Oppositon wins Ankara, ruling AKP Istanbul candidate Yıldırım declares victory

All eyes were on İstanbul in the final hours of vote counting during Turkey's March 31 local elections, where the main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP)'s candidate Ekrem İmamoğlu trailed ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) candidate Binali Yıldırım by less than half a percentage point with less than two percent of votes left to count at 11:30 p.m. local time.

AKP candidate Yıldırım declared victory at 11:30 local time, when 98.8 percent of the votes for the city of İstanbul had been counted, showing Yıldırım at 48.7 percent and İmamoğlu at 48.6 percent.

As the gap narrowed substantially over last hours, İmamoğlu made televised statements rejecting results published by state-run Anadolu Agency, saying they did not match the data his party was receiving from the Supreme Electoral Council.

"This is another method of manipulation, I invite Binali Yıldırım to act responsibly as a statesman who served for this country for years," said CHP Istanbul candidate Imamoğlu said when asked about AKP Istanbul candidate Yıldırım's victory speech.

Meanwhile, the CHP's candidate for Ankara, Mansur Yavaş, appeared certain to have won Ankara by the latest count, which had him leading by 3.4 percentage points with 92 percent of votes counted.

Officials from Turkey’s pro-Kurdish People’s Democratic Party (HDP) announced on Sunday that they would not be celebrating a victory at the polls in the southeastern province of Diyarbakır in a show of solidarity with fellow HDP lawmakers and members who have been detained or are on a hunger strike, left wing news site Gazete Duvar reported.

Following the July 2016 coup attempt the government of Recep Tayyip Erdoğan removed from office 94 of the 103 elected mayors representing the HDP and replaced them with government-appointed administrators as part of a crackdown on the HDP for its alleged ties to the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), an armed group fighting for Kurdish self-rule in Turkey for over 30 years.

The HDP is aiming to win back the municipalities it lost to state-appointed trustees in Turkey’s Kurdish-majority east and southeast in today’s polls.

Erdoğan has said he will once again appoint trustees to local municipalities determined by Ankara to support the PKK.

Preliminary results show HDP to be in the lead in the Kurdish-majority southeastern provinces of Diyarbakır, Van, Batman, Siirt and Hakkari.

Results from other southeastern provinces revealed some disappointing losses for the party.

The results at 7:45 p.m. local time showed the ruling party's People's Alliance led in Şırnak with 61.55 percent to the HDP's 35.02 percent with 72 percent of votes counted.

This was a remarkable change from 2014, when the pro-Kurdish mayoral candidate won the race for the province with 59.6 percent of the vote to the AKP's 29.3 percent.

Journalist Nurcan Baysal said in a tweet that the reversal was down to the heavy-handed military response to PKK-linked fighters in the province since 2015. 

 

"Seventy percent of Şırnak has been destroyed. The Şırnak you know no longer exısts. Most people from the province have still not been able to return home. The number of guards, soldiers and police has also risen dramatically," Baysal said.