Istanbul Mayor Headed for Re-election, in Blow to Erdogan’s Party

By John Mercury April 1, 2024

The mayor of Istanbul was headed for a stinging re-election victory against President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his ruling party early Monday, beating back a broad campaign by the president and his government and keeping Turkey’s largest city and economic powerhouse in opposition hands.

The strong showing by Mayor Ekrem Imamoglu put him on track for his third win against Mr. Erdogan’s Justice and Development Party, solidifying his status as a star in the political opposition. Many Turks see Mr. Imamoglu as a potential contender for the presidency.

Partial returns showed Mr. Imamoglu defeating the ruling party’s candidate, Murat Kurum, by a substantial margin. With 96 percent of ballot boxes counted, Mr. Imamoglu had won 50 percent, with Mr. Kurum getting 40 percent, according to preliminary results from the state-run Anadolu news agency.

The opposition was also on the verge of significant gains in other local elections across Turkey. Preliminary vote counts on Monday kept it in power in four of the country’s largest cities — Istanbul, Ankara, Izmir and Antalya — and gave it control of a fifth, Bursa, and a number of smaller cities.

By early Monday, more than than 90 percent of ballot boxes had been counted in most districts. Official results are expected from the Supreme Election Council in the coming days.

“Istanbul has given its message, Istanbul has finished this job,” Mr. Imamoglu told supporters gathered outside city hall early Monday. “Tomorrow morning we will turn a new page.”

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