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Posts tagged ‘Islamic Umma’

Landmark Istanbul loss a blow to Turkey’s Erdogan

June 23, 2019

ISTANBUL (AP) — The opposition candidate for mayor of Istanbul celebrated a landmark win Sunday in a closely watched repeat election that ended weeks of political tension and broke President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s party’s 25-year hold on Turkey’s biggest city.

“Thank you, Istanbul,” former businessman and district mayor Ekrem Imamoglu, 49, said in a televised speech after unofficial results showed he won a clear majority of the vote. The governing party’s candidate, former Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim, conceded moments after returns showed him trailing well behind Imamoglu, 54% to 45%. Imamoglu increased his lead from a March mayoral election by hundreds of thousands of votes.

Erdogan also congratulated Imamoglu in a tweet. Imamoglu narrowly won Istanbul’s earlier mayor’s contest on March 31, but Erdogan’s Justice and Development Party, AKP, challenged the election for alleged voting irregularities. He spent 18 days in office before Turkey’s electoral board annulled the results after weeks of partial recounts.

The voided vote raised concerns domestically and abroad about the state of Turkish democracy and whether Erdogan’s party would accept any electoral loss. AKP has governed Turkey since 2002. “You have protected the reputation of democracy in Turkey with the whole world watching,” Imamoglu, his voice hoarse after weeks of campaigning, told supporters.

Following his second victory, tens of thousands of people erupted in mass celebration across Istanbul, including outside the offices of the Republican People’s Party, which backed Imamoglu. Jubilant supporters chanted “Mayor again! Mayor again!” Others hung out of cars, blaring horns and waving red-and-white Turkish flags.

Erdogan campaigned for Yildirim in Istanbul, where the president started his political career as mayor in 1994. The ruling party still controls 25 of Istanbul’s 39 districts and a majority in the municipal assembly.

Imamoglu will have to work with those officeholders to govern Istanbul and promised Sunday to work with his political opponents. AKP also lost control of the capital city of Ankara in Turkey’s March local elections, which were held as the country faced an economic downturn, battled high inflation and two credit rating downgrades in the past year.

Melahat Ugen said she switched her vote to the opposition because she could not afford to cover basic expenses. “I’ve certainly never voted left before,” she said. “But I’m 62, and a bag of onions costs too much. Everything is imported and we can’t afford it.”

Analysts say the result would increase pressure on Erdogan’s government, which is grappling with a shaky economy and multiple international crises. “The significance of Ekrem Imamoglu’s win in Istanbul cannot be understated…. he represents a much-needed change in political discourse,” Lisel Hintz, an assistant professor of International Relations at Johns Hopkins University SAIS, said.

Hintz said the mayor-elect withstood a divisive campaign by the government and prevailed with a positive message. “We now have to wait and see whether Imamoglu’s tenure as mayor will be interfered with in any way, whether by cutting off funding and hampering his office’s ability to provide services or by removing him under some legal pretext,” Hintz said.

Addressing Erdogan in his speech, Imamoglu said, “I’m ready to work with you” to solve Istanbul’s problems. The president has previously signaled an unwillingness to do so. Istanbul, a city of more than 15 million, draws millions of tourists each year and is Turkey’s commercial and cultural hub. Straddling Europe and Asia, Istanbul accounted for 31% of Turkey’s GDP in 2017.

Ozgur Unluhisarcikli, Ankara office director of the German Marshall Fund, argued that the loss of Istanbul is likely to fuel speculation of divisions within the ruling party and among its supporters. “It’s now clear that a sizable portion of the AKP voters is seriously dissatisfied by policies of the AKP,” he said. “The (opposition) was a house that was united. The AKP house looked like one that was already divided.”

The loss, he argued, also has international implications. Erdogan was already at odds with Western allies over Turkey’s plans to buy the Russian-made S-400 missile defense system and its challenge of EU-member Cyprus over natural gas drilling rights.

