Ankara. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s ruling party has suffered heavy losses in nationwide local elections, a sign that rising levels of unemployment and the backlash from last year’s currency crisis are starting to take their toll on his years-long domination over Turkey’s politics.
Turks voted to elect scores of mayors, city council members, and other local officials on Sunday, in what the Turkish head of state had described as a matter of “survival” for the country and his Justice and Development Party (AKP), which has ruled Turkey for more than 16 years.
Initial vote counts reported by Turkish media show that the AKP has lost the mayoral race in the capital Ankara to the opposition Republican People’s party (CHP), a first in the past 25 years.
With 99 percent of the ballot boxes counted, Mansur Yavas, the candidate of the opposition alliance, was winning with 50.89 percent of the votes in the capital while the AKP was lagging behind with 47.06 percent, state-run Anadolu news agency reported, citing preliminary results.
The CHP also claimed victory over AKP in its Aegean coastal stronghold of Izmir, the country’s third largest city.
Things did not look well for the AKP in Istanbul either as Supreme Election Board (YSK) chairman Sadi Guven said Monday morning that Imamoglu was in the lead by around 28,000 votes. Earlier, mayoral candidates from both parties claimed victory in Istanbul.
AKP candidate and former Prime Minister Binali Yildirim claimed early victory but Imamoglu disputed the claim and projected himself as the winner, accusing Yildirim of “manipulation” by declaring victory.
The ruling party’s officials said they would challenge thousands of ballots in Istanbul and Ankara.
The results are considered a heavy blow to the AKP, which under Erdogan’s leadership has won every election since it first came to power in 2002.
The people have voted in favor of democracy. They have chosen democracy,” said CHP leader Kemal Kilicdaroglu.