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  • Turkey's President Tayyip Erdogan and Istanbul mayoral candidate Ekrem İmamoğlu from opposition CHP.

    Turkey's President Tayyip Erdogan and Istanbul mayoral candidate Ekrem İmamoğlu from opposition CHP. | Photo: Reuters

Published 16 May 2019

Turkey will witness the re-run of Istanbul mayoral election which was won by opposition CHP after 25 years of ruling party presence. 

A Turkish party, namely the Democrat Party, said Thursday it would not take part in next month's re-run of the Istanbul mayoral election, which the main opposition party candidate won by a tiny margin in March, but was later annulled by Turkey's Supreme Electoral Board due to irregularities. 

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The Democrat Party won around 22,000 votes in the March 31 election. This is the latest in the series of withdrawal by parties which contested the Istanbul election after the country's Supreme Board of Elections (YSK) decided to have a re-run of the same. 

On May 6, YSK decided to cancel and renew the vote that was held on March 31, which saw the candidate of the opposition Republican People's Party (CHP) Ekrem İmamoğlu winning the mayoral position. The decision came after the president's party, the Justice and Development Party (AKP), filed a complaint to the top election board requesting a re-run on the grounds that some officials supervising the elections were not civil servants as required by law.

Since then, all of Turkey’s opposition parties have been dropping out of the mayoral race to pool votes for İmamoğlu.

However, a small Turkish Islamist party said Tuesday it would take part in next month's re-run Istanbul mayoral election, a week after its candidate said he was ready to stand down and support the ousted opposition mayor.

The CHP and the Iyi (Good) Party also argued that if the mayoral vote — which the CHP won — was canceled then all the other votes in Istanbul, as well as President Tayyip Erdogan's victory in a presidential election last year, should also be annulled because they claim that the same flaws took place in those elections.

However, the YSK rejected the argument and the demand for canceling the past election.

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İmamoğlu won the elections in March by a narrow margin of 13,000 votes. Istanbul had been administered by AKP for the last 25 years. After the announcement of the re-run of elections, Erdogan announced more than 30 rallies before the election on June 23.

Istanbul, the country's biggest city, is key for Erdogan because there it was where his political career started by being the mayor of Istanbul between 1994 -1998. Losing Istanbul for the ruling party, which has been in power since 2001, would have a significant impact on the AKP's standing in the country's political sphere. 

The party had already lost control of the two other biggest cities: the capital Ankara, and Izmir to the secular CHP. Izmir has always supported CHP and this year Ankara and Istanbul appeared to follow suit gaining more votes than their rival AKP candidates.

The opposition parties accuse Erdogan of becoming authoritarian and blame the countries waning economy, increasing inflation and unemployment rate on the president which he had denied.

For Erdogan, the country’s problems are due to an increasingly hostile United States which disproves of Turkey’s shift towards the east.

Turkey has traditionally been a U.S. ally as part of the NATO and former governments have always maintained a closer relationship to the United States and Europe while being disconnected from its neighbors to the east. However, over Erdogan's two decades in power the country started to increase its presence in the Middle East and the east while also implementing policies at home for the more religious and poorer sector of society who had been traditionally ignored by the country's political elite.

More recently Erdogan's government has been drawing closer with Russia much to the annoyance of the North American country.

Tensions between Turkey and the United States are running high over Ankara's decision to buy the S-400 missile defenses from Russia, which are apparently not compatible with NATO systems according to Washington.

Both countries also differ on the U.S. role in Syria. Erdogan’s Turkey has been a vocal critic of U.S. sanctions on Iran and interventions in Venezuela.

Amid foreign (U.S.) hostility and waning support domestically due to ailing economy, the June 23 re-run of mayoral elections in Istanbul will have a decisive effect for a future political scenario in the country.

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