Bulut Emiroglu and Ayse Wieting in Istanbul contributed.

Erdogan defends Istanbul vote redo, critics see power grab

May 07, 2019

ANKARA, Turkey (AP) — Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan insisted Tuesday that rerunning the Istanbul mayoral vote won by the opposition will only strengthen democracy, while critics called the decision an “outrageous” move to eliminate dissent against his government.

Ruling in favor of Erdogan’s governing party, Turkey’s top electoral body on Monday annulled the results of the March 31 vote in Istanbul, which opposition candidate Ekrem Imamoglu narrowly won, and scheduled a re-run for June 23.

The loss of Istanbul — and the capital of Ankara — in Turkey’s local elections were sharp blows to Erdogan and his conservative, Islamic-based Justice and Development Party, or AKP. AKP had challenged the results of the vote, claiming it was marred by irregularities. Critics accuse the AKP of clinging to power in the city of 15 million people that is Turkey’s cultural and commercial hub and of exerting heavy pressure on the country’s electoral body to cancel the outcome.

The controversial decision has increased concerns over democracy and the rule of law in Turkey, a NATO member that that is still formally a candidate to join the European Union and a key Western ally in the fight against terrorism and stemming of the flow of refugees to Europe.

“The will of the people has been trampled on,” said Meral Aksener, leader of a nationalist party in Turkey that had backed Imamoglu. The move is raising questions about whether Erdogan, who has consolidated power throughout his 16 years in power and is increasingly accused of authoritarianism, would ever accept any electoral defeat or relinquish power.

The redo of the vote also threatens to further de-stabilize the Turkish economy, which has entered a recession. The Turkish lira crashed spectacularly last summer over investor concerns about Erdogan’s policies, shaking the economy. It has been sliding again in recent weeks and on Tuesday it hit its lowest level since October, due to the prolonged political uncertainty.

“This outrageous decision highlights how Erdogan’s Turkey is drifting toward a dictatorship,” Guy Verhofstadt, a European Parliament lawmaker and the leader of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats, said on Twitter. “Under such leadership, accession talks are impossible.”

Europe’s top human rights and democracy watchdog expressed concerns about reports of pressure exerted by Erdogan’s government on the electoral body. “We face the repeat elections in Istanbul with great concern and urge Turkish authorities to do their utmost to restore the safeguards of the electoral process,” said Anders Knape, the President of the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities of the Council of Europe.

Delivering a speech in Parliament on Tuesday, Erdogan reiterated that the vote was sullied by “irregularities we could not ignore.” “We see this decision as an important step in strengthening our democracy, which will enable the removal of the shadow cast over the Istanbul election,” he said.

He rejected opposition accusations that his party was trying to win back a key election that it had lost. But opposition newspaper Birgun, however, branded the decision a “coup” and argued that justice in Turkey had “been suspended.”

Imamoglu arrived in Ankara on Tuesday for emergency talks with senior members of the opposition Republican Peoples’ Party, or CHP. Media reports had said the party was considering boycotting the repeated vote in Istanbul, but CHP signaled that Imamoglu would run again.

“We extend our hand to all our citizens,” the party said at the end of the meeting. “We wholeheartedly believe that this extended hand will be held strong on 23 June, that it will strengthen our democratic struggle and that we will achieve a greater victory than on March 31.”

Istanbul mayoral candidate asks to be confirmed as winner

April 03, 2019

ANKARA, Turkey (AP) — An opposition mayoral candidate in Istanbul urged Turkey’s election council Wednesday to confirm him as the winner and asked President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to “cooperate” to stop the election results from “dragging” Turkey into instability.

In a major setback for Erdogan, his party won the most votes nationwide but lost its decades-old stronghold of Ankara in Sunday’s local elections and ended up in a tight race in Istanbul, where the president once served as mayor.

