Erdogan’s ruling party challenges results of local elections

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Official results in local elections that appear to have delivered a blow to President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan's dominance over Turkey have been pushed back until next week, as the ruling Justice and Development party (AKP) said it had made a decision to lodge objections in Istanbul's neck-and-neck mayoral race.

In Istanbul, the mayoral candidate of the main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP), Mr Ekrem Imamoglu, and his AKP rival, ex-prime minister Binali Yildirim, both said Mr Imamoglu was around 25,000 votes ahead.

Erdogan's Justice and Development Party (AKP) won a majority of votes throughout Turkey in Sunday's local elections, but trailed in Istanbul, the country's economic hub, and Ankara, the capital.

He said the party had found an "excessive" difference between votes cast at ballot stations for their candidate and the data sent to electoral authorities.

Hakan Han Ozcan, AKP's Ankara chairman, told reporters they were also filing an appeal in 25 districts of the capital.

Erdogan's ruling alliance, including the nationalist MHP, captured 51.7 percent of the nationwide vote with almost all votes counted, according to state-owned Anadolu news agency.

Lisel Hintz, a professor at Johns Hopkins University's European and Eurasian studies department, said: "Turkey has a robust and deep belief in democratic structures and civil society is very resilient".

The CHP said it had objected to results in 22 Istanbul districts where it claims its votes were miscounted.

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"The people have voted in favour of democracy, they have chosen democracy", said opposition leader Kemal Kilicdaroglu, whose secularist CHP also held its Aegean coastal stronghold of Izmir, Turkey's third largest city.

"There are 10 times more void ballots than the difference between my votes and İmamoğlu's; I will congratulate him if the election board YSK announces him as the victor but I must note that the counting process is still ongoing", Yıldırım told reporters in Istanbul, noting that there are some 300,000 ballots deemed void by local balloting committees.

"The world is watching us with shame right now".

Behlul Ozkan, an associate professor at Marmara University, said Erdogan's loss of ground in Ankara and Istanbul indicated that his socially conservative and construction-driven policies no longer resonated in Turkey's cities. "Let go and congratulate us with honour, so we can do our job", he said.

Yavuz underlined that a greater number of votes had been disqualified in districts where AK Party had won, including Istanbul.

In Ankara, Yavas received 50.9 percent of votes, ahead of his AKP rival and former minister Mehmet Ozhaseki in Sunday's local elections by almost 4 percentage points. He had campaigned relentlessly ahead of the vote, describing it as a "matter of survival" for the country.

On Tuesday the lira weakened more than 2 percent against the dollar on concerns about tensions with the United States after it halted delivery to Turkey of equipment related to the F-35 fighter aircraft.

Sunday's local elections were widely seen as a test of support for Erdogan as the nation of 81 million people faces a daunting economic recession with double-digit inflation, rising food prices and high unemployment.

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