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Ousted Istanbul mayor says election re-run a battle for democracy

Ekrem Imamoglu addresses the crowd after the decision to rerun local elections in Istanbul, Turkey on 6 May, 2019 [Muhammed Enes Yıldırım/Anadolu Agency]
Ekrem Imamoglu addresses the crowd after the decision to rerun local elections in Istanbul, Turkey on 6 May, 2019 [Muhammed Enes Yıldırım/Anadolu Agency]

Istanbul’s ousted mayor says he will go into battle for Turkish democracy next month when he stands in a re-run of an election he thought had granted him the city to govern for five years, Reuters reports.

Ekrem Imamoglu is confident he will win again on June 23, despite what he calls the theft of the narrow victory he won in March over President Tayyip Erdogan’s AK Party, but for him there are also bigger issues at stake.

“The Istanbul election has become a symbol for democracy, we can see that. We have a responsibility to democracy as great as our responsibility to Istanbul,” he told Reuters on Thursday in an interview.

Imamoglu had been in office for less than three weeks when, on Monday – after a series of appeals by Erdogan and the AKP – the High Election Board (YSK) annulled the vote and called a re-run, citing irregularities in the appointment of polling station officials.

READ: Turkish opposition confident of winning Istanbul poll re-run

A former businessman, Imamoglu previously served for five years as the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) mayor in Beylikduzu, a middle-class district on the city’s western outskirts.

On Thursday he was back in that neighbourhood, launching his second campaign against former Prime Minister Binali Yildirim, who he just beat in the first vote on March 31.

Until then, the AKP and its Islamist predecessors had governed Turkey’s largest city for 25 years, presiding over its close-to $4 billion budget.

Erdogan, the most dominant figure in national politics since the modern Turkish state’s founder Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, launched his own political career as Istanbul mayor before his AK Party won national elections in 2002.

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