Erdogan’s conservative and Islam-based Justice and Development Party, or AKP, filed appeals Tuesday to contest the results from all of Istanbul’s 39 districts, alleging irregularities that needed to be corrected and demanding a recount of votes deemed invalid.

Ali Ihsan Yavuz, an AKP deputy chairman, called the election “one of the most stained in our democratic history.” That contrasts with statements from government officials, who insisted Turkey’s electoral system is fair.

The state-run Anadolu Agency said recounts were underway Wednesday in 18 districts in Istanbul, a city of 15 million residents that is Turkey’s financial and cultural center. Votes were also being recounted in 11 districts in Ankara, Anadolu reported.

Preliminary results showed opposition Istanbul mayoral candidate Ekrem Imamoglu narrowly beating his ruling party rival, former Prime Minister Binali Yildirim, by some 25,000 votes. At a news conference at his campaign headquarters, Imamoglu called on Erdogan and his nationalist supporters to “contribute to the process to prevent the results in Istanbul, which are being watched by whole world, from dragging (Turkey) into worrisome atmospheres.”

Imamoglu held up a photograph from 1994, when Erdogan was elected Istanbul’s mayor. The photo showed the opposition’s rival candidate at a celebration of Erdogan’s win. Imamoglu asked the president to reciprocate now.

“We are asking for justice,” he said. Referencing the conflicting remarks of the ruling party’s deputy chairman and the government, Imamoglu added: “What has happened that the elections are now all of a sudden the most stained in history?”

The ruling party quickly responded, reproaching Imamoglu for allegedly not respecting the election appeal process. “We have to accept the confirmed results,” Yavuz said.

AK Party triumph in Turkey for the 15th election running

Turkey’s governing Justice and Development Party (AKP) have been declared victors of Sunday’s local elections, with former Prime Minister Binali Yildirim declaring victory in Istanbul.

Despite challenges, smear campaigns and economic harassment by world powers, the AK Party will control 56% of all Turkish municipalities as it triumphs in Turkey’s elections for the 15th time running.

The victory presents yet another astounding success for the AKP and their leader, the president of Turkey, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who has led the party to electoral success for 17 years consecutively, transforming the Muslim nation into a world power on economic, military and diplomatic fronts.

With 99.89% of the ballots counted, the AK Party along with their partners, the MHP in the People’s Alliance, have garnered 51.63% of the local mayoral and provincial vote, while the CHP and IYI Party of the Nation Alliance have taken only 37.55%.

AKP has raised issues surrounding electoral irregularities in the Istanbul Mayoral ballot boxes, where AKP’s candidate Binali Yildrim is contesting.

On the other hand, in reference to the preliminary electoral results in Ankara, the General Secretary of AK Party, Fatih Sahin, told reporters that AK Party has ‘striking findings’ to object the results.

Turkish citizens headed to the polls to take part in the first local elections since the country adopted the presidential system of governance in a 2017 constitutional referendum. Voting started at 7am and continued through to 5pm local time.

Millions of Turkish voters cast their ballots to choose their mayors, councillors, and neighbourhood officials (Mukhtar). The elections have been considered a crucial test for President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and the governing Justice and Development Party (AKP), following the recent economic downturn and the devaluation of the Lira.

Financial speculation and international interventions, seeking—according to the President of Turkey—to destabilise the economy ahead of the elections were trying times for the AK Party, and a gift to its largely divided political rival coalition, comprising the secularist Republican People’s Party, the CHP.

The local election took place in all of Turkey’s 81 provinces, electing more than 2,500 mayors and 20,500 municipal councillors amongst thousands of others contesting.[5] This election had more than one million candidates, across all positions and parties. In total six of Turkey’s political parties contested in the local elections, including the ruling AK Party, which has been continually successful off the back of its transformative accomplishments for the republic since coming to power in 2002. The Kemalist CHP, the nationalist MHP, the Kurdish HDP, the secularist IYI Party and the Islamic Felicity Party also contested the vote.

