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Turkey’s Local Polls: Erdogan Bloc Loses Ankara As Istanbul Race Tightens

People's Alliance in dead-heat race in Istanbul, while opposition bloc appears to win Ankara, partial results show

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LAHORE MIRROR (Monitoring Desk)– As main opposition alliance appears set to win in capital Ankara, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s ruling party is in a tight race for control of Istanbul- the country’s largest city.

Partial results in Sunday’s local elections say with 99 percent of the votes counted In Istanbul, Binali Yildirim, the candidate of Erdogan’s People’s Alliance and a former prime minister, was in the lead with 48.7 percent of the votes, according to state-run Anadolu Agency.

Ekrem Imamoglu, the candidate of the opposition Nation Alliance, had 48.65 percent. 

In Ankara, preliminary results showed that Nation Alliance candidate Mansur Yavas had garnered 50.6 percent, with 92 percent of the votes counted. He was followed by People’s Alliance nominee Mehmet Ozhaseki, with 47.2 percent.

In the third-largest city, Izmir, the Nation Alliance candidate Mustafa Tunc Soyer was in the lead with 58.1 percent of the votes. Nihat Zeybekci, the candidate of Erdogan’s bloc, had 38.5 percent. Ninety-two percent of the votes have been counted.

Nationwide, with 92 percent of the provincial votes counted, the People’s Alliance, which is comprised of the AK Party and the far-right Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), had secured 52 percent of the votes.

It was followed by Nation Alliance, a coalition made up by the centre-left Republican People’s Party (CHP) and the right-wing Good Party, with 37.6 percent.

Speaking at a news conference in Istanbul, Erdogan acknowledged that his party had lost control of a number of cities in the elections, and pledged that he would focus on carrying out economic reforms.

Erdogan said the next elections would be held in June 2023 and that Turkey would carefully implement a “strong economic programme” without compromising on free-market rules.

“If the AK Party-MHP alliance loses Istanbul, it will only hold one – Bursa – among the six largest cities of Turkey. Even if it does not lose Istanbul, this is still a major loss,” Murat Yetkin, a Turkish political analyst, told Al Jazeera.

“These results show that although the country has a presidential system, we are actually governed by a coalition between the AK Party and the MHP. The ruling party needs the MHP for future elections.”

The polls were seen as a major challenge for Erdogan and his party given a backdrop of high inflation and rising unemployment sparked by a major currency crisis last year.

Earlier this month, official statistics showed that in the last two quarters of 2018 the Turkish economy slipped into its first recession in a decade, as inflation and interest rates soared due to the currency meltdown.

In February, inflation stood at just under 20 percent, while the Central Bank’s main interest rate is currently 24 percent.

In the lead-up to Sunday’s vote, the People’s Alliance sought to link the local polls to internal and external risks threatening the country’s security.

Erdogan has often blamed foreign powers and “speculators” for the currency fluctuations and other economic woes faced by Turkey – a message he repeated this week.

SOURCE: AL JAZEERA