Turkey's AKP lead in Istanbul narrows to 0.2 percent points

Turkish flags in Izmir Turkey

Turkish flags in Izmir Turkey

Preliminary results showed the opposition flipping the capital Ankara and surrounding areas from Erdogan's alliance, and taking control of key Mediterranean coastal cities.

Mansur Yavaş, mayoral candidate of the main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP) in Ankara, is leading the race with 50.9 percent of votes, according to unofficial results, with Mehmet Özhaseki, AK Party's candidate, trailing at 47.06 percent.

"If there are any shortcomings, it is our duty to correct them", Erdogan told thousands of supporters in Ankara. "Starting tomorrow morning, we will begin our work to identify our shortcomings and make up for them". "Even if our people gave away the mayorship, they gave the districts to the AK Party", he said.

In Istanbul, BBC Turkey correspondent Mark Lowen says, the result is too close to call - but some reports are putting the governing AK Party ahead.

"We won elections in Istanbul", Yıldırım said.

"We will admit we won the hearts of our people in areas that we won and we will admit we were not successful enough in areas we lost".

Erdogan's supporters expressed dismay at losing the capital. In last year's presidential and parliamentary elections, Erdogan garnered 52.6 percent of the votes and his party and its nationalist ally won 53.7 percent of the parliamentary vote.

But Erdogan, whose ability to win continuously at the polls is unparalleled in Turkish history, was more vulnerable with the economy in recession, unemployment higher and inflation in double digits. "We're electing mayors. What does this have anything to do with the country's survival?"

"Those who have tried to bring our country on its knees by damaging our people's unity and togetherness, have once again been dealt a blow", Erdogan said, noting that the party had emerged as the victor nationwide by a large margin.

A ccording to the Anadolu news agency, the AKP-MHP bloc gathered 51.7 percent of votes in the municipal elections, while the bloc comprised of the CHP and the Good Party (IYI) got 37.6 percent, with 91.15 percent of votes having been counted.

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Binali Yildirim, former prime minister and AKP mayoral candidate for Istanbul, gives a statement in Istanbul on Sunday.

"We will accept that we won the hearts of our nation in places where we won and that we weren't successful that much in places where we lost", Erdogan said in a televised news conference after early results.

Yildirim declared himself the victor even as counting continued, saying: "We thank Istanbul's residents for the mandate they have given us".

However, his main contender Ekrem İmamoğlu rejected that claim. Bloomberg's Simin Demokan reports on "Bloomberg Daybreak: Middle East". The Malatya governorate said four individuals were detained.

Sunday's municipal elections are also a first test for Erdogan since he won elections past year that ushered in a new system that gave him wide powers. He also said that Turkey's economic woes were a result of attacks by enemies at home and overseas.

CHP leader Kemal Kilicdaroglu said: "The people have voted in favour of democracy, they have chosen democracy".

"Our strategy is based on winning in the East and making them lose in the west", said Gul Demir co-head of HDP in Istanbul's Kadikoy district.

The opposition pro-Kurdish Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP) had boycotted the elections in several cities, dubbing he vote unfair.

A consummate campaigner, he has been the country's most popular - although divisive - modern politician, tightening his grip in elections previous year that ushered in a powerful executive presidency, approved in a bitter 2017 referendum which alarmed Western allies who fear growing authoritarianism in Turkey. He blamed the lira currency fall on a campaign to undermine Turkey, led by the United States.

Turkey's finance minister Berat Albayrak, who is Erdogan's son-in-law, has said economic reforms would be announced the week of April 8.

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