Turkish opposition candidate officially declared Istanbul’s new mayor

The decision follows results showing Imamoglu marginally ahead in the disputed mayoral election in Turkey’s biggest city. (AFP)
Updated 18 April 2019

Turkish opposition candidate officially declared Istanbul’s new mayor

  • Although a little-known district mayor of an Istanbul suburb, Imamoglu, the 48-year-old challenger to Erdogan and his party, energized and consolidated the opposition votes by using a conciliatory tone during his campaign.

ANKARA: Turkey’s main opposition party candidate on Wednesday was finally declared as the new mayor of Istanbul.

Republican People’s Party (CHP) prospect Ekrem Imamoglu’s official mandate from the city’s election board came almost three weeks after votes were cast and despite a pending appeal from Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) for a rerun of the poll.

The decision follows results showing Imamoglu marginally ahead in the disputed mayoral election in Turkey’s biggest city.

The long-awaited news, which will see Imamoglu take office for five years, quickly started trending on social media with Twitter hashtags #MazbataGeldi (MandateHasCome) and #BaharGeldi (#SpringHasCome).

“I’m getting the mandate of 16 million residents of Istanbul,” Imamoglu, the new rising star of Turkish politics tweeted on his way to the electoral board’s offices where hundreds of supporters welcomed him.

Although a little-known district mayor of an Istanbul suburb, Imamoglu, the 48-year-old challenger to Erdogan and his party, energized and consolidated the opposition votes by using a conciliatory tone during his campaign.

A recount of all votes, including invalid ones, in several districts of Istanbul confirmed Imamoglu to be ahead by 13,729 votes.

The AKP’s electoral defeat in Istanbul - Turkey’s cultural, financial and commercial hub - as well as in the capital Ankara, has created political tension in the country, with the uncertainty hitting the value of the lira.

Losing Istanbul also marked a personal blow for Erdogan who began his rise up the political ladder as mayor of the city in 1994.

However, the country’s Supreme Electoral Council (YSK) is yet to rule on whether the AKP’s formal demand for a new election has any merit. If the YSK accepts the application, based on alleged widespread irregularities, Imamoglu’s mandate could still be taken back.

An announcement from the YSK on whether to rerun the vote in early June is expected in the coming days.

“This is a big victory for the Turkish opposition in a competitive authoritarian regime, which showed a great resilience,” Orcun Selcuk, an expert on comparative politics, told Arab News.

“Unlike previous elections, the Turkish opposition looked organized and caught the incumbent party by surprise. The AKP leaders failed to provide logical arguments to back up their claims of systematic manipulation,” Selcuk said.

Imamoglu gave a rousing speech to supporters in front of the Istanbul metropolitan municipality building.

In an exclusive interview with Arab News, CHP parliamentarian Burhanettin Bulut said the decision to give Imamoglu his certificate of mandate had avoided throwing Turkey into chaos.

“Now it is time to restore our country, beginning in the cities, by taking into consideration social expectations. The political pressure of the new executive presidential system at the top can only be balanced by local governance at the grassroots,” he said.

Sezgin Tanrikulu, Istanbul CHP deputy and a well-known human rights lawyer, said he did not think the YSK would give the green light to an election rerun as the AKP’s application was legally flawed.

“This decision ended 25 years of control of Istanbul by the AKP and its Islamist predecessors. From now on, an egalitarian, transparent and democratic approach will prevail,” Tanrikulu told Arab News.

Nezih Onur Kuru, a doctoral researcher on political psychology from Koc University, in Istanbul, said Imamoglu had refrained from using polarizing language after the elections, and his popularity had increased as he organized rallies in every district of Istanbul where the CHP had won.

“Imamoglu kept his calm even though Erdogan and his nationalist ally MHP continuously targeted him with their statements. Imamoglu, however, stated that he would not discriminate against AKP supporters,” Kuru told Arab News.

According to Kuru, the new mayor, who comes from a conservative family, prevented the AKP and MHP voters from rallying behind his rival Binali Yildirim.
 


Anger in Lebanon over botched Israeli drone strike on Beirut

Updated 3 min 37 sec ago

Anger in Lebanon over botched Israeli drone strike on Beirut

  • Prime Minister Hariri says Israel drone crash was violation against Lebanon
  • Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah said the incident was 'very dangerous'

BEIRUT:  Anger erupted in Lebanon on Sunday after two Israeli drones crashed in south Beirut in a botched raid that was the most serious military escalation since 2006.