The AK Party ran alongside the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) in an alliance known as the People’s Alliance, and the CHP and IYI Party in the Nation Alliance. The remaining parties ran without an official alliance.

Turkey holds local elections every five years. In the previous election in 2014, the AK Party were victorious, taking control of both Istanbul, Turkey’s largest city, and Ankara, the Turkish capital. Istanbul is not only the country’s most populous city, but also the nation’s financial hub, spanning both the Asian and European continents. The mayoral position in Istanbul is likewise symbolic, ever since the much-admired sitting president became mayor of the metropolis in 1994 for four years, before becoming the Prime Minister in 2003 and President in 2014.

The 2019 local elections follow two landmark elections and a referendum. In 2017, 51% of Turks voted in favour to change the political system, from a Parliamentary Republic to that of a Presidential Republic, with President Erdogan elected the head of government and state. 2018 marked the first presidential elections following Turkey’s transition to an Executive Presidency. President Erdogan was re-elected with 52% of the vote and his party, the AK Party, in an alliance with the MHP, were able to regain their majority in the Grand National Assembly.

Islam21c expects to publish further pieces on this actively developing situation.

Source: Islam21c.

Link: https://www.islam21c.com/news-views/ak-party-triumph-in-turkey-for-the-15th-election-running/.

Erdogan faces serious setbacks in Turkish local elections

April 01, 2019

ISTANBUL (AP) — Turkey’s opposition looked poised to win control of the country’s two biggest cities Monday as it dealt President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s conservative party one of its most serious electoral setbacks in years. The opposition won Ankara, a ruling party stronghold for decades, and was leading a tight race for mayor in Istanbul, according to unofficial figures Monday.

The leader who has dominated Turkish politics for 16 years declared victory despite the opposition gains. Sunday’s local elections were widely seen as a gauge of support for Erdogan as the nation of 81 million faces a daunting economic recession. They were also a first test for Erdogan — who has been accused of increasingly authoritarian tendencies — since he got widely expanded presidential powers last year.

If confirmed, the swings in Ankara and Istanbul could be excruciating for the politician who campaigned hard to retain hold of them. The opposition also retained its hold over Izmir, Turkey’s third-largest city.

Although Erdogan was not running for office Sunday, he became the face of the campaign, rallying tirelessly for months across Turkey, using hostile rhetoric against opposition parties and portraying the vote as a matter of national survival.

The decline in urban support for his conservative, religious-based party came despite the fact that Erdogan wields tight control over the media, which hardly covered the opposition candidates’ campaigns.

Behlul Ozkan, an associate professor at Marmara University, said Erdogan’s loss of ground in Ankara and Istanbul indicated that his socially conservative and construction-driven policies no longer resonated in Turkey’s cities.

“Political Islam’s quarter-century old hegemony in Turkey’s two largest cities is over,” he said. “The basic problem is that Erdogan is not able to get votes from middle-income earners, who believe that the economy, education and urban administration are not run well.”

More than 57 million voters were eligible to choose leaders for 30 major cities, 51 provincial capitals and 922 districts in Turkey, as well as thousands of local positions. The election was marred by sporadic violence, with five dead and scores injured across Turkey.

Erdogan’s party and its nationalist allies garnered some 52% of the vote overall but the opposition made momentous inroads. A strategic decision by a pro-Kurdish party to sit out critical races in major cities contributed to the opposition’s gains. The opposition also increased its support along the Mediterranean, taking the city of Adana from the nationalists and the resort destination of Antalya from the ruling party.

Erdogan acknowledged setbacks in a speech to his supporters, saying his party would work to understand what had gone wrong and fix the problem. Unofficial results reported by the state-run Anadolu news agency after all votes were counted showed a razor-thin win for the opposition in the race for mayor of Istanbul, Turkey’s largest city and commercial hub. The opposition vote was at 48.8% support to the ruling party’s 48.5% support.

