Turkey’s president suffers setback in big cities at local elections

Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his wife Emine greet supporters after the results of the local elections were announced in Ankara

Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his wife Emine greet supporters after the results of the local elections were announced in Ankara

High Election Board Chairman Sadi Guven told reporters the CHP Istanbul candidate Ekrem Imamoglu had 4,159,650 votes, while the AKP candidate, former Prime Minister Binali Yildirim, had 4,131,761 votes. But minutes later, the AKP provincial head in Istanbul said Yıldırım had won by about 4,000 votes.

Speaking in Istanbul, Erdogan said the ruling party "emerged as the winner" but conceded the loss of some municipalities.

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Ballot counts were still underway Monday morning in an anxious wait for Istanbul, Turkey's largest city and commercial hub.

With 90 percent of ballots counted, secularist opposition Republican People's Party (CHP) mayoral candidate Mansur Yavas had 50.3 percent of the vote, 2.8 percentage points ahead of his AK Party rival.

In Istanbul, a city where Erdogan had sometimes described victory as like winning Turkey itself, the race had been very tight.

According to preliminary results, the Erdogan-led Justice and Development Party has received 51.66% of the vote, while the alliance of leading opposition parties, the Republican People's Party and the Iyi Party, has accumulated 37.57% of the vote. Erdogan got 52.6 percent of the vote in June.

Erdogan declared victory in the elections on Sunday night but the opposition's success in Ankara and elsewhere dealt a significant blow to his party's dominance.

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The lira overnight swap rate in London meanwhile soared to 400 percent from around 200 percent - well off the 1,200 percent to which it rocketed last Wednesday as the lira came under renewed pressure in the run up the vote.

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.

"The (lira) market is focusing on the positive that it could have been a worse result for AKP and Erdogan has also said he will respect free markets, which would be positive if it happens", said UniCredit EM FX strategist Kiran Kowshik.

The overall share of the votes for Erdogan's alliance didn't change dramatically since last year's presidential vote as he maintained his hold on the interior of the country, where his nationalist-religious rhetoric appeals to a more conservative base.

In an early Monday speech, Erdogan pledged that Turkey would now focus on its troubled economy. On Saturday, Erdogan threatened: "We will definitely solve the Syria issue on the field, if possible, and not at the negotiating table, as out first task after elections". Not only is the CHP the traditional party of the Turkish army, which carried out three bloody NATO-backed coups in the 20th century, but it refrained from criticizing the role of Washington and Berlin in organizing the failed 2016 coup attempt targeting Erdogan.

Leaders across the world on Monday congratulated Turkey's president for his party's win in local elections.

Yildirim accepted that his rival was leading but said his party would file an objection, suggesting a recount of the 319,500 votes declared void in Istanbul.

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