Tayyip Erdogan’s ruling AK Party was on track on Monday to lose control of Turkey’s two biggest cities, Istanbul and Ankara, in a stunning local election setback that could complicate the president’s plans to combat recession.
While official vote tallies and Turkish broadcasters put the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) candidates ahead in both cities, the Islamist-rooted AKP promised appeals that could delay the final results for days.
Erdogan, who has dominated Turkish politics since sweeping to power 16 years ago and has ruled with an ever tighter grip, campaigned relentlessly for two months ahead of Sunday’s vote, which he described as a “matter of survival” for Turkey.
But his daily rallies and overwhelmingly supportive media coverage failed to win over many urban voters, as last year’s punishing currency crisis weighed heavily on Turks.
The AKP and its Islamist predecessor have controlled Istanbul and the capital Ankara for 25 years. The results, which were still being tallied on Monday evening, would likely bring personnel changes at the highest ranks of government, according to sources inside and close to the AKP.
In Istanbul, the country’s largest city and economic hub, the CHP mayoral candidate was more than 22,000 votes ahead of his AKP opponent as the last votes were being counted, according to the country’s electoral board.