Turkey's Erdogan loses Ankara in local polls

World | 1 Apr 2019 7:11 pm

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan declared victory in municipal elections but the opposition’s success in key cities dealt a significant blow to his party’s dominance. According to unofficial results, the ruling party lost the capital, Ankara, and the head of Turkey’s electoral board said the opposition was also leading in Istanbul.

Yesterday’s local elections were widely seen as a test of support for Erdogan as the nation of 81 million people faces a daunting economic recession with double-digit inflation, rising food prices and high unemployment.

Ballot counts were still underway in an anxious wait for Istanbul, Turkey’s largest city and commercial hub. Both candidates —Ekrem Imamoglu for secular Republican People’s Party, or CHP, and former Prime Minister Binali Yildirim for the ruling party— claimed they had won.

Electoral board head Sadi Guven said votes were still being counted and objections taken into account. He said Imamoglu was leading in Istanbul by nearly 28,000 votes at the time of his statement.

The opposition has accused the state-run Anadolu news agency of bias in reporting ballot counts, and the agency’s unofficial results for Istanbul were stuck at 98 percent of votes counted for hours.

The mayor’s seat in the city of 15 million is hugely important. Erdogan’s own ascent to power began there in 1994.

The main opposition party winning the race for metropolitan mayor in Ankara marks a symbolic shift. The capital city was held by Erdogan’s Justice and Development Party, the AKP, and its Islamic-oriented predecessor for 25 years.

Unofficial results reported by Anadolu showed Mansur Yavas, the candidate of the CHP, winning the top post in Ankara. The AKP still holds a majority of Ankara’s 25 districts.

The government had led a hostile campaign against Yavas and his party, accusing him of forgery and tax evasion.

More than 57 million voters were eligible to take part in choosing the mayors of 30 major cities, 51 provincial capitals and 922 districts in Turkey. In big cities, voters cast four ballots, for metropolitan mayor, district mayor, the municipal assembly and a neighborhood administrator.

Despite the setbacks, Erdogan’s ruling party and an allied nationalist party still won more than half of the votes across Turkey.

Speaking from the balcony of party headquarters in Ankara early today, where he has for years declared victory, Erdogan said he and his allies had come out first. He said the party would work to understand and fix where they failed.-AP








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