Opposition mayoral candidate İmamoğlu met with cheers at Istanbul football match

Ekrem İmamoğlu, the opposition candidate whom initial counts placed as the winner of Istanbul’s mayoral election, was met with cheers and slogans calling for him to be granted a certificate which allows him to take office while attending a derby match between İstanbul teams Beşiktaş and Başakşehir on Saturday.

"It is wonderful to be part of the incredible enthusiasm of Beşiktaş fans,'' İmamoğlu said in a Twitter post where he shared pictures from the stands.

A video of Beşiktaş fans known as the Çarşı group chanting "Give İmamoğlu his election certificate (mazbata),''was also circulated on Twitter.

Beşiktaş fans posted videos of crowds at the city's Vodafone Arena stadium cheering on the İstanbul mayoral hopeful.

İmamoğlu's appearance follows an column by pro-government columnist Nagehan Alçı in Habertürk news site that the Republican People's Party (CHP) candidate's presence at the derby match between Fenerbahçe and Galatasaray football clubs on Sunday would escalate tensions in the country.

“I am openly warning… Ekrem İmamoğlu should not go to the Fenerbahçe-Galatasaray match to be played tomorrow. He should cancel his programme. Common sense and restraint must prevail,” Alçı said.

İmamoğlu, the mayoral candidate for the secularist Republican People’s Party (CHP), declared victory on March 31 with a lead around 28,000 votes in local polls in Istanbul.

The ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) has challenged the results, and the recounting of votes in Istanbul still continues. The AKP plans to apply to the Supreme Election Council for a reboot of local elections in the province, citing serious irregularities in electoral records.

Derby matches between Fenerbahçe and Galatasaray, Turkey’s two most popular teams, have always been nationwide events. The match on Sunday will take place in Istanbul’s Kadıköy, a stronghold of the CHP.

Alçı said sources had told her that İmamoğlu was thinking of watching the match at Fenerbahçe stadium with a large entourage.

“If İmamoğlu goes to the match, there is no doubt that 55,000-60,000 people will cheer calling him the Mayor of Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality, and will stage a large demonstration. The stadium will be filled with enthusiastic, ideological slogans,” the columnist said.

“The energy of the supporters on the benches most of the time makes politicians intoxicated, but such demonstration never end well for the country, she said.

“Due to İmamoğlu’s incorrect behaviour, society and the political environment will be placed under even more strain,” Alçı added.

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