Ekrem Imamoglu, the opposition candidate in an alliance led by the secular Republican People’s Party, or CHP, declared that he won Istanbul but his rival, former Prime Minister Binali Yildirim of the ruling party, said it was still too early to call.

Yildirim accepted that his rival was leading but said his party would file an objection, suggesting a recount of the 319,500 votes declared void in Istanbul.  Both Ankara and Istanbul have been held by Erdogan’s Justice and Development Party, the AKP, and its Islamic-oriented predecessor for 25 years. Erdogan’s own ascent to power began as Istanbul mayor in 1994.

Unofficial results showed Mansur Yavas, the candidate of the CHP-led alliance, winning the top post in Ankara with 50.9% support. The AKP still holds a majority of Ankara’s 25 districts. The government had accused Yavas of forgery and tax evasion, which he called slanderous.

The AKP’s candidate for Ankara mayor, Mehmet Ozhaseki, won 47.1% support and his party said it would challenge the results. Sunday’s election was a significant victory for the opposition, which displayed good strategies and promising candidates, said Ozgur Unluhisarcikli, the Ankara director of the German Marshall Fund.

“This will certainly lead to an emerging new political landscape in Turkey,” he said. He argued, however, that a pause in elections until 2023 would benefit Erdogan. “This gives the governing party and President Erdogan a window of opportunity to undertake economic reforms, political reforms if they wish, fix Turkey’s relations with foreign countries,” he said.

Andrew Dawson, head of the Council of Europe’s election observation mission, said Monday his monitors were “not fully convinced that Turkey currently has the free and fair electoral environment which is necessary for genuinely democratic elections.”

In predominantly Kurdish provinces, the Peoples’ Democratic Party, or HDP, won back some seats from government-appointed trustees, including the symbolic capital of Diyarbakir, but lost several former strongholds to the ruling party.

The government has replaced 95 elected officials since 2016 for alleged links to outlawed Kurdish militants. Dawson urged the Turkish government to respect the election results. Political parties have three days to submit objections and official results are expected in the coming days.

Fraser reported from Ankara. Mehmet Guzel contributed from Istanbul.

Turkey’s ruling party leads local elections but loses Ankara

April 01, 2019

ISTANBUL (AP) — Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s ruling party led Sunday’s mayoral elections but suffered setbacks as the opposition regained hold of the capital Ankara and made significant inroads in other parts of Turkey. The elections, which the Turkish strongman had depicted as a fight for the country’s survival, were largely seen as a test of his support amid a sharp economic downturn.

Both the ruling party and the opposition claimed victory in the neck to neck race in Istanbul. Erdogan’s conservative, Islamic-based Justice and Development Party, or AKP, took 44 percent of the votes in the elections after 99 percent of the more than 194,000 ballot boxes were counted, according to the official Anadolu Agency. The secular, main opposition party, the Republican People’s Party, or CHP had 30 percent.

The CHP’s mayoral candidate for Ankara, Mansur Yavas, however, won control of Ankara after 25 years of rule by the AKP and a predecessor party. The 63-year-old lawyer received nearly 51 percent of the votes, according to Anadolu. The CHP and its allies also posted gains elsewhere, increasing the number of city mayoral seats from 14 in the previous local elections in 2014 to 20, according to the preliminary results.

“History is being written in Ankara,” said deputy CHP leader Haluk Koc, while thousands of supporters celebrated outside the party’s headquarters in Ankara. Former Prime Minister Binali Yildirim, the ruling party’s candidate for mayor of Istanbul declared victory even though the race in Turkey’s largest city and commercial hub was too close to call. Yildirim garnered 48.70 percent of the votes against the opposition candidate Ekrem Imamoglu’s 48.65 percent, according to Anadolu, which drew criticism for failing to update results in Istanbul after Yildirim’s declaration.