The first device, thought to be a surveillance drone, fell to ground between residential buildings in the Mouawad area after children threw stones at it. Israel is thought to have launched a second armed drone to destroy the first one, but it exploded near the Hezbollah media center in the southern Dahiyeh suburbs.

Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri has described the crash of two Israeli reconnaissance drones over Beirut as a violation and “aggression” against Lebanese sovereignty.

“The new aggression ... constitutes a threat to regional stability and an attempt to push the situation toward further tension,” he said. 

Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah said Sunday the incident was "very, very, very dangerous." He vowed to confront and shoot down Israeli drones in Lebanese skies from now on.
 

Damage is seen inside the media office of the Lebanese Hezbollah group in a southern suburb of Beirut, Lebanon, Sunday, Aug. 25, 2019. (AP)

Earlier on Sunday the Lebanese army confirmed that the drones were Israeli, while the Shiite group said one of the aircraft damaged its media centre.
“Two drones belonging to the Israeli enemy violated Lebanese airspace (at dawn)... over the southern suburbs of Beirut. The first fell while the second exploded in the air causing material damage,” an army statement said.
The early morning incident came hours after Israel launched air strikes in neighboring Syria.

The Arab League Secretary-General, Ahmed Aboul Gheit, telephoned Hariri and stressed the country’s rejection and condemnation of the repeated Israeli violations against Lebanese sovereignty.

FAST FACTS

  • The first drone fell to ground between residential building in the Mouawad area.
  • The second device exploded near Hezbollah media center in the Dahiyeh suburbs.
  • Lebanon will file a complaint with the Security Council to condemn the attack.

The Arab League said in a statement that “Aboul Gheit affirmed the Arab League’s full solidarity with Lebanon in this delicate situation and its readiness to play its role in maintaining security, stability and civil peace in Lebanon.”
The statement added that the organization strongly condemns the repeated Israeli violations of Lebanese sovereignty, especially in its airspace, as a flagrant violation of Security Council resolution 1701.
The statement stressed that the Arab League hopes to all concerned parties would not escalate and restrain in order to prevent threatening the security and stability of Lebanon and the region.

Lebanese security stand at the site where an Israeli drone was said to have crashed in a stronghold of the Lebanese Hezbollah group, in Beirut, Lebanon, Sunday, Aug. 25, 2019. (AP Photo/Bilal Hussein)

Lebanon has made frequent complaints to the UN about Israeli planes regularly violating its airspace.
In an apparent admission that the drone attack on Lebanon was an error, Amos Yadlin, a former head of Israeli military intelligence, said neither Iran nor Israel were interested in all-out war. “We’re not there yet,” he said. “But sometimes, someone makes a mistake.”
The Lebanese Army said on Sunday it had cordoned off the drone crash site and military police were investigating the incident under the supervision of the judiciary.
A military source told Arab News: “The Lebanese army did not receive the remnants of the two drones immediately, but is in the process of receiving them from Hezbollah.
“The military investigation will focus on the purpose of the flight of the drones, and their route. It is clear that something went wrong during their flight.”
Hariri received a telephone call from US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo after the incidents. The prime minister’s office said: “Pompeo stressed the need to avoid any escalation and to work with all parties to prevent any form of deterioration.”
Hezbollah spokesman, Mohamed Afif, said one of the two drones was rigged with explosives.
He said a second drone which appeared to have been sent by Israel to search for the first drone less than 45 minutes later exploded in the air and crashed nearby — an explosion heard by residents of the area.

Afif told The Associated Press Sunday: “We did not shoot down or explode any of the drones.”

Hassan Nasrallah will respond in a televised speach later Sunday. (File/AFP)

The drones struck overnight in Beirut where residents reported one large explosion that shook the area, triggering a fire.

Initially they said the nature of the blast in the Moawwad neighborhood was not immediately clear, but said it might have been caused by an Israeli drone that went down in the area amid Israeli air activity in neighboring Syria.
The late-night airstrike, which triggered Syrian anti-aircraft fire, appeared to be one of the most intense attacks by Israeli forces in several years of hits on Iranian targets in Syria.
Lt. Col. Jonathan Conricus, a military spokesman, said Iran’s Revolutionary Guards’ Al Quds force, working with allied Shiite militias, had been planning to send a number of explosives-laden attack drones into Israel.
On Twitter, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called the attack by Israeli warplanes a “major operational effort.”
Syrian state TV said the country’s air defenses had responded to “hostile” targets over Damascus and shot down incoming missiles before they reached their targets.
In recent days, US officials have said that Israeli strikes have also hit Iranian targets in Iraq.