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Turkey recount halfway done, opposition candidate says still ahead

Turkey main opposition candidate in Istanbul said on Thursday a local election recount was more than halfway done and he was holding onto his lead over his rival from President Tayyip Erdogan’s ruling AK party.

Initial results from Sunday’s elections showed the opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) had narrowly won control of Turkey’s two biggest cities, Istanbul and Ankara, in a major upset for the president.

But Turkey’s High Election Board ordered a recount in 18 of Istanbul’s 39 districts after Erdogan’s party appealed against the results, saying they were marred by invalid votes.

CHP candidate Ekrem Imamoglu told reporters it appeared his lead had narrowed to 19,552 votes from an initial 25,000 – a very slim margin in a city of some 15 million people – but he was still confident of becoming Istanbul’s mayor.

“The results will not change. Time is passing and Istanbul is waiting for service, so we just want to get to our job as soon as possible,” Imamoglu said.

The AKP’s representative on the election board, Recep Ozel, told broadcaster A Haber that the opposition’s margin would keep falling and his candidate, ex-prime minister Binali Yildirim, would emerge the winner in Turkey’s commercial hub.

Defeat for Erdogan’s Islamist-rooted party in Istanbul -where he launched his political career and served as mayor in the 1990s – would be a particularly heavy blow for the president.

In Ankara, opposition candidate Mansur Yavas received 50.9 percent of votes to earn a nearly 4 percentage point victory over his AKP rival and former minister Mehmet Ozhaseki on Sunday. The AKP also appealed against those results, prompting the election board to order a recount in 11 of the city’s districts.

AKP Secretary General Fatih Sahin told reporters on Thursday that the party was also unhappy with the Ankara recount, which was seen confirming the opposition’s victory, and would appeal for a second, wider check on all the results.

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