By Ali Kucukgocmen
ISTANBUL (Reuters) – A small Turkish Islamist party said on Tuesday it would take part in next month’s re-run Istanbul mayoral election, a week after its candidate said he was ready to stand down and support the ousted opposition mayor.
The decision to re-run the Istanbul vote on June 23 has brought criticism of eroding democracy, unnerved financial markets, and weakened the already ailing lira currency.
The Saadet (Felicity) Party took around 100,000 votes in the original March 31 election, won by the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) candidate Ekrem Imamoglu. He beat President Tayyip Erdogan’s AK Party by only 13,000 votes.
Saadet said it decided to field its former candidate Necdet Gokcinar in the re-run after weighing public and party opinion.
“Istanbul is Turkey’s heart,” party chairman Temel Karamollaoglu said in a statement.
“All of our efforts and hopes are for this new process to be a vehicle to Turkey’s normalization, the removal of polarization and for the elimination of the economic and social problems that deeply impact all parts of society.”
The potential impact of the move was not immediately clear.
Saadet made an alliance last year with Imamoglu’s CHP and the nationalist Iyi Party in presidential and parliamentary elections, and Gokcinar’s comment last week had suggested his supporters could rally around Imamoglu if he did not stand.
But Saadet shares the same Islamist roots as Erdogan’s AKP and some of its supporters might also have turned there if Gokcinar had not stood.
Imamoglu’s surprise victory in March marked the first time in 25 years that Erdogan’s AKP or its Islamist predecessors had failed to win control of Istanbul.
Imamoglu was declared mayor last month after weeks of wrangling over the result and a partial recount, but his mandate was revoked when election authorities ruled that there had been widespread irregularities.
(Reporting by Ali Kucukgocmen; Editing by Dominic Evans and Andrew Cawthorne)