Turkey: All Eyes on Istanbul for Local Elections

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan seeks to regain control of Turkey's main financial center

Erdogan con moglie

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, accompanied by his wife Emine, voted Sunday, March 31, in local elections in Istanbul’s Uskudar district on the Asian side of the city on the banks of the Bosphorus. During the election campaign, Erdogan mobilized the entire executive branch in support of the mayoral candidate from the conservative Justice and Development Party (Adalet ve Kalkınma Partisi, AKP), Murat Kurum. A victory for Kurum, who is challenging Ekrem Imamoglu, the mayor of the main opposition party, the People’s Republican Party (Cumhuriyet Halk Partisi, CHP), would allow Erdogan to regain control of Turkey’s largest city, which has been in opposition hands for five years.

“Istanbul will be back to its best days, right now it’s at a standstill, but we will save it. We will show respect for the will of the people, but I am sure no one will allow another five years to be wasted,” Erdogan said on the eve of the vote during a rally that was broadcast live on state-run TRT television. “Allah willing, this election will mark the beginning of a new era for our country,” the president added while addressing reporters after casting the ballot.

61 million people were eligible to vote in 81 municipalities across Turkey. But all eyes are on the vote in Istanbul.

“Whoever rules Istanbul rules Turkey,” Erdogan, the former mayor of Istanbul from 1994 to 1997, often says. The latest Sonar opinion center poll gave Mayor Imamoglu 47.3% popular support, while Kurum can gather 40.4% of the vote in his favor.