Erdogan loses capital in Turkey election blow

Speaking at a news conference in Istanbul, 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.

Sunday's election came amid an economic downturn and was widely seen as a referendum on his leadership.

Supporters of the main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP) gather in front of the party's headquarters to celebrate the municipal elections results in Ankara, Turkey, March 31, 2019.

In the de facto Kurdish capital of Diyarbakir, HDP candidate for mayor got 63.2 percent of votes compared to 30.7 percent won by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's Justice and Development Party (AKP) whose candidate was Cumali Atilla, a bureaucrat appointed by the Ankara government when it seized Kurdish municipalities two and a half years ago. CHP-supported had 4,111,219 votes with 98.8 percent of ballots counted, ahead of the AK-backed candidate with 4,106,776.

Turkish broadcasters said the latest count, with 98.8 percent of ballot boxes opened, showed Yildirim with a razor-thin lead having secured 4,111,219 votes against Imamoglu's 4,106,776. CHP leader Kemal Kilicdaroglu rebuked Yildirim for declaring victory "in haste".

Erdogan, whose rise to power began as Istanbul mayor in 1994, knows that a win for his party in Istanbul, the financial and cultural heart of Turkey, is crucial.

Moody's rating agency warned the central bank's use of reserves last week to prop up the lira raises new questions over its independence, while uncertainty over Turkey's policy response to recession raises the risk of further capital flight.

Ankara was considered the main battleground of the race, where a former government environment minister, Mehmet Ozhaseki, ran for mayor under the banner of Erdogan and his nationalist allies.

Even though Erdogan is not on the ballot, he took personal control of the local election campaign. He also portrayed the country's economic woes as attacks by enemies at home and overseas. Election campaigns are a chance for Mr Erdogan to travel across his vast country, showcasing the populist genius that has kept him at the top of Turkish politics for 16 years.

Political parties can submit their objections for three days.

A disputed election is emerging in Istanbul, Turkey's largest city, where voting resulted in a statistical tie.

"If there are any shortcomings, it is our duty to correct them", Erdogan told supporters.

Two other people were killed in fighting in the southern city of Gaziantep.

This is exactly why those exhausted of or unhappy with Mr. Erdogan's rule need to vote, however, and why the ballot remains important. In connection to that, Erdogan's decision to address the crowds in Ankara alone, accompanied only by his wife, was noted by observers. Opposition parties also coordinated strategies and put forward candidates under alliances in an effort to maximize the chances of unseating members of the Justice and Development Party, known in Turkish by the acronym AKP.

The pro-Kurdish opposition Peoples Democratic Party (HDP), which Erdogan has accused of links to Kurdish militants, which it denies, has not made an official alliance and is not fielding candidates for mayor in Istanbul or Ankara.

Murat Yetkin, a Turkish political analyst, told Al Jazeera that if "the Erdogan-led AK Party-MHP alliance loses Istanbul [along with Ankara] as well, that means loss of control over five major cities in Turkey".

  • Tracy Klein