Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's ruling party suffered a major upset yesterday after local election results showed it lost the capital Ankara and Istanbul after a decade and half in power.
Losing the country's two major cities would be a stunning defeat for Erdogan, a former Istanbul mayor himself, whose ability to win at the ballot box has been unparalleled in Turkish history.
Erdogan campaigned hard, portraying Sunday's vote for mayors and district councils as a fight for the nation's survival, but the election became a test for his Justice and Development Party (AKP) after Turkey slipped into a recession for the first time in a decade.
The opposition CHP party candidate for Istanbul mayor, Ekrem Imamoglu, was leading by nearly 28,000 votes with most ballot boxes counted, Supreme Election Board (YSK) chairman Sadi Guven said.
Imamoglu won almost 4.16 million votes while the AKP candidate, former premier Binali Yildirim, won 4.13 million.
Both claimed victory in the early hours following a tight race for the country's largest city after results showing them in a dead heat.
"We want to start working as soon as possible to serve people," Imamoglu told reporters yesterday.
In Ankara, opposition mayoral candidate Mansur Yavas had 50.89 percent of votes ahead of the AKP's Mehmet Ozhaseki on 47.06 percent, Anadolu state agency reported, with 99 percent of ballot boxes counted.
"Ankara has won. The loser in Ankara is Ozhaseki, dirty politics has lost," Yavas told supporters.
But in a sign of possible turmoil ahead, AKP officials said they would challenge the alleged invalidation of tens of thousands of votes in both cities.