ISTANBUL (Reuters) – Three months ago Ekrem Imamoglu was a little-known politician in a fringe Istanbul district who was attempting the near-impossible: to unseat Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan’s ruling AK Party from Turkey’s largest city after 25 years in power.
Today – after having pulled off victory in March to become Istanbul mayor, only to be ousted in May – he has emerged as a national sensation and figurehead for the Turkish opposition.
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His victory over the AK Party (AKP) in the municipal vote dealt Erdogan one of the worst setbacks in his 16 years of power. But Imamoglu had been in office less than three weeks when Turkey’s High Election Board annulled the results, citing irregularities, after weeks of appeals by the AKP.
Now the 49-year-old is trying to win again in a re-run of the mayoral vote on Sunday, this time against an AKP machine that has zeroed in on him with accusations of lying and terrorist associations as well as legal threats.
Imamoglu - Allegations - Erdogan - Turkey - Minister
Imamoglu has denied the allegations from Erdogan, Turkey’s foreign minister and his AKP mayoral opponent Binali Yildirim, a former prime minister.
In response the former businessman has tried to stick to the low-key inclusive message that handed him a narrow victory in the first campaign. There are indications the scrapping of the election results, which many voters say was unjust, has actually served to bolster his popular support.
Polls - Imamoglu - Republican - People - Party
Recent polls give Imamoglu of the secularist Republican People’s Party (CHP) a lead of as much as nine percentage points over Yildirim of the Islamist-rooted AKP, far larger than his 0.2 percentage-point victory on March 31.
With his signature rimless eyeglasses and “Everything will be fine” slogan on billboards across Istanbul, Imamoglu has sought to leverage the election board’s decision to annul the results over irregularities including polling officials who were not civil servants.
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