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Turkish officials order Istanbul recount after Erdogan party appeal

Bulent Kilic, AFP | In a major blow to President Erdogan , ruling party candidate Binali Yildirim (left) was defeated in a tight race for Istanbul mayor.

Turkish electoral authorities on Wednesday began a vote recount of Istanbul districts after President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's ruling AKP challenged tallies showing an opposition candidate won a weekend local election.

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On top of its defeat in the capital Ankara, a ruling party stronghold for decades, the ruling AK Party (AKP) lost a

Sunday's local elections were widely seen as a gauge of support for Erdogan as . The opposition also retained its hold over Izmir, Turkey's third-largest city.

The AKP won most votes nationwide in Sunday's ballot but results also showed the party lost the capital Ankara and the country's economic hub Istanbul.

AKP officials on Tuesday filed a challenge with electoral authorities saying they had found irregularities and falsifications in ballots in Ankara and Istanbul.

"The district branches of the electoral board in Istanbul decided to recount the ballots in eight districts after the appeals yesterday," Supreme Election Board chief Sadi Guven told reporters.

He said some of the district branches had already started rechecking ballots, most of which were votes that had been rejected as invalid.

AKP officials had said there was a huge discrepancy between ballots cast at polling stations and data sent to election authorities.

Istanbul, Turkey's largest city, was a key prize for Erdogan and he had former premier and loyalist Binali Yildirim run as the party candidate for mayor.

Erdogan, himself a former Istanbul mayor, had campaigned hard in the city. But the ruling party was stung by the economy with Turkey in recession for the first time in a decade and inflation in double digits.

Istanbul was a tight race and both Yildirim and the opposition CHP candidate Ekrem Imamoglu declared victory when tallies showed them in a dead heat.

Electoral authorities on Monday said Imamoglu was ahead by 28,000 votes with nearly all ballot boxes tallied, prompting AKP officials to challenge to the result.

AKP deputy chairman Ali Ihsan Yavuz on Tuesday claimed the difference had dipped to 20,509 between Imamoglu and Yildirim.

Imamoglu had 48.79 percent of the votes while Yildirim had 48.52 percent, Anadolu reported on Tuesday, citing preliminary results.

The agency reported close to 300,000 votes had been annulled in Istanbul voting.

A loss in Istanbul would be especially sensitive for Erdogan, who grew up in city's working-class Kasimpasa neighbourhood, and liked to tell AKP rank-and-file that victory in the city was like winning Turkey.

(AFP)

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