Ekrem İmamoğlu finally confirmed as Istanbul Mayor

More than two weeks after the Local Elections, residents in Turkey’s biggest city finally know who their Mayor is. Earlier today, the Supreme Electoral Board (Yüksek Seçim Kurulu, YSK) invited Ekrem İmamoğlu, the main opposition candidate, to come and receive his official certificate (‘mazbata’), which confirms his election victory in the Mayor of Istanbul contest.

Huge crowds assembled outside City Hall in the early evening to welcome their new mayor  Speaking after receiving his mandate, the 48-year-old called his electoral success, “a new dawn for Istanbul.”

The fresh face of Turkish politics, Republican People’s Party’s (CHP) İmamoğlu beat the fancied former prime minister Binali Yıldırım of the ruling the AK Party (Justice and Development) by the slenderest of margins. İmamoğlu received 48.8% of the votes, while Yıldırım received 48.55% – a difference of 13,729.

In confirming the results of the Istanbul Mayoral race, YSK also declared the vote total for each man. İmamoğlu polled 4,169,765 votes, while Yıldırım took 4,156,036. The gap had been more than 28,000 straight after the initial count.

Huge crowds flocked to City Hall on Wednesday evening to welcome Istanbul’s new Mayor

However, AKP made numerous objections to the unofficial results claiming irregularities with the count and later voter manipulation. The party demanded recounts of all ballots and at one point, President Erdoğan insisted there should be a re-run of the vote. It’s not clear if YSK will yield to this request, but AKP have vowed to continue to fight the results via all legal means necessary.

For İmamoğlu and his party, the significance of the results cannot be understated. After a quarter of a century of AKP and its predecessor Refah’s rule, CHP finally runs Istanbul.

In his first official speech İmamoğlu promised to be the mayor for all of the city’s 16 million residents. He urged people to put aside political differences and work together, saying, “The people granted me the honour of leading the most beautiful city in the world … I pledge that I will repay my debt.”

CHP’s success in Istanbul is mirrored in Ankara. It was a case of third time lucky for Mansur Yavaş, who finally managed to prise the capital from the ruling party’s grip after governing the city for 25 years.

Mansur Yavaş receives his official mandate as new Mayor of Ankara

Polls had predicted victory for the centre-left Republican People’s Party (CHP) and Yavaş was on point, taking 50.93% of the vote, while his AKP opponent Mehmet Özhaseki received 47.12%.

It means CHP now controls Turkey’s three biggest cities: Istanbul, Ankara and Izmir.

While some are claiming the Local Election results mark ‘the beginning of the end’ of Erdoğan’s dominance in Turkish politics, it should be borne in mind that the AKP remain by far the most popular party in Turkey. It garnered over 44% of all votes cast in the Local Elections where turnout was 84.67%. In contrast, CHP won just 30%, while the next three parties received 7.45% (Iyi), 7.31% (MHP) and 4.24% (HDP).