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

Supporters of the Republican People’s Party CHP wave Turkish flags as they celebrate after preliminary results of the local elections were announced in Ankara

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's AK Party is contesting the slim opposition victory in the country's biggest city, Istanbul.

Despite daily rallies and overwhelmingly supportive media coverage, the president has failed to assuage concerns among many voters over Turkey's tip towards economic recession after a currency crisis past year.

Behlul Ozkan, an associate professor at Marmara University, said Erdogan's loss of ground in Ankara and Istanbul indicated that his socially conservative and construction-driven policies no longer resonated in Turkey's cities.

The AKP candidate, the former prime minister Binali Yıldırım, acknowledged on Monday that Imamoğlu was about 25,000 votes ahead, but said he believed the CHP's lead was due to 300,000 invalid votes. "We have identified irregularities and falsifications".

He said Imamoglu was leading in Istanbul by almost 28,000 votes early Monday.

In Ankara, the CHP candidate Mansur Yavaş is predicted to have secured 50.9% of the vote, leaving the AKP candidate trailing with 47.1% - a result that would end a quarter of a century of Islamist party control of the capital. Istanbul has an estimated total population of 15 million.

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.

The same point of view was echoed by Seda Demiralp, an associate professor of political science at the Isik University in Istanbul, saying that before the local election Erdogan warned voters that opposition mayors would face difficulties in getting necessary government backing for fulfilling their responsibilities.

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Ahead of the elections, the CHP had formed an electoral alliance with the Iyi (Good) Party to rival that of the AKP and their nationalist MHP partners.

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

Ekrem Imamoglu, main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP) candidate for mayor of Istanbul, visits Anitkabir, the mausoleum of modern Turkey's founder Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, as he is flanked by his family members and supporters in Ankara, Turkey, April 2, 2019.

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.

Investors were also weighing up a statement on Monday from rating agency Moody's, which said the erosion of Turkey's foreign currency reserves is a credit negative and that their use to prop up the lira poses renewed questions about the central bank's independence. Turnout was a very high 84.5 percent.

In predominantly Kurdish provinces, a pro-Kurdish party won seven top mayoral seats but lost some strongholds, including south-eastern Sirnak province, to the ruling party.

In the week leading up to the elections, Turkish stocks, bonds and the currency sold off, prompting the government to direct banks to temporarily starve a key London market of lira liquidity, according to officials.

The Council of Europe in its statement acknowledged Turkey's security concerns but said Turkey's definition of terrorism was not consistent with European standards.

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