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Erdogan's main antagonist seeks a lasting victory in Istanbul



Three months ago, Ekrem Imamoglu was a little-known politician in a neighborhood in Istanbul who tried the almost impossible: to trigger the Turkish president, Tayyip Erdogan's ruling AK party, from Turkey's largest city after 25 years of power.

Today – after warding off the victory in March to become Istanbul mayor, who was only wiped out in May – he has emerged as a national sensation and sculptor for the Turkish opposition.

His victory over the AK party (AKP) in municipal voting exploited Erdogan one of the worst setbacks in his 1

6 year power. But Imamoglu had been in the office for less than three weeks when Turkey's high electoral committee canceled the results with reference to irregularities following AKP's week's appeal.

President of Turkey and head of Turkey's ruling Justice and Development (AK) Party Recep Tayyip Erdogan speaks during his party's parliamentary group meeting at the Grand National Assembly of Turkey in Ankara on January 8, 2019.

Adem Altan | AFP | Getty Images

Now, the 49-year-old is trying to win again during a resumption of the Mayoral poll on Sunday, this time against an AKP machine that has zeroed into him with accusations of lying and terrorist associations as legal threats.

Imamoglu has denied the allegations by Erdogan, Turkey's Foreign Minister and his AKP mayor, Binali Yildirim, a former prime minister.

In response, the former businessman tried to hold on to the low key inclusive message that gave him a narrow chase in the first campaign. There are indications that the elimination of election results, which many voters say was unfair, has actually served to strengthen its popular support.

Recent polls give Imamoglu from the secularist Republican People's Party a leadership of as much as nine percent pointing over Yildirim from the Islamist, rooted AKP, far greater than his 0.2 percentage point victory on March 31.

Imamoglu has with his signature karmless glasses and "Everything will be fine" slogan on billboards throughout Istanbul. the election committee's decision to cancel the results of irregularities, including non-official voting officials.

"Of course, we have another agenda in this election and it's democracy (for which) we are at a turning point," he told Reuters this week. "Our emphasis on injustice and lawless intervention … will continue to the last moment."

BIG RALLIER

On Thursday, Erdogan, who served as mayor of Istanbul in the 1990s, accused Imamoglu of cheating in a television debate of seeing the issues ahead of time without quoting evidence.

The Turkish leader has accused Imamoglu of being in the cahoots with American-based monastic fatullah Gulen, which Ankara says is a terrorist and blamed for a 2016 failed putsch. He also said that Imamoglu allegedly offended the governor of Ordu, a coastal area in the Black Sea, adding that if he was prosecuted, he could be blocked from the office even if he won.

However, the cancellation of Imamoglu's victory and attack on his character has had the effect of raising his profile at home and abroad.

His collections this month before thousands of cogeneration politicians, including on a trip to Turkey's Black Sea coast, are far from the small face-to-face gatherings and Facebook videos favored in their first campaign.

"Do you know what a political party chooses to shed constant insults and falsification on the opponents' shows? It shows that they know they have lost," he told a meeting on Wednesday.

Some media commentators have even earmarked him as a potential presidential candidate.

"There is this expectation that he is likely to be the opposition of the opposition," said Deniz Zeyrek, a journalist at the opposition newspaper Sozcu. "I think he will be in Turkey's political future even if he loses."

Imamoglu has also been the subject of feature articles in Western magazines and newspapers. This month, he authored a column in the Washington Post that promised to win again.

"I see little reason why Imamoglu would lose votes on June 23," said Howard Eissenstat, Foreign Minister of Washington-based think tank The Middle East Democracy Project.

But he added that Imamoglu would win with a larger margin to earn a final victory and put an end to any potential allegations of irregularities.

However, some academics warn that Imamoglu could survive his hand.

"His challenge is to use the cult of the sacrificial cult but still be tired," said Galip Dalay, visiting researcher at the University of Oxford's Political and International Relations Department.

"Too many great things – collections, comments on national issues – that could come back on fire."


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