TURKEY Elections: Setback for Erdogan in big cities

Local elections in Turkey

The Turkish lira firmed on Monday (April 1), clawing back early losses after President Tayyip Erdogan's AK Party lost control of the capital Ankara in local elections and trailed in Istanbul, Turkey's largest city, as the last votes were tallied.

"It is a matter of survival", Erdogan said of the poll, at a rally in a working-class district of Istanbul on Friday.

With 99 per cent of the ballot boxes counted, the joint opposition candidate for Ankara mayor was winning with 50.89 per cent of votes and the AKP on 47.06 per cent, Anadolu state agency reported citing preliminary results.

The candidate from Turkey's main opposition party appeared headed for victory in the race to become mayor of Istanbul, an influential post that launched the political career of the country's president and one he had zealously sought to keep in the hands of his ruling party.

"If there are any shortcomings, it is our duty to correct them", Erdogan told supporters. "We have identified irregularities and falsifications".

In the past, Turkish opposition parties have failed to mount a successful challenge to election results. With this result, the next Mayor of the capital would be from the secual CHP party.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's ruling party on Tuesday appealed election results in Istanbul and Ankara, claiming irregularities in the voting cost them mayorships in both cities.

However, Sezgin Tanrikulu, a CHP lawmaker from Istanbul, said that although Imamoglu had won the race in Istanbul, the election board was now waiting for the objection period to end to declare the official victor.

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The government had replaced elected mayors with government-appointed trustees in a crackdown on the Peoples' Democratic Party, or HDP, for alleged links to outlawed Kurdish militants. CHP candidates got voters support in 21 provinces, including Ankara, Istanbul, Izmir, Antalya and Adana.

This was the first municipal vote since Mr Erdogan assumed sweeping executive powers through last year's presidential election.

The vote also marked the first ballot-box test for Erdogan since he was re-elected a year ago under a new system of government, which gives sweeping powers to the president. His rival, former Prime Minister Binali Yildirim, took 48.5%. The race in Istanbul is one of the closest races in the city for decades. "We thank Istanbul's residents for the mandate they have given us", Yildirim told supporters. The private Demiroren news agency showed Imamoglu leading Monday. The Malatya governorate said four individuals were detained.

This was the first local election in which the AKP fielded candidates with its alliance partner, the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP).

According to Dr. Seda Demiralp, Erdogan's AKP continues to keep strong positions even if opposition success in the local elections demonstrates signs of a weaker grip on power.

Some of its leaders have been jailed on terrorism charges, accusations they reject.

"We won Ankara and Istanbul despite the fact that the conditions were not equal", said senior CHP official Muharrem Erkek, in an apparent reference to the fact that the government-dominated media had hardly covered the opposition. Until then, Erdogan could blindside the market at any moment with more of his unorthodox economic beliefs, including the claim that higher interest rates cause inflation.

The lira had fallen 0.5 per cent against the dollar shortly after midday, having recovered its losses after briefly hitting $5.611.

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