Erdogan on track to lose Turkey's biggest cities in shock poll upset

Erdogan on track to lose Turkey's biggest cities in shock poll upset

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has declared victory in council elections, but the opposition's success in key cities dealt a significant blow to his party's dominance.

Turkey's opposition is now leading in a knife-edge race to secure the country's largest city, Istanbul, despite the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) having claimed a victory hours before, the chief of Turkey's electoral authority said on Monday morning.

An AKP official and a source close to the party predicted a cabinet shuffle or other changes among those around Erdogan, especially given the loss in Istanbul.

People walk past by AK Party billboards with pictures of Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan and mayoral candidate Binali Yildirim in Istanbul, Turkey, April 1, 2019.

The Turkish lira, which swung wildly in the week ahead of the elections echoing last year's currency crisis, weakened on Monday as much as 2.5 percent against the dollar before recovering early losses.

Looking forward to the next elections scheduled for 2023, Erdogan said his government would focus on the economy and implementing a programme based on free market reforms.

Erdogan, who was elected a year ago as the country's first executive president, said the next polls would be held in June 2023, adding that Turkey would carefully implement a "strong economic programme" without compromising on free-market rules.

The lira tumbled nearly 30 per cent against the dollar in last year's currency crisis.

After Erdogan won elections last June which ushered in a powerful new executive presidency, he also appointed his son-in-law Berat Albayrak as Finance and Treasury Minister.

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

But rights activists and even Turkey's Western allies say that under Erdogan's leadership, democracy has been eroded, particularly after a failed 2016 coup that led to tens of thousands of people being arrested. Last week authorities used a series of stop-gap measures to cushion the selloff of Turkish assets.

The head of the High Election Board told reporters there was a three-day period for the election results to be challenged. CHP candidate Ekrem Imamoglu stated that his party's data "guarantees" his triumph, claiming that he won by a margin of some 28,000 votes.

At least 12 political parties took part in the March 31 local polls in Turkey.

CHP candidate Mansur Yavas won the mayoral race in Ankara, preliminary results showed.

Erdogan acknowledged setbacks in a speech to his supporters, saying his party would work to understand what had gone wrong and fix the problem.

"The only reason why we lost some cities is that we could not express ourselves enough to some voters", he said.

"I am afraid we.are not fully convinced that Turkey now has the free and fair electoral environment which is necessary for genuinely democratic elections in line with European values and principles", said Andrew Dawson.

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