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Erdogan faces test to keep cities

March 31, 2019

Polls have closed in Turkey's local elections, which are seen as a "referendum" on Recep Tayyip Erdogan's leadership. His ruling AK Party risks defeat in the capital as an economic slowdown takes hold.

An official checks ballot papers during local elections in Ankara, Turkey
Image: Reuters/U. Bektas

Voters in Turkey on Sunday morning began casting ballots in municipal elections, which are seen as a barometer of the president's popularity amid a sharp economic downturn.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's past electoral successes have been based on a strong economy, but with a weakening currency, inflation at double-digit figures and food prices soaring, his conservative, Islamic-based ruling AK Party (AKP) could lose control of key mayoral seats.

Read more: Recep Tayyip Erdogan faces test in Turkey's local elections

How many are taking part?

  • Voting was underway at 200,000 polling stations to elect:
  • Mayors for 30 large cities, 51 provincial capitals and 922 districts, and
  • Tens of thousands of neighborhood or village administrators.
  • More than 57 million voters are eligible to cast ballots.

City control: Following a 2017 referendum which transferred central political powers to the presidency, control of Turkey's main cities is effectively the only center of power outside direct presidential command.

Referendum on Erdogan's rule: The Turkish capital, Ankara, and Erdogan's home city, Istanbul, are symbolically very important. Opinion polls have suggested Erdogan could lose control of both.

Read more: Turkish court dismisses case against DW contributor Pelin Unker

"Whoever wins Istanbul, wins Turkey," said Erdogan, whose political career began when he became the city's mayor in 1994.

That win "was a springboard for him to go on and dominate Turkish politics," said DW's Turkey correspondent, Dorian Jones.

"Given the fact that Turkey is in the midst of very difficult economic times, these elections are seen as posing a major test to Erdogan."

Polls closed at 4 p.m. (1300 UTC) in the east, and an hour later in the west.

Read more: Turkey: Being gay could cost you your job 

kw/rc (AP, AFP, Reuters)

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