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Erdogan loses ground in Turkey`s big cities in local voting

photo by AP photo

Turkey\'s President and ruling Justice and Development Party, or AKP, leader Recep Tayyip Erdogan (left) and his wife Emine, greet supporters after the results of the local elections were announced in Ankara, Turkey, early Monday.

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02nd-Apr-2019       
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AP, Istanbul  :
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.
Sunday'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 Monday morning 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 around 0700 GMT.
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 Monday, 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.
Andrew Dawson, heading the Council of Europe's election observation mission, said Monday that they were "not fully convinced that Turkey currently has the free and fair electoral environment which is necessary for genuinely democratic elections in line with European values and principles."
He commended the Turkish public for the high turnout rate of 84 percent and called it a "sign of healthy democratic interest and awareness."
In predominantly Kurdish provinces, a pro-Kurdish party won seven top mayoral seats but lost some strongholds, including southeastern Sirnak province, to the ruling party.

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