Turkey’s opposition leads in vote to run main cities

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Istanbul mayor and candidate Ekrem Imamoglu (2-L) of the main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP) voted for the local elections at a polling station in Istanbul, Turkey, 31 March 2024Image source, TOLGA BOZOGLU/EPA-EFE

Turkey’s main opposition party has taken the lead in some of the country’s biggest cities, including Istanbul, in high-stakes local elections.

Istanbul’s opposition mayor Ekrem Imamoglu, who won the city in 2019, said that he was “very happy” so far.

A year after Recep Tayyip Erdogan won a third term as president, he has made it his goal to win back the city where he grew up and became mayor.

The secular nationalist opposition is also well ahead in the capital Ankara.

Mansur Yavas also won the city from Mr Erdogan’s AK Party five years ago.

Both Mr Yavas and his Istanbul party colleague Mr Imamoglu are seen as potential candidates to run for the presidency in 2028.

Ahead of Sunday’s election in Istanbul, the vote was seen as too close to call, with the incumbent mayor facing a strong challenge from AK Party candidate Murat Kurum.

President Erdogan led his party’s election campaign, vowing a new era in Turkey’s megacity of almost 16 million people.

But his government has been unable to shake off an economic crisis that has seen inflation rates of 67% and interest rates at 50%.

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