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Supporters of Ekrem Imamoglu, main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP) candidate for mayor of Istanbul, wait for him to visit Anitkabir, the mausoleum of modern Turkey's founder Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, in Ankara, Turkey on April 2, 2019. Photo by Umit Bektas/Reuters

Turkish president Erdogan’s party challenges results of local elections

ANKARA, Turkey — Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s ruling party on Tuesday appealed the results of local elections in Istanbul where preliminary results give the opposition a razor-thin victory, sounding confident that a recount will alter the outcome of the vote.

Nationwide, Erdogan’s conservative and Islamic-based party won a majority of votes in Sunday’s elections, but lost its decades-old stronghold of Ankara to the opposition and is trailing in the tight race for Istanbul. The results, which are pending the appeals process, were one of Erdogan’s most serious electoral setbacks in years.

Bayram Senocak, the top official in Istanbul for the ruling Justice and Development Party, or AKP, told reporters he had filed appeals to challenge results in all of the city’s 39 districts. The party was seeking a recount to fix alleged irregularities as well as a reassessment of invalid votes.

Some 319,578 votes in Istanbul that were declared void “can affect the result of the election,” Senocak said.

The party is also contesting results in 25 districts in Ankara, said Hakan Han Ozcan who heads the AKP in the capital.

Meanwhile, the opposition’s mayoral candidate for Istanbul, Ekrem Imamoglu, traveled to Ankara, to pay respects at the mausoleum of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, the secular republic founder, where large crowds gathered to meet him, chanting “mayor Ekrem.”

Imamoglu garnered 48.8% of the votes, according to the results that have yet to be confirmed. His rival, former Prime Minister Binali Yildirim, took 48.5%.

Yildirim had declared victory on Sunday before acknowledging on Monday that Imamoglu was leading by some 25,000 votes.

AKP deputy chairman Omer Celik urged “respect” for the appeals process late on Monday. He added that his party “will respect the results regardless of the outcome, as it is the will of the people.”

Both Ankara and Istanbul have been held by the AKP and its Islamic-oriented predecessor for 25 years. Erdogan’s own ascent to power began as Istanbul mayor in 1994.

Mansur Yavas, the candidate of the opposition alliance, won 50.9% support in Ankara. The AKP’s candidate Mehmet Ozhaseki, a former environment and urbanization minister, won 47.1% support.

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