Tuesday 17 September 2019

Istanbul mayor hails victory as step towards repairing democracy

Ekrem Imamoglu was at Istanbul city hall to take up the seat he was forced to give up when his initial win on March 31 was nullified.

Ekrem Imamoglu, the new mayor of Istanbul, makes a speech from a bus after taking office (Lefteris Pitarakis/AP)
Ekrem Imamoglu, the new mayor of Istanbul, makes a speech from a bus after taking office (Lefteris Pitarakis/AP)

By Associated Press Reporter

Turkish politician Ekrem Imamoglu has formally taken office as mayor of Istanbul, hailing his victory in a repeat election in the city as a step towards repairing Turkey’s damaged democracy.

Cheered by thousands of supporters of his opposition Republican People’s Party, Mr Imamoglu returned to Istanbul city hall on Thursday to take up the seat he was forced to give up when his initial win on March 31 was nullified.

“The people of Istanbul have confirmed their attachment to the Republic and to democracy,” Mr Imamoglu told the crowd.

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Thousands of supporters surround a bus carrying Ekrem Imamoglu (Lefteris Pitarakis/AP)

“This confirmation has shown the world that Turkey isn’t any ordinary Middle Eastern country. The belief in democracy runs deep in Turkey’s veins.”

Mr Imamoglu had won an initial March 31 race for mayor by a narrow margin, but Turkey’s top electoral body, ruling in favour of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s governing party, annulled his win after he had served for 18 days and ordered the election rerun that was held on Sunday.

The cancellation had raised concerns about democracy in Turkey, where Mr Erdogan is accused of increasing authoritarianism.

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Thousands of supporters turned out to celebrate Mr Imamoglu’s return to office (Lefteris Pitarakis/AP)

In a rebuke to the ruling party, voters returned Mr Imamoglu to the office with 54.21% of the vote — 806,000 votes more than the governing Justice and Development Party’s candidate, former prime minister Binali Yildirim.

In his speech — interrupted by chants of “Mayor Ekrem” and his campaign slogan “everything will be beautiful” — Mr Imamoglu promised to end what he described as the “squandering” of the city’s public funds by the governing party.

“The squandering will end, the belt-tightening will start,” he said.

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Ekrem Imamoglu, centre, and his wife Dilek, left, pose with a certificate confirming his election victory (Imamoglu Team via AP)

“Istanbul’s 16 million (people) will share the city’s blessings.”

Earlier, authorities at Istanbul’s main court presented Mr Imamoglu with a framed certificate confirming his mandate to rule over Turkey’s largest city and commercial hub for the next five years.

Istanbul’s governor, the interim mayor, later handed over the municipality’s official seal to Mr Imamoglu in a televised ceremony.

PA Media

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