Supporters of Turkey's main opposition Republican People's Party candidate Ekrem Imamoglu cheer after Turkish election officials officially confirmed his win as Istanbul mayor on Wednesday. Photo: Erhan Demirtas/NurPhoto

Opposition candidate Ekrem Imamoglu defeated President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s ruling AKP candidate, a recount of last month’s disputed Istanbul election confirmed on Wednesday, according to Turkish election authorities.

Thousands of cheering supporters greeted Imamoglu outside Istanbul city hall after he received his mandate certificate, though electoral authorities must still rule on an AKP appeal for a rerun over alleged irregularities in its narrow Istanbul defeat.

“This is a new dawn for Istanbul,” Imamoglu told the chanting crowds from the roof of a campaign bus. “Istanbul is proud of you.”

He urged Istanbul residents to set grudges aside, promising to be “everybody’s mayor.”

He said, “The people granted me the honor of leading the most beautiful city in the world… I pledge that I will repay my debt.”

Erdogan’s Justice and Development Party (AKP) won the most votes nationwide in the March 31 election, but the loss of Ankara and Istanbul to the Republican People’s Party (CHP) was a stinging setback after a decade and a half in control.

The AKP has won every election since it came to power 17 years ago, in part by tying its success to strong economic growth and improvements in living standards during Erdogan’s years in power, first as premier then as president.

But voters punished the party this time after a currency crisis last year hurt Turkish households, sent inflation soaring and tipped the economy into recession for the first time in a decade.

Defeat in Istanbul would be especially sensitive for Erdogan, who grew up in one of its poorer neighborhoods and whose climb up the political career included being mayor himself in the 1990s.

The AKP had sought several recounts of the Istanbul vote, and the Supreme Electoral Council, known by its Turkish initials YSK, has yet to rule on the party’s formal demand for a full rerun of the Istanbul election. It was not clear how long that decision would take.

Electoral authorities finished a recount of some Istanbul ballots late on Tuesday, but the CHP had already dismissed any challenges as without merit and urged the AKP to concede.

“I am so happy”, said architecture student and CHP supporter Ilayda Pembe, 25. “I was beginning to think he would never get the mandate. A new day for Istanbul is starting.”

– with reporting by AFP

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