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Ekrem ImamogluEkrem Imamoglu became one of the most visible faces of the opposition to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan after winning Istanbul’s mayoral race this week. His victory has even fueled speculation of a possible presidential run in 2023.

Imamoglu, 49, was little known in Turkey before announcing his candidacy in Istanbul’s mayoral election on Sunday. But this all changed after he managed to wrest control of the country’s wealthiest city from Erdogan’s Justice and Development Party (AKP), which has been in power there for more than 15 years.

A candidate for the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) and Good Party (Iyi), Imamoglu won the race by around 25,000 votes, according to official results on Tuesday. The outcome of a recount on Thursday looked likely to confirm Imamoglu as the winner. A narrow victory, but none the less a significant one, given his opponent: Binali Yildirim.

The 63-year-old Yildirim is a senior official with the AKP and longtime supporter of Erdogan, for whom he served as prime minister from 2016 until 2018. Because of his stature, Yildirim was considered a favourite to win Istanbul’s coveted City Hall. Erdogan threw the full weight of his support behind his candidacy, even going so far as to suggest that the country’s survival was at stake. In the run-up to the vote, the president gave at least 14 speeches in two days in Istanbul. Add to this the flurry of news coverage by AKP-owned media outlets, and Yildirim appeared to be a shoo-in.

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