Turkish strongman Recep Tayyip Erdogan suffered an electoral blow on Sunday, as his ruling AKP appeared headed for defeat in local elections.
Erdogan and his party have been a scarcely believable run of electoral success, since the party first came to power in 2002. However, a sharp economic downturn, including devaluation of the Turkish lira, inflation at just under 20 percent and unemployment at a near 10-year high, have hit Turks hard.
With 92 percent of the ballot boxes counted, the joint opposition candidate for Ankara mayor was ahead with 50.62 percent of votes and the AKP on 47.20 percent, Anadolu state agency reported citing preliminary results, according to a report on i24 News.
“Every gain and every loss is the will of our people and also a requirement of democracy that should be acknowledged,” Erdogan said in Istanbul before heading to Ankara to make a post-election speech.
“We will admit we won the hearts of our people in areas that we won and we will admit we were not successful enough in areas we lost.”
In Istanbul, the country’s largest city and economic hub, the mayoral race was deadlocked, although the AKP candidate claimed victory 48.70 percent of the vote. His opponent, who had apparently garnered 48.65 percent of the votes cast, also claimed victory; with almost all the ballot boxes counted.
Sunday’s poll was the first municipal ballot since Turks approved constitutional reforms in 2017 to create an executive presidency that gave Erdogan wider powers after 16 years in office.
But Erdogan, whose ability to win continuously at the polls is unparalleled in Turkish history, was more vulnerable with the economy in recession, unemployment higher and inflation in double digits, according to an assessment in the Times of Israel.
Erdogan, although not running in the elections, personally campaigned on behalf of his party members. He attacked opposition candidates, labeling them as linked to Kurdish PKK separatists.