by Xinhua writers Zheng Jinfa, Wen Yi
ANKARA, March 30 (Xinhua) -- Turkey's ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) led by Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan won the local elections on Sunday, but it suffered a slide in popularity since it swept to power in 2002.
The local elections results have shown that the AKP garnered 39.1 percent of the votes for the provincial assemblies nationwide, Turkey's private NTV channel reported Monday. The party lost 7.6 percent of its support when compared with results of the 2007 general elections.
The main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP) followed with 23.2 percent of the votes and the opposition Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) ranked the third with 16.1 percent of the votes, said NTV.
In Turkey's biggest city of Istanbul, current Mayor Kadir Topbas, an AKP candidate, had 44.3 percent of the votes while his rival CHP's Kemal Kilicdaroglu had 36.9 percent. In the capital city of Ankara, AKP candidate, current mayor Melih Gokcek, won therace with 38.5 percent.
The vote took place against a backdrop of record unemployment and a worsening economy, as Turkey's once booming economy has been severely hit by the global economic crisis.
Although the AKP won most of the votes around the country, the situation is not as positive as some predicted before the elections.
In southeastern Turkey, despite the ruling party's willing and hard effort to win voters, the pro-Kurdish Democratic Society Party (DTP) grabbed its mayoralties tightly with a overwhelming advantage.
Especially in the region's biggest city of Diyarbakir, the DTP, symbol of Kurdish political identity, won the local elections with65.4 percent.
Another surprise is in the Mediterranean city of Antalya, where the AKP's Mayor Menderes Turel was defeated by CHP candidate Mustafa Akaydin with a promising 40.7 percent of votes.
Besides, the AKP lost Adana to MHP, Aydin to CHP, Balikesir to MHP, Giresun to CHP, Isparta to MHP, Manisa to MHP, Osmaniye to MHP, Siirt to DTP, Sivas to the BBP (Grand Union Party), Tekirdag to CHP, Usak to MHP, Van to the DTP and Zonguldak to CHP.
"I am not satisfied with local elections results so far," Erdogan said at a press conference following the counting of the ballots early Monday.
"We think it is important to take lessons both from achievements and from failures," said Erdogan, adding "I hope that the election results would benefit the Turkish nation."
"We went to the ballot boxes and displayed the free will of our people. The democratic local elections will carry Turkey further," Erdogan stressed.
More than 48 million registered voters cast their ballots Sunday at 177,050 polling stations around the country to elect mayors as well as city and provincial assemblies for 81 city municipalities, including 16 metropolises.
In the 2007 general elections, the AKP obtained 46.6 percent of votes nationwide, the CHP won 20.9 percent, and MHP received 11.3 percent, while DTP gained 5.2 percent.
In the last municipal elections in 2004, the AKP won 12 of 16 Turkey's most important cities, including Istanbul and Ankara.
The opposition has been capitalizing rising unemployment in the country and arguing that the ruling party is powerless while facing the global economic crisis.
However, that did not stop the AKP from being the most popular party among the Turks as it provided stability following years of precarious coalition governments although there is a drop in votes this time.