ANKARA: Candidates from President Tayyip Erdogan’s AK Party (AKP) were leading mayoral elections in Turkey’s two main cities after about one quarter of ballots had been opened, broadcaster NTV said on Sunday.
It said the AKP candidate in Istanbul, the country’s largest city, had 51.8 percent with 24.4 per cent of ballot boxes opened.
The main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) candidate had 45.8 percent.
The AKP was also leading in the capital Ankara with 51.6 per cent of votes after 22.5 per cent of ballots were opened, NTV said.
Preliminary vote counts at similar stages of previous elections have often shown a strong lead for the AKP over opposition parties, which has narrowed as counting continued.
Erdogan and his AKP have won every vote since the party first came to power in 2002 but this time, analysts say, the party risks losing Turkey’s capital Ankara and even its economic hub Istanbul.
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 a decade and a half in office.
But Erdogan, whose ability to win continuously at the ballot box is unparalleled in Turkish history, appears more vulnerable with the country’s economy in recession, unemployment up and inflation in double digits.
Meanwhile, an election observer and another man were killed in a fight at a school-based polling station in eastern Turkey on Sunday as voting got underway in Turkey’s local elections, the local governor’s office said.
“Two of our citizens lost their lives as a result of a dispute… at the ballot box” in the Puturge district of Malatya, it said on its website.
Security forces arrested four suspects in connection with the deaths, the governor’s office added.
The violence took place as Turks voted in a grassroots support test for Erdogan and his party.
After voting in Istanbul, Erdogan said the incident had “upset” him and that an official investigation had been launched.
“My wish is that no other incident like this happens again,” he said.
The private DHA news agency reported the two men were shot after an argument between two rival political groups turned violent.
The bodies were taken to a mortuary and police boosted security around the school where voting was taking place, the news agency said.
The men were members of Saadet (Felicity), a conservative party. One of them was an election observer.
Saadet chairman Temel Karamollaoglu said on Twitter they had been “attacked” by an AKP candidate’s nephew at the polling station.
Erdogan called Karamollaoglu to offer condolences, his office said, and vowed the culprits would face justice.
Elsewhere, Istanbul police detained seven people after a fight between candidates for muhtar (a village chief) in the Esenyurt district.
In a third incident, in Istanbul, a man was stabbed in the Kadikoy district on the Asian side of the city during a disturbance among local candidates. — Reuters/AFP