CHP leader Kemal Kilicdaroglu rebuked Yildirim for declaring victory in Istanbul “in haste” and claimed his party had now control of Turkey three largest city: Istanbul, Ankara and Izmir. Imamoglu said he had won Istanbul by more than 29,000 votes, according to results tallied by his party.

Erdogan attaches great importance to Istanbul where he began his rise to power as its mayor in 1994. He has said at campaign rallies that “whoever wins Istanbul, wins Turkey.” He refrained from declaring victory in the city of 15 million people.

Ankara was considered the main battleground of the race, where a former government environment minister, Mehmet Ozhaseki, ran for mayor under the banner of Erdogan and his nationalist allies. The ruling party accused his opponent Yavas of forgery and tax evasion. Yavas said he is the victim of a smear campaign.

“Ozhaseki and his dirty politics have lost,” Yavas said in a victory speech. Sunday’s elections were a first test for Erdogan since he won re-election under a new system of government that gave the presidency expanded powers. Erdogan campaigned tirelessly for AKP’s candidates, framing the municipal elections as a matter of “national survival.” He also portrayed the country’s economic woes as attacks by enemies at home and abroad.

“Those who have tried to bring our country on its knees by damaging our people’s unity and togetherness, have once again been dealt a blow,” Erdogan said, noting that the party had emerged as the winner nationwide by a large margin.

The voting was marred by scattered election violence that killed at least four people and injured dozens of others across Turkey. Years of economic prosperity provided Erdogan and his party with previous election victories. But the race for 30 large cities, 51 provincial capitals and hundreds of districts were held as Turkey grapples with a weakened currency, a double-digit inflation rate and soaring food prices.

The high stakes of the local contests were brought into stark display with the deaths of two members of the Islamic-oriented Felicity Party, a small rival of the president’s Justice and Development Party. Felicity’s leader, Temel Karamollaoglu, alleged a polling station volunteer and a party observer were shot by a relative of a ruling party candidate.

The killings weren’t caused by “simple animosity,” but happened when the volunteers tried to enforce the law requiring ballots to be marked in private voting booths instead of out in the open, Karamollaoglu tweeted.

Two other people were killed in fighting in the southern city of Gaziantep. Fights related to local elections in several provinces also produced dozens of injuries, Anadolu reported. Election campaigning was highly polarized, with Erdogan and other officials using hostile rhetoric toward opposition candidates.

Erdogan’s ruling party had renewed an alliance with the country’s nationalist party to increase votes. Opposition parties also coordinated strategies and put forward candidates under alliances in an effort to maximize the chances of unseating members of the AKP.

Erdogan’s supporters expressed dismay at losing the capital. “We did not think that we would lose Ankara in this election,” said Mehmet Akcam, 18. “Ankara will see the consequences of what it did.” The pro-Kurdish, People’s Democratic Party appeared to have regained seats in several districts in Turkey’s mostly-Kurdish southeast region where Erdogan’s government had replaced elected mayors with government-appointed trustees, alleging that the ousted officials had links to outlawed Kurdish militants.

However, the party lost control of two key cities in the region. The pro-Kurdish party had sat out critical mayoral races in major cities, including Istanbul and Ankara, with the aim of sending votes to a rival secular opposition party to help challenge Erdogan’s party.

Suzan Fraser reported from Ankara.

Erdogan party leads in local elections seen as test for him

March 31, 2019

ISTANBUL (AP) — Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s ruling party is leading in Sunday’s municipal elections that he has depicted as a fight for Turkey’s survival, and which are seen as a crucial test of the strongman’s own support amid a sharp economic downturn.

State broadcaster TRT says Erdogan’s conservative Islamic-based party has garnered nearly 47.5 percent of the votes with about 35 percent of the more than 194,000 ballot boxes counted. According to the early results, the main opposition party has 31 percent of the vote.

