ISTANBUL (Reuters) – The votes of hundreds of thousands of Istanbul residents have been being counted on Sunday after polls closed on a re-run of a mayoral election that has grow to be a referendum on President Tayyip Erdogan’s insurance policies, and a take a look at of Turkey’s ailing democracy.
In the preliminary March 31 vote, the opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) candidate secured a slim victory over Erdogan’s AK Party (AKP) in Turkey’s largest metropolis, a uncommon electoral defeat for the president.
But after weeks of AKP appeals, Turkey’s High Election Board in May annulled the vote citing irregularities. The opposition known as the choice a “coup” towards democracy, which has raised the stakes for spherical two.
“It is absolutely ridiculous that the election is being re-run. It was an election gained honest and sq.,” stated Asim Solak, 50, who stated he was voting for the opposition candidate within the CHP stronghold of Tesvikiye.
“It is evident who canceled the election. We hope this election re-run can be an enormous lesson for them,” he stated.
Polling stations throughout Istanbul closed at 5 p.m. (1400 GMT), with 10.56 million individuals registered to vote in a metropolis which makes up almost a fifth of Turkey’s 82 million inhabitants. Results can be introduced within the night.
Real property agent Bayram, 60, stated he voted for the AKP’s candidate, former prime minister Binali Yildirim, as he believed overseas powers the United States, Europe and Israel supported the opposition.
“All of those will need a piece from Istanbul after which there can be chaos. The enemy of my enemy is my pal. All these overseas powers don’t like Erdogan, so he’s my pal,” he stated after voting in Kagithane district, an AKP stronghold.
Erdogan has repeated his line that “whoever wins Istanbul wins Turkey.” A second loss within the metropolis, the place within the 1990s he served as mayor, can be embarrassing for Erdogan and will weaken what till just lately appeared to be his iron grip on energy.
Turkey’s financial system is in recession and the United States, its NATO ally, has threatened sanctions if Erdogan goes forward with plans to put in Russian missile defenses.
A second AKP loss might additionally shed additional gentle into what CHP mayoral candidate Ekrem Imamoglu stated was the misspending of billions of lira on the Istanbul municipality, which has a price range of round $four billion.
“If Imamoglu wins once more, there’s going to be a sequence of significant modifications in Turkish politics,” journalist and author Murat Yetkin stated.
“It can be interpreted as the start of a decline for AKP and for Erdogan as nicely,” he stated, noting that the president himself had known as the native elections “a matter of survival”.
Another Imamoglu win might ultimately set off a nationwide election sooner than 2023 as scheduled, a cupboard reshuffle, and even a possible adjustment in overseas coverage, Yetkin added.
To slim the roughly 13,000-vote hole in March, the AKP re-calibrated its message just lately to courtroom Kurdish voters, who make up about 15% of voters within the metropolis of 15 million.
The marketing campaign obtained a twist when jailed Kurdish militant chief Abdullah Ocalan urged the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) to remain impartial within the vote. The HDP, which backs Imamoglu, accused Erdogan of making an attempt to divide Kurds.
Having campaigned arduous forward of the March vote, a method that many inside AKP consider has backfired, Erdogan initially stored a low-profile this month. But final week he returned to his combative campaigning and focused Imamoglu straight, together with threatening him with authorized motion, elevating questions over whether or not the AKP would settle for a second defeat.
Polls have proven Imamoglu, a former district mayor, retaining a lead over his AKP rival. Some polls put him as much as 9 proportion factors forward, together with his extra inclusive message resonating with some voters.
Turkey’s highways, airports and bus stations have been packed over the weekend as voters rushed again to town from vacation or their unique house cities. With the preliminary March margin of victory slim, how successfully the events lure supporters again to Istanbul might play a job within the second spherical.
The determination to re-run the vote drew worldwide criticism and accusations from Turkey’s opposition of an erosion within the rule of legislation. Residents in a number of districts took to the streets banging pots and pans in protest.
Some voters informed Reuters that an AKP victory on Sunday might result in larger protests.
The uncertainty over the destiny of Istanbul, Turkey’s enterprise hub, and potential delays in broader financial reforms, have stored monetary markets on edge. Turkey’s lira foreign money tumbled after the choice to annul the March vote and is down almost 10% this yr partially on election jitters.
Additional reporting by Daren Butler, Ece Toksabay, Eylul Aytan and Tuvan Gumrukcu; Writing by Humeyra Pamuk; Editing by Jonathan Spicer, Gareth Jones and Louise Heavens