, and the ruling AKP chair, has not given a “balcony speech” following an election for the first time since his party came to power in 2002.
The president on Sunday congratulated Imamoglu for “winning the election according to unofficial results” in a tweet on social media.
Imamoglu had received 48.77 percent of the votes while Yildirim gained 48.61 percent in the annulled March 31 local elections in Istanbul when the city changed hands for the first time in 25 years.
Turkey’s Supreme Electoral Council (YSK) annulled the polls and made Imamoglu quit after less than three weeks in office due to ruling AKP’s appeals that included alleged voting irregularities.