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  • Supporters of AK Party in Istanbul, Turkey March 31, 2019.

    Supporters of AK Party in Istanbul, Turkey March 31, 2019. | Photo: Reuters

Published 1 April 2019

Not all ballots are counted, but it looks more like the AK party of Turkish President Recep Erdogan will lose its hold on Istanbul where he was once mayor.

Not all official ballots are in, but it is certain that Turkey’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) has lost in the capital of Ankara, according to Reuters. President Recep Erdogan, AKP leader, may concede defeat in the country's largest city, Istanbul.

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State-owned Anadolu news agency said the AKP would appeal in some districts of the capital.

Erdogan, who has been losing in popularity since last year’s currency crisis, had dominated Turkish politics since coming to national power in 2003. The head of state campaigned tirelessly for two months ahead of Sunday's mayoral and local council elections, calling his efforts a "matter of survival" for Turkey.

Last year the Turkish lira dipped by 30 percent ushering in a recession marked by 20 percent inflation and rising unemployment. Voters seemed ready for a change. For the first time in the history of the majority Islam nation, a Communist Party of Turkey (TKP) candidate, Fatih Mehmet Maçoğlu, won a major city, in this case, Dersim.

Turkish broadcasters said opposition Republican People's Party (CHP) candidate Mansur Yavas had won Ankara, but the vote count in Istanbul, where Erdogan served a term as mayor in the late 1990s, was so tight that both parties declared slim victories.

"The people have voted in favor of democracy, they have chosen democracy," opposition leader Kemal Kilicdaroglu said, declaring that his secularist CHP had taken Ankara and Istanbul from the AK Party (AKP) and held its Aegean coastal stronghold of Izmir, Turkey's third largest city.

The lira devalued another 1.2 percent just before voters went to the polls, taking it to 5.62 against the U.S. dollar.

At a rally speech in Ankara, Erdogan appeared to accept AKP defeat in Istanbul, although he maintained that most neighborhoods in the city were held by his party. "Even if our people gave away the mayorship, they gave the districts to the AK Party," he said.

The party would appeal results wherever needed, added the presdient.

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Erdogan pledged that Turkey would now focus on its troubled economy in the run-up to national elections in 2023. "We have a long period ahead where we will carry out economic reforms without compromising on the rules of the free-market economy," he told reporters.

Turkey's most prominent leader, Erdogan's support has been based on strong economic growth and backing from core conservative Muslims.

In mainly Kurdish southeast Turkey, residents celebrated as the pro-Kurdish opposition Peoples Democratic Party (HDP) won back municipalities that authorities had taken over two years ago.

At a Malatya province polling station, one electoral official and an observer were both shot dead at the ballots March 31.

Anadolu agency reported that the deaths followed a brawl between supporters of competing candidates for local elections.

Felicity Party leader Temel Karamollaoğlu said on Twitter that the two people killed were members of the party.

“Because of an attack by the nephew of an AKP candidate in Pütürge, Malatya, one ballot box observer and one polling clerk of our party have lost their lives. This incident is not a simple dispute,” tweeted Karamollaoğlu. “There was an attempt to make people cast open votes and our observers who objected to this situation have been massacred,” said the Felicity member.

President Erdoğan expressed sadness over the incident then said the killings shouldn’t be politicized.

It would not be “correct to make this a question or judgment between political parties,” said the head of state.

 

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