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Turkey opposition deals blow to Erdogan in Istanbul win

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Turkey’s opposition revelled Monday in a landslide win in Istanbul’s re-run mayoral vote — a blow for President Recep Tayyip Erdogan that even some pro-government media called a victory for democracy.

Ekrem Imamoglu, a little-known district mayor at the start of the year, won the election by more than 777,000 votes, up from just 13,000 in the first election in March, which was annulled over controversial claims of fraud.

AFP / Bulent Kilic Imamoglu won 54 percent of the vote for Istanbul mayor

It was a rare chance to celebrate for the opposition after 25 years of rule by Islamic conservatives in Istanbul.

And it was a rare blow to Erdogan, who has held national power since 2003.

In the traditionally left-wing neighbourhood of Besiktas, thousands partied late into night, clogging the streets, waving beers and Turkish flags.

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“It wasn’t right to repeat this election, but the fact that it was won with such a gap is even better for Istanbul,” said 45-year-old Servan Soydan as he walked his dog on Monday.

AFP / Adem ALTAN The result was a blow for Erdogan, who has held power nationally since 2003

There was less jubilation in the media, which has been almost entirely put under the thumb of the government in recent years.

“Istanbul has voted,” read the subdued headline of the Yeni Safak newspaper.

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The fiercely pro-government Sabah also downplayed Imamoglu’s success but sought a slightly more positive spin, saying: “Democracy Wins”.

– Victim status –

Many analysts say the decision to call a re-run of the election was a massive miscalculation by the ruling party, turning Imamoglu into a victim and a household name.

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AFP / Gal ROMA Ekrem Imamoglu

“The Turkish nation has always defended and supported victims. I believe it is because they couldn’t explain why there was a cancellation that they lost this way, with this big punishment,” said Istanbulite Naziye Durmus on Monday.

Imamoglu’s “massive victory is a lesson in democracy: people want their rights respected,” tweeted the former EU ambassador to Turkey Marc Pierini, now with the Carnegie Europe think tank.

Imamoglu took 54 percent of the vote against the ruling party’s candidate Binali Yildirim, a former prime minister.

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At a huge rally in his stronghold in western Istanbul late Sunday, Imamoglu said: “It was not a single group or party, but the whole of Istanbul and Turkey that won this election.”

Erdogan conceded defeat on Twitter, saying simply: “I congratulate Ekrem Imamoglu who has won the election based on preliminary results.”

The president’s party remains the most popular nationwide, but has been hurt lately by slowing growth and rising prices.

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It also lost control of the capital Ankara at the local elections in March.


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Judge blocks effort to conceal details in Trump campaign crimes case as Bill Barr’s DOJ mysteriously closes the probe

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A federal judge confirmed on Wednesday that the Justice Department has ended its investigation into campaign finance crimes committed by former Trump lawyer Michael Cohen, indicating that no one else will face charges in the case. But Judge William Pauley also announced that, over the government’s objections, he will be making many of the underlying documents in the case public without requested redactions.

The case stemmed from Cohen’s efforts during the 2016 campaign to secure hush money payments for two women who said they had affairs with Donald Trump. Since investigators determined these payments were done in order to help secure Trump’s victory, the spending counted as campaign contributions that were never recorded and were, in fact, illegally concealed. The Trump Organization, Cohen has said, helped repay him for the costs of the hush money while disguising the payment falsely as a legal retainer.

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Rand Paul just blocked the 9/11 victim fund because it isn’t paid for — but didn’t care when it was a $1.5 trillion tax cut

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Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) blocked a call for unanimous consent on Wednesday to push forward with a funding extension for the victims of 9/11, claiming that the new spending should be paid for.

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) called for the bill to be passed in the Senate by unanimous consent, but even a single lawmaker’s objection can block the move and slow down the process. The measure is still widely expected to pass, but Paul wants to use the opportunity to complain about the national debt.

“We need to address our massive debt in this country,” he said “We have a $22 trillion debt. We’re adding debt at about a trillion dollars a year. And therefore any new spending that we are approaching, any new program that’s going to have the longevity of 70-80 years, should be offset by cutting spending that’s less valuable. We need to at least have this debate.”

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Breakthrough technique eradicates mosquitoes

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A breakthrough technique harnessing two methods to target disease-carrying mosquitoes was able to effectively eradicate buzzing biters in two test sites in China, according to research published on Thursday.

The mosquitoes targeted are a type that is particularly difficult to control called Aedes albopictus -- more popularly known as the Asian tiger mosquito -- which are a major vector for diseases including Zika and dengue.

The study "demonstrates the potential of a potent new tool", wrote Peter Armbruster, a professor at Georgetown University's department of biology, in a review of the work.

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