Elections have opened in Turkey local elections in a test of Erdogan’s popularity | Election News

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Voting has opened in Turkey for local elections in a key test for President Recep Tayyip Erdogan as he seeks to regain control of large urban areas that have been defeated by the opposition. five years ago.

Polling stations opened on Sunday at 7am local time (04:00 GMT) in eastern Turkey, with other voting starting at 8am and ending at 5pm. The first results are expected at 10pm (19:00 GMT).

The vote is a reflection of Erdogan’s popularity and will decide who will manage the financial centers of Istanbul and the capital Ankara, both of which he lost in 2019.

The 70-year-old Turkish leader wants to give back to Istanbul, the city of 16 million people, where he was born and raised, and where he began his political career as mayor in 1994.

“Winning the big cities is an opposition alliance, and it means getting foreign investment, having international cooperation with economic actors and politicians,” Evren Balta, professor of political science at Ozyegin University in Turkey, told Al Jazeera.

“If you control a major international city, it means that you are visible to the whole world.”

A strong showing by Erdogan’s ruling Islamist Justice and Development Party, or AK Party, could harden his resolve to enact a new constitution – one that would reflect his conservative values ​​and allow him to rule beyond 2028, his current term. it’s going away, experts say.

For the opposition – divided and disillusioned after being defeated in the presidential and parliamentary elections last year – keeping Istanbul and Ankara would be a great boost and help remove supporters.

About 61 million people, including one million first-time voters, are eligible to vote for all municipalities, town and district mayors and regional managers.

Vote among life’s challenges

Immigrants to Turkey are usually in large numbers, but this time the vote comes against the backdrop of life’s challenges. Observers say disillusioned opposition supporters may choose to stay home, doubting that they can turn things around. In the meantime, supporters of the ruling party may choose to abstain from voting in protest of the economic crisis that has left many struggling to afford food, utilities and rent.

About 594,000 security personnel will be deployed across the country to ensure the smooth running of the vote, Interior Minister Ali Yerlikaya said.

Polls have shown a race between the incumbent Istanbul mayor, Ekrem Imamoglu, of the opposition, pro-secular Republican People’s Party, or CHP, and the AK Party candidate, Murat Kurum, who was the Minister of Urban Affairs and Environment.

However, this time, Imamoglu – a popular candidate for Erdogan – is running without the support of the parties that helped him win in 2019.

Al Jazeera’s Sinem Koseoglu, who is based in Istanbul, said whoever wins the election will have “a lot” to do with Turkish politics.

“Imamoglu’s victory would make him the opposition leader and the presidential election in 2028. But Kurum’s victory would help President Erdogan strengthen his power and renew his legacy, especially the economic and foreign affairs.”

Meanwhile, the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Equality and Democracy Party (DEM Party) and the nationalist IYI Party (The Good Party) are putting their candidates in the running, which could take votes away from Imamoglu.

The six-party opposition coalition led by the CHP collapsed after failing to oust Erdogan in last year’s election, failing to capitalize on the economic crisis and the government’s poor response to last year’s devastating earthquake that killed more than 53,000 people.

One factor working against Erdogan is the rise of support for the Islamist New Welfare Party (YRP) due to its opposition to Israel in the Gaza war and dissatisfaction with the way the AK Party is managing the economy.

In Ankara, incumbent Mayor Mansur Yavas – who is also seen as a candidate for Erdogan – is expected to retain his position, according to the polls.

His rival – Turgut Altinok, AK Party candidate and mayor of Ankara’s Kecioren district – has failed to generate excitement among his supporters.

In Turkey’s Kurdish-dominated southeast, the DEM party is expected to win most of the municipalities but it is unclear whether it will be willing to keep them. In recent years, Erdogan’s government has removed elected Kurdish mayors from office for their ties to Kurdish groups and installed government-appointed trustees.

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