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AUTHORITARIAN Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s party suffered a humiliating defeat in Istanbul’s controversial rerun mayoral election today.
Former prime minister Benali Yildirim conceded defeat to Republican People’s Party (CHP) candidate Ekrem Imamoglu.
Mr Yildirim appeared on state television shortly after 7pm local time (5pm GMT) to congratulate his opponent Mr Imamoglu for his victory.
The news sparked celebrations across the country with the result a hammer blow for Turkey’s tyrannical leader.
“My opponent has the lead. I’d like to congratulate him and wish he serves the people well,” Mr Yildirim said.
He lost the vote by more than 700,000 votes, with analysts suggesting that many who voted for the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) candidate in the March 31 poll switched their allegiance to Mr Imamoglu.
In the original poll on March 31 Mr Imamoglu won with a majority of 13,000, leading to a challenge by Mr Erdogan amid claims of irregularities.
It was the first time the country’s economic powerhouse had slipped out of the hands of parties associated with Mr Erdogan since he was himself elected mayor in 1994.
However the Supreme Electoral Council (YSK) bowed to pressure from the bullish tyrant and ordered a rerun of the poll.
Voters started the day with early optimism having campaigned under the slogan: “Her sey cok guzel olacak” (Everything will be just fine).
Casting his vote in Istanbul’s Beylikduzu district, Mr Imamoglu said: “On behalf of our democracy, Istanbul and the legitimacy of all the future elections in our country, today, our people will make the best decision with the sense of law, justice and conscience.”
Forcing the rerun was a high-stakes gamble by Mr Erdogan. His party suffered a humiliating defeat in March’s municipal elections, losing control of the capital Ankara as well as losing the initial vote in Istanbul.
The once powerful leader has shown signs of weakness and losing control of Istanbul, the symbolic birthplace of the AKP, once seemed unthinkable.
During the campaign an increasingly desperate Mr Erdogan relaxed restrictions on his nemesis Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) leader Abdullah Ocalan, allowing him to meet his legal team for the first time in nearly nine years.
He even went as far as to urge Istanbul’s Kurds to listen to Mr Ocalan and suggested they remain neutral in the poll — advice that has previously seen many locked up in Turkish dungeons.
However the majority ignored Mr Erdogan with the People’s Democratic Party (HDP) calling on supporters to vote for Mr Imamoglu.
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