Turkish ruling party candidate says opposition ahead in Istanbul, but race not over

(Adds ruling party saying its figures show it won Istanbul)

The ruling Islamist party candidate for mayor of Turkey’s biggest city Istanbul said on Monday that although his secularist opponent appeared to be ahead in the polls with almost all the ballots counted, nothing was certain until the election process came to an end, independent news site T24 reported.

The head of the Supreme Electoral Council (YSK) Sadi Güven said on Monday that Ekrem İmamoğlu, the opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) Istanbul mayoral candidate was nearly 28,000 votes ahead of Binali Yıldırım, a former prime minister standing for the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), after more than 8 million votes had been counted.

"Whoever the YSK gives the mandate to will be the mayor, but the process is still ongoing," Yıldırım said. There are still 14 more ballot boxes to be counted and thousands of invalid votes that need to be considered, he added.

Yıldırım, who had declared victory late on Sunday, said he would have no problem congratulating İmamoğlu on winning Istanbul, home to 16 million of the country’s 79 million population and responsible for 31 percent of the country’s GDP.

The head of the electoral board said the body was considering complaints made by the parties before announcing the final results. More than 400,000 votes were considered invalid according to the official results in the 2014 local elections in Istanbul. 

The AKP's Istanbul provincial chairman, Bayram Şenocak, said on Monday that data obtained by the party showed that Yıldırım had won Istanbul, pro-government Islamist Yeni Akit newspaper reported.