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Turkey’s opposition party maintains narrow lead in Ankara: NTV

ANKARA: Turkey’s main opposition candidate for the capital Ankara maintained his narrow lead in Sunday’s local elections after more than three-quarters of ballot boxes were opened, broadcaster NTV said.

Mansur Yavas, mayoral candidate for the opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) had 49.8 percent of votes, while Mehmet Ozhaseki of the ruling AK Party had 47.8 percent.

Read More: Turkish opposition leads Erdogan’s AK Party in Ankara mayor race

Earlier, Turkey’s main opposition party appeared on course to seize control of Ankara in Sunday’s local elections and defeat President Tayyip Erdogan’s ruling AK Party in the capital for the first time since Erdogan came to power 16 years ago.

After three-quarters of ballot boxes were opened, secularist opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) mayoral candidate Mansur Yavas had 49.8 percent of the vote, 2.0 percentage points ahead of his AKP rival.

While the AK Party looked set to hold Istanbul, Turkey’s largest city, defeat in Ankara would be a major setback for Erdogan who campaigned relentlessly for two months ahead of a vote which he described as a “matter of survival” for Turkey.

Erdogan has dominated Turkish politics for more than 16 years thanks mainly to strong economic growth and support from a core constituency of pious, conservative Muslim Turks.

A consummate campaigner, he has been the country’s most popular – though also divisive – modern politician, tightening his hold on power in elections last year which ushered in a new executive presidency, approved in a bitterly fought 2017 referendum.

However, a currency crisis after last year’s election dragged the lira down by 30 percent and tipped the economy toward recession. With inflation close to 20 percent and unemployment rising, some voters appeared ready to punish the president.

 “I was actually not going to vote today, but when I saw how much they (AKP) were flailing, I thought this might be time to land them a blow. Everyone is unhappy. Everyone is struggling,” said 47-year-old Hakan after voting in Ankara.

As authorities again scrambled to shore up the lira over the last week, Erdogan cast the country’s economic woes as resulting from attacks by the West, saying Turkey would overcome its troubles and adding he was “the boss” of the economy.

 “The aim behind the increasing attacks toward our country ahead of the elections is to block the road of the big, strong Turkey,” Erdogan told a rally in Istanbul on Saturday.

In Istanbul, AKP candidate and former prime minister Binali Yildirim had 49.7 percent of votes, 1.9 percentage points ahead of his CHP rival, after just under 90 percent of ballot boxes were opened, broadcaster NTV said.

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