July 17, 2024

Istanbul claims top prize as Turkey votes in local polls

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Turks across the nation cast their votes on Sunday in municipal elections, with particular attention focused on Istanbul, the prized city that President Recep Tayyip Erdogan aims to secure from the opposition. Amidst the backdrop of soaring inflation and significant devaluation, polling stations witnessed a subdued atmosphere, as reported by AFP correspondents.

Guler Kaya, a resident, expressed concerns about the prevailing economic challenges, stating, “Everyone is worried about the day-to-day.” The 43-year-old further emphasized the impact of the crisis on the middle class, remarking, “If Erdogan wins, it will get even worse.”

In Ankara, Meliha Sonmez highlighted the broader significance of the elections, cautioning that the outcome would directly affect Erdogan’s political strength. Sonmez, who tragically lost 32 relatives in a devastating earthquake in 2023, underscored the personal stakes for many voters.

Although Erdogan is not directly contesting in the municipal elections, his influence has been omnipresent throughout the campaigning period to voting day. Erdogan’s political trajectory began in Istanbul when he was elected mayor in 1994, and since then, the city has remained a pivotal battleground for him.

The incumbent Istanbul mayor, Ekrem Imamoglu of the secular Republican People’s Party (CHP), has been challenged by Erdogan’s candidate, former environment minister Murat Kurum. Despite polls indicating a slight lead for Imamoglu, analysts caution against definitive predictions, citing previous instances of polling inaccuracies in Turkey.

The elections come against a backdrop of economic turmoil, with inflation soaring to 67 percent and a significant devaluation of the lira. Erdogan has vigorously campaigned for his candidate, emphasizing the need to reclaim Istanbul from what he perceives as mismanagement under opposition leadership. In contrast, Imamoglu has focused on local issues and his record of achievements during his tenure.

With polling stations open across Turkey’s 81 provinces, the outcome of the elections holds significant implications for the country’s political landscape. While the opposition faces internal divisions, voters await the first estimates late Sunday, anticipating the fate of Istanbul and its broader impact on Turkish politics.

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