The voting was marred by scattered election violence that killed at least two people and injured dozens of others across Turkey. Unofficial final results were expected late Sunday. Economic prosperity provided Erdogan and his party with previous election victories. But the party could lose key posts in the mayoral elections taking place in 30 large cities, 51 provincial capitals and hundreds of districts as Turkey copes with a weakened currency, a double-digit inflation rate and soaring food prices.

The high stakes of the local contests were brought into stark display with the deaths of two members of the Islamic-oriented Felicity Party, a small rival of the president’s Justice and Development Party. Felicity’s leader, Temel Karamollaoglu, alleged a polling station volunteer and a party observer were shot by a relative of a ruling party candidate.

The killings weren’t caused by “simple animosity,” but happened when the volunteers tried to enforce the law requiring ballots to be marked in private voting booths instead of out in the open, Karamollaoglu tweeted.

Speaking to reporters after he voted, Erdogan said he was sad about the deaths and didn’t want them to become a cause for “a questioning or a judgment between political parties.” Fights related to local elections in several provinces also produced dozens of injuries, Turkey’s official Anadolu news agency reported. At least 21 people were injured in southeastern Diyarbakir province from brawls over the election of neighborhood administrators, Anadolu said.

The exact causes of the fights remained unclear. Election campaigning was highly polarized, with Erdogan and other officials using hostile rhetoric toward opposition candidates. Sunday’s elections were a first test for Erdogan since he won re-election under a new system of government that gave the presidency expanded powers.

Erdogan’s ruling party has renewed an alliance with the country’s nationalist party to increase votes. Opposition parties also coordinated strategies and put forward candidates under alliances in an effort to maximize the chances of unseating members of the Justice and Development Party, known in Turkish by the acronym AKP.

A main battleground appears to be the capital, Ankara. Opinion polls suggested the candidate of the opposition alliance, Mansur Yavas, could end the 25-year rule of AKP and its predecessor. A former government environment minister, Mehmet Ozhaseki, ran for mayor under the banner of Erdogan and his nationalist allies. The ruling party accused his opponent Yavas of forgery and tax evasion. Yavas says he is the victim of a smear campaign.

Another closely watched mayoral election is in Istanbul, Turkey’s largest city. Erdogan began his rise to power as its mayor in 1994 and said at campaign rallies that “whoever wins Istanbul, wins Turkey.”

Erdogan named former Prime Minister Binali Yildirim to run against opposition candidate Ekrem Imamoglu in the Istanbul mayor’s race. Before the elections, Erdogan campaigned tirelessly for AKP’s candidates, framing the municipal elections taking place across Turkey as matters of “national survival.” He also portrayed the country’s economic woes as attacks by enemies at home and abroad.

Gonul Ay, 38, said she voted for the ruling party and Yildirim in Istanbul because of his experience. “I voted for the AKP for continuity and so that their services continue,” the homemaker said. “God willing, this crisis and chaos will be fixed and we’ll see healthier, happier days.”

Volkan Duzgun, 32, said he voted for opposition candidate Imamoglu. “All elections have turned into a race against the one-man regime, and people we call the opposition is trying to carve out some breathing space,” Duzgun said.

Erdogan’s party has threatened to not accept election results in southeast Turkey if pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party candidates with alleged terror links win. Since 2016, Erdogan’s government has replaced elected mayors from the pro-Kurdish party in nearly 100 municipalities, installing in their place government-appointed trustees and alleging the ousted officials had links to outlawed Kurdish militants.

The pro-Kurdish party is seeking to win back the offices. However, it strategically sat out critical mayoral races in major cities, including Istanbul and Ankara, with the aim of sending votes to a rival secular opposition party to help challenge Erdogan’s party.

Since the previous local elections in 2014, Turkish citizens have gone to the polls in five different elections. In last year’s presidential and parliamentary elections, Erdogan garnered 52.6 percent of the votes and his party and its nationalist ally won 53.7 percent of the parliamentary vote.

Suzan Fraser reported from Ankara.

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