CAIRO - Boris Johnson has been re-elected as London mayor, defeating popular Ken Livingstone in a close competition following a bitter campaign battle that was filled by smear campaigns targeting Labour's candidate.
"This is my last election," Livingstone told fellow candidates and supporters at City Hall, The Guardian reported on Saturday, May 5.
"Forty-one years ago almost to the day, I won my first election on a manifesto promising to build good council housing and introduce a free bus pass for pensioners.Livingstone to Make London Beacon of Islam
I am sincerely sorry to those Londoners who desperately wanted us to win that I failed to do that and they will continue to bear the pain of this recession without any help from here in City Hall, he added.
In the first count of Thursday votes, Johnson gained 44% of first preference votes, to Ken Livingstone's 40.3%.
After second preferences came into play, Johnson gained a total of 1,054,811 votes, or 51.5%, to the Labour candidate's 48.5% - making it an even closer contest than in 2008.
Announcing his apparent retirement from frontline politics in his speech, Livingstone lamented the defeat as the worst in his history.
"Now I've lived long enough to get one myself... since then, I've won 11 more elections and lost three. But the one I most regret losing is this, he said.
"This is the defeat I most regret, because these are the worst times for 80 years, and Londoners needed a mayor to get them through this very difficult period by cutting fares, by cutting energy prices and putting people back to work building good council homes."
Outperforming the Conservative Party as a whole across the country, Johnson's victory comes after a dismal night at the polls for Conservatives across England, Scotland and Wales.
Johnson vowed to continue "fighting for a good deal for Londoners" from government as he thanked voters for giving him a "new chance".
In further bad results for the coalition, the Lib Dems lost more than 380 seats following voting in England, Wales and Scotland.
The Labor Party picked up about 800 local council seats.
Some politicians referred the sudden defeat of Livingstone, widely popular among British Muslims, to smear campaigns which have been targeting the Labour candidate over the past weeks.
There had been a "relentless media campaign" against Livingstone, Labour MP for Hackney North and Stoke Newington Diane Abbott told BBC.
"Whereas these local elections have proved to the Labour Party that we're going in the right direction - even if we've still got a lot to do - they're proving to Cameron that he's in the wrong direction," she said.
Livingstone, one of Britain's most colorful and popular politicians, was elected Mayor of London in 2000 and re-elected in 2004.
He has been known for his strong defense of the Muslim minority against Islamophobic campaigns.
Enhancing London's standing in the world and improved the lives of all its communities, the former London mayor was widely supported by Muslim voters.
Livingstone has appeared at events such as IslamExpo, which attracts tens of thousands of people every year.
He came under fierce attacks from right-wingers in 2004 for inviting Sheikh Yusuf Al-Qaradawi, the president of the International Union for Muslim Scholars, to a pro-hijab conference.
He describes Qaradawi as a progressive Muslim scholar who has been a staunch supporter of democracy and works on bridging the gap between Islam and the West.
Reproduced with permission from OnIslam.net