ISTANBUL • Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) has decided to lodge objections to local election results in all 39 Istanbul districts, Hurriyet newspaper said yesterday, after the results showed a narrow lead for the main opposition candidate.
The AKP is on track to lose control of Turkey's two biggest cities, Istanbul and Ankara, in a surprise election setback that may complicate Mr Erdogan's plans to combat recession.
In Istanbul, the mayoral candidate of the main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP), Mr Ekrem Imamoglu, and his AKP rival, former prime minister Binali Yildirim, both said on Monday that Mr Imamoglu was ahead by around 25,000 votes.
The AKP has said it will use its right to object to the results where there are voting irregularities.
The deadline for appeals was set to expire at 1200 GMT (8pm Singapore time).
Even the most remote areas of the Istanbul metropolitan area showed a defeat for Mr Erdogan's mayoral candidate.
At a late-night news briefing in Istanbul, Mr Imamoglu said he was trusting in Turkey's institutions more than the AKP to confirm his victory. "I don't expect this from the party," he said. "For years to come, AKP will not accept my win."
Uncertainty generated by the local elections has added to pressure on the lira, which weakened sharply last week.
The results do not mean that Mr Erdogan, whose term as president lasts for four more years, will change his behaviour, which includes promoting Islamic religious values over secularism, closer ties to Russia and chillier relations with Nato. But the election showed that Mr Erdogan has weaknesses.
"It's a catastrophe for him," said Ms Asli Aydintasbas, a senior fellow at the European Council on Foreign Relations. "We now know he is not invincible."
Opposition mayors in Turkey's two most important cities give the CHP high-profile opportunities to show how it can govern effectively, with control of municipal services from garbage collection to mass transit. And Mr Imamoglu has promised that as mayor of Istanbul, he would audit the books, a prospect that could create new problems for the AKP should he uncover evidence of corruption under the ruling party's watch.
The swing away from Mr Erdogan and his party in his home city, a place that he often describes with love and emotion, showed an unexpected success from the opposition alliance, which persuaded voters to vote tactically, despite their differences.
Votes from the minority Kurds, and from unhappy conservatives who abandoned Mr Erdogan, were critical, said Ms Aydintasbas, who has followed Mr Erdogan's career closely.