Turkey opposition claims victory in Ankara, leads in Istanbul

Erdogan Makes a Stand as Election Puts Biggest Cities in Play
Erdogan Makes a Stand as Election Puts Biggest Cities in Play
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02 April, 2019

Before the elections, Erdogan campaigned tirelessly for AKP's candidates, framing the municipal elections taking place across Turkey as matters of "national survival".

In a vote with 84 per cent turnout that was widely seen as a litmus test for the government, AKP supporters pointed to successes against the Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP) in the south-east.

Erdogan, who was elected past year as the country's first executive president, said the next polls would be held in June 2023, adding that Turkey would carefully implement a "strong economic programme" without compromising on free-market rules.

In one of the greatest defeats for Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, his Justice and Development Party has lost control of the capital city Ankara after elections Sunday.

More than 57 million were registered to vote for mayors and councillors.

But rights activists and even Turkey's Western allies say that under Erdogan's leadership, democracy has been eroded, particularly after a failed 2016 coup that led to tens of thousands of people being arrested.

Erdogan's ruling party has declared victory in the race for mayor of Istanbul, even though the result in Turkey's most populous city and commercial hub is too close to call.

Binali Yildirim, the Justice and Development Party's candidate, on Monday accepted that his opponent Ekrem Imamoglu was leading in Sunday's election by about 25,000 votes in Istanbul. CHP leader Kemal Kilicdaroglu rebuked Yildirim for declaring victory "in haste".

With the economy in recession and soaring inflation, economic concerns are first and foremost on many voters' minds. The main, secular-oriented opposition party has 30.5 percent. Yavas says he is the victim of a smear campaign.

The vote was the first time since 2002 that the AKP fielded candidates with its alliance partner, the right-wing Nationalist Movement Party (MHP). He also portrayed the country's economic woes as attacks by enemies at home and overseas.

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In election-related violence, dozens of people were injured in clashes across Turkey.

Parties have three days to file objections and official results are expected in the coming days.

The killings weren't caused by "simple animosity", but happened when the volunteers tried to enforce the law requiring ballots to be marked in private voting booths instead of out in the open, Karamollaoglu tweeted.

In a speech he gave after the results were announced on Sunday, Erdogan said, "If there are any shortcomings, it is our duty to correct them". Two people were shot dead at a polling station in the eastern city of Malatya.

Rating agency Moody's said on April 1 that the central bank's use of reserves to prop up the lira currency posed renewed questions about its transparency and independence.

The exact causes of the fights remained unclear. In connection to that, Erdogan's decision to address the crowds in Ankara alone, accompanied only by his wife, was noted by observers.

In Ankara, CHP candidate Mansur Yavas won a clear victory, according to Turkish broadcasters.

In predominantly Kurdish provinces, the Peoples' Democratic Party, or HDP, won back some seats from government-appointed trustees, including the symbolic capital of Diyarbakir, but lost several former strongholds to the ruling party.

Istanbul is Turkey's largest city and the country's financial capital.

The March 31st local elections in Turkey are arguably among the most closely electoral contests in the country's recent political history.


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