The party of Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has lost control of the capital, Ankara, in local elections in a setback after 16 years in power.

The opposition is also ahead in the contest for mayor of the largest city, Istanbul, the election commission says.

Nationally, the president’s AKP-led alliance has won more than 51% of the vote in the municipal elections.

But the AKP is challenging the results in the capital and Istanbul – seen as the greatest electoral prize.

The vote, considered a verdict on Mr Erdogan’s rule, has been taking place during an economic downturn.

The currency, the lira, has been losing value recently and the economy went into recession in the last three months of 2018.

What has the ruling party been saying?

The AKP alleges “invalid votes and irregularities in most of the 12,158 polling stations in Ankara”.

Its general secretary, Fatih Sahin, said on Twitter: “We will use our legal rights to the fullest, and we will not allow the will of our citizens to be altered in Ankara.”

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State-run Anadolu news agency says the AKP is also expected to challenge the result in Istanbul and the eastern province of Igdir.

Commenting on the results in a speech on Sunday, Mr Erdogan looked ahead to national elections in 2023: “We have a long period ahead where we will carry out economic reforms without compromising on the rules of the free-market economy.”

“If there are any shortcomings, it is our duty to correct them,” he said.

He had previously said the poll was about the “survival” of the country and his party.

What are the results?

More than 57 million people in the country were registered to vote for mayors and councillors. Turnout was high at just under 85%.

The opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) candidate Mansur Yavas won in Ankara, officials said. With almost all votes counted, he was on nearly 51% and the AKP’s Mehmet Ozhaseki had won the support of just over 47%.

Istanbul has been in the hands of parties linked to Mr Erdogan since 1994 when he was elected the city’s mayor.

The election commission said the CHP’s Ekrem Imamoglu was leading there by less than 0.5%, but that the results of more than 80 ballot boxes were being challenged.

Both CHP and Mr Erdogan’s AKP – or Justice and Development Party – claim victory in the city.

The AKP had been saying its candidate, former Prime Minister Binali Yildirim, was ahead by 4,000 votes.

The CHP also said it had held Izmir, Turkey’s third largest city.

What has the reaction been?

“The people have voted in favour of democracy. They have chosen democracy,” CHP leader Kemal Kilicdaroglu said.

Prominent journalist Rusen Cakir said the vote was “as historic as that of 1994”, referring to the year Mr Erdogan was elected Istanbul mayor.

“It is a declaration that a page that was opened 25 years ago is being turned,” he said.

‘Agonising blow’

Analysis by Mark Lowen, BBC Turkey Correspondent

President Erdogan had painted this election as a matter of survival. He’s now been dealt an agonising blow.

For the first time in a quarter of a century, his party has lost Ankara.

And in the economic powerhouse of Istanbul, there’s a hair’s breadth between the governing AK Party and the opposition.

As the official tally showed fewer than 3,000 votes between them in this city of 18 million, both said they’d won.

But then the count stopped, with more than 1% of ballot boxes still unopened: a tactic, says the opposition, to steal victory.

This could be a watershed moment for Turkey’s powerful, polarising president: when an opposition long seen as moribund finally feels he’s beatable.

How was the campaign?

This was the first municipal vote since Mr Erdogan assumed sweeping executive powers through last year’s presidential election.

The AKP, with its roots in political Islam, has won every election since coming to power in 2002.

With most media either pro-government or controlled by Mr Erdogan’s supporters, critics believe opposition parties campaigned at a disadvantage. Mr Erdogan’s rallies dominated TV coverage.

The opposition pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) said the elections were unfair and refused to put forward candidates in several cities.

Some of its leaders have been jailed on terrorism charges, accusations they reject.

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