Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan was noticeably quiet yesterday, a day before a rerun of Istanbul’s mayoral race, while opposition candidate Ekrem Imamoglu held two rallies.
“I have been on the streets for six months. I have been to every neighbourhood [in Istanbul]. I never personally attacked my rival,” Imamoglu told supporters in the conservative Sultanbeyli district on the city’s Asian side.
“Love and respect will win,” he added.
A halt to campaigning went into effect at 6pm (1500 GMT) yesterday, ahead of today’s election.
Erdogan is not on the ballot but has been running an intense campaign for his party’s candidate since Monday.
Imamoglu, 49, a moderate candidate from the secular Republican People’s Party (CHP), won the mayoral election on March 31, defeating Binali Yildirim of Erdogan’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) by nearly 14,000 votes.
The Supreme Electoral Council (YSK) annulled the vote on May 6, after Erdogan’s party alleged that there were voting irregularities, and ordered a rerun for June 23.
The decision drew international criticism.
Imamoglu pledged to overturn “the unlawfulness”, referring to the rerun decision without naming the YSK.
“We will work day and night. Istanbul has many issues. We come to bring justice,” he told hundreds of supporters at a separate rally in Uskudar.
Imamoglu called on supporters to “protect the ballot box” today.
The YSK had cited the irregular appointment of ballot box officials as the main reason for its controversial decision.
The CHP has said it will have 200,000 people fanned out across all polling stations and their own observers for each ballot box.
Observers from the Council of Europe will also be present at polling stations.
Imamoglu’s speech yesterday was often interrupted by the crowd chanting “Mayor Ekrem” and “Rights, law, justice”.
He vowed to end wasteful spending and share the city’s resources with the people.
The election coincides with the primary holiday season.
Local media reported that many people had returned from vacation to be able to vote today, citing increased bus and flight services.
National flag carrier Turkish Airlines said it added new flights to meet increased demand to return to Istanbul.
“Due to demand related to elections in Istanbul, we have scheduled 24 additional domestic flights,” Bilal Eksi tweeted.
Yildirim participated yesterday in a breakfast with businesspeople in Istanbul.
He held no rallies, though in a video on Twitter, he pointed to large-scale government infrastructure projects and pledged more investment.
Polling firms have shown Imamoglu as many as eight points ahead of Yildirim.
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