Chairman and Chief Editor
Bedour Ibrahim

Eyes are particularly focused on the outcome in Istanbul

Erdogan Faces Tight Race in Turkish Cities in Local Elections

Sunday 31/March/2024 - 07:20 PM
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Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his ruling party are locked in tight races in local elections across the country on Sunday، a key test of the leader’s power 10 months after winning a fresh mandate.

Eyes are particularly focused on the outcome in Istanbul، Turkey’s largest city and economic powerhouse، where Erdogan and his AK Party are trying to wrest back control from Mayor Ekrem Imamoglu. 

Social aid payments

At stake is control of a city of almost 16 million people with a $6.6 billion annual budget، whose social aid payments are critical to voters during an ongoing cost-of-living crisis. 

About 61.5 million voters countrywide were expected to go to the polls، which opened at 7 a.m. local time and will close at 5 p.m. Election day has been marred by violence in Diyarbakir، the largest city in the country’s Kurdish-dominated southeast، where clashes at a polling station left at least one person dead and 11 others injured، according to the state-run Anadolu Agency.

Imamoglu، from the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP)، is facing Murat Kurum، Erdogan’s handpicked candidate and a former environment and urbanization minister. Against the backdrop of a worsening economic downturn، the incumbent is looking to hold his seat as a rebuke to Erdogan، and boost his chances of a future presidential run.  

In pivotal 2019 elections، the CHP reclaimed control of Istanbul and the capital city Ankara from Erdogan’s party، while also maintaining its hold over the Aegean port city of Izmir، thereby securing the mayorships of Turkey’s top three cities.

Kurdish voters، who make up about 10% of Istanbul’s electorate، supported Imamoglu in 2019. In an attempt to win their support in various cities this time around، Erdogan floated the last-minute idea of a possible reconciliation with the country’s Kurdish minority.

Even so، the president remains committed to fighting separatist Kurdish militants who he says threaten Turkey’s integrity. The pro-Kurdish DEM party has fielded its own candidates، but they’ve kept a low profile and aren’t running in all districts. 

Meanwhile، an Islamic party known as the New Welfare Party، previously aligned with the AKP، is looking to win over Erdogan supporters who are experiencing the hardships of an economy marked by a 67% inflation rate، one of the highest globally. The party’s efforts are complicating Erdogan’s attempt to win back Istanbul، with the race expected to be closely contested.

In a final bid، Erdogan prayed at the historic Hagia Sophia in Istanbul the night before the election، reminding voters of his Islamic roots and his conversion of the Christian monument into a mosque.