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Erdogan Party Leads Nationwide Vote Total, But Suffers Big Setbacks In Mayor Races

Supporters of the main opposition Republican People's Party wave portraits of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk. File photo

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has declared victory for his Islamic-based AK Party in municipal elections, but the ruling alliance appeared to suffer setbacks in at least two key cities.

With more than 92 percent of ballots counted, the AKP took nearly 45 percent of the votes in the March 31 election, state broadcaster TRT.

The secular, main opposition alliance, the Republican People's Party, or CHP had 30 percent.

But in crucial mayoral races, the CHP declared victory in the capital, Ankara, and in the major city of Izmir.

Meanwhile, the race in Turkey’s largest city, Istanbul, remained too close to call. Erdogan acknowledged that the AKP may have lost city hall to the CHP challenger, although he said his party remained the largest in the city.

"In Istanbul, the majority of the districts are either ours or head-to-head. What does this mean? Even if our people gave away the mayorship, they gave the districts to the AK Party," he told supporters in Ankara.

No winner has been declared in Istanbul. CHP-supported had 4,111,219 votes with 98.8 percent of ballots counted, ahead of the AK-backed candidate with 4,106,776.

The poll was the first municipal election since Turks gave Erdogan wide powers in 2017 by approving constitutional reforms to create an executive presidency, and many saw the vote as a test of the strength of Erdogan and the AKP.

Erdogan and his party have won every election since the party came to power in 2002.

They are facing increased opposition with the country's economy in recession, unemployment up, and inflation in double digits.

Four people were killed and dozens of others were injured in election-related violence across Turkey.

Based on reporting by AFP, AP, Reuters, and dpa