With more than 97% of the votes counted, Republican People’s Party (CHP) candidate Ekrem Imamoglu was in the lead with about 53% of the vote, state news agency Anadolu reported on Sunday.
Binali Yıldırım, the ruling Justice and Development Party’s candidate (AKP), had about 45%, Anadolu said.
Yıldırım appeared to concede the vote shortly after the unofficial results were announced, saying: “My rival seems to be leading the election. I congratulate him. This elections showed democracy is functioning in Turkey. I wish Ekrem İmamoglu will make good services to people. For his good services we will help him.”
If confirmed, the result would be a major blow for Erdogan. The long-time leader was hoping for a reversal of the original vote in March, which saw his AKP lose by a slim margin. The AKP challenged the outcome of that race, claiming fraud. In a controversial ruling, the Turkish election board canceled the result and ordered a new vote.
The March local election marked a political earthquake for Erdogan, who has been in power since 2003. AKP lost power to CHP in the country’s three largest cities: Ankara, Istanbul and Izmir.
Istanbul was a particularly painful defeat for the president, as his own political career started there.