ANKARA (Reuters) – Turks started voting on Sunday in native elections that President Tayyip Erdogan has described as a matter of survival for the nation.
An electoral official prepares voting ballots at a polling station in the course of the municipal elections in Ankara, Turkey, March 31, 2019. REUTERS/Umit Bektas
Erdogan, who has dominated Turkish politics for greater than 16 years due to robust financial progress and supreme campaigning abilities, has grow to be the nation’s hottest, but additionally most divisive, chief in fashionable historical past.
Nevertheless, he may very well be dealt an electoral blow with polls indicating his ruling AK Social gathering (AKP) could lose management of the capital Ankara, and even Istanbul, the nation’s largest metropolis.
Voters in provinces in japanese Turkey started voting at 7:00 am (0400 GMT), whereas voting in the remainder of Turkey begins at eight:00 am. Polling stations shut at four:00 pm within the east and 5:00 pm within the west.
Simply over 57 million persons are eligible to vote. A transparent image of the winners will in all probability emerge round midnight.
With the financial system contracting following a foreign money disaster final yr during which the lira misplaced greater than 30 % of its worth, some voters appeared able to punish Erdogan who has dominated with an more and more uncompromising stance.
This week, as authorities once more scrambled to shore up the lira, Erdogan forged the nation’s financial woes as ensuing from assaults by the West, saying Turkey would overcome its troubles following Sunday’s vote and including he was “the boss” of the financial system.
“The purpose behind the growing assaults towards our nation forward of the elections is to dam the highway of the massive, robust Turkey,” Erdogan informed certainly one of his six rallies in Istanbul on Saturday.
Sunday’s elections, during which Turks will vote for mayors and different native officers throughout the nation, would be the first since Erdogan assumed sweeping presidential powers final yr and can be a reckoning for his authorities, which has come underneath hearth for its financial insurance policies and report on human rights.
Defeat in both Ankara or Istanbul would deliver to an finish a virtually quarter century rule by Erdogan’s AKP or its predecessors in these cities and deal a symbolic blow to Turkey’s chief.
Forward of the vote, the primary opposition Republican Individuals’s Social gathering (CHP) and Iyi (Good) Social gathering fashioned an electoral alliance to rival that of the AKP and its nationalist MHP companions.
The professional-Kurdish opposition Peoples Democratic Social gathering (HDP), which Erdogan has accused of hyperlinks to Kurdish militants, has not made an official alliance and isn’t fielding candidates for mayor in Istanbul or Ankara, which is prone to profit the CHP.
The HDP denies hyperlinks to the outlawed militant Kurdistan Staff’ Social gathering (PKK).
Within the days main as much as the vote, Erdogan has held round 100 rallies throughout the nation, talking 14 occasions in numerous districts of Istanbul over the previous two days alone and greater than 4 occasions in Ankara all through his marketing campaign.
He has described the elections as an existential alternative for Turkey, blasting his rivals as terrorist supporters aiming to topple Turkey. He has warned that if the opposition candidate wins in Ankara, residents would “pay a worth”.
His opponents have denied the accusations and challenged his characterization of the elections as a matter of survival, saying Erdogan had led the nation to its present state.
“What matter of survival? We’re electing mayors. What does this have something to do with the nation’s survival?” Kemal Kilicdaroglu, head of the CHP, informed a rally in Eskisehir.
With regards to Erdogan, Kilicdaroglu mentioned: “If there’s a survival subject in Turkey, it’s due to you.”
Reporting by Daren Butler; Writing by Tuvan Gumrukcu; Modifying by Dominic Evans and David Holmes