ISTANBUL: Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan has suffered a heavy blow after his ruling AK Party lost control of the capital Ankara for the first time in nearly two decades in a local election as an opposition party also claimed victory in Istanbul.
Turkish media said the opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) candidate Mansur Yavas had won a clear victory in Ankara but there was a tense standoff in Istanbul as both the opposition and the AK Party claimed victory in the polls due to a narrow margin.
The AK Party said former Prime Minister Binali Yildirim defeated his CHP rival Ekrem Imamoglu by just 4,000 votes in Istanbul, while Imamoglu said he had a lead of 28,000 with only 2,000 votes uncounted.
The head of Turkey’s High Election Board said later on Monday the main opposition mayoral candidate in Istanbul was leading the race and received 4.16 million votes, while the AK Party’s candidate had 4.13 million.
A defeat in Istanbul, where Erdogan launched his political career and previously served as mayor, would deliver a symbolic shock to the president.
In a speech in Ankara, Erdogan hinted that the AKP may have lost control of Istanbul.
“Even if our people gave away the mayorship, they gave the districts to the AK Party,” he said.
Turkey’s economy has been declining following a currency crisis last year when the lira lost more than 30% of its value. Sunday’s vote showed some voters appeared to punish the president for the economic woes.
Unemployment is on the rise and inflation is close to 20%, forcing prices up, making the cost of living more difficult for many.
Erdogan said he would now turn his attention to fixing the economy without compromising free market rules ahead of a national election scheduled for 2023.
“We have a long period ahead where we will carry out economic reforms without compromising on the rules of the free-market economy,” Erdogan said.
Last week, Erdogan blamed the country’s economic woes on attacks by the West.
The president has also pointed the finger at interest rates and said if the central bank lowers them, price pressures will come down too and that Turkey would overcome its troubles following Sunday’s vote.__EuroNews