Erdogan’s AKP battles for major cities in Turkey local election

To hear President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on the campaign trail, Turkey’s municipal elections on Sunday may be a fight for survival against foreign and domestic enemies trying to destroy the country.

For many Turks, it may be more about the family finances.

No one expects a major defeat for Erdogan’s AKP. But with Turkey’s economy in recession and inflation in double digits, the ruling party faces a tough battle to capture key cities like Istanbul and the capital Ankara.

Sunday’s vote — for 30 major cities, 51 provincial municipalities and district councils — will be a barometer on how well the AKP is faring after building its ballot box success on Turkey’s growth under Erdogan.

The Turkish leader has campaigned hard for AKP, despite not running himself, often speaking more than three times a day and rolling out heavyweight candidates like former premier Binali Yildirim for Istanbul mayor.

Opposition parties hope economic woes may translate into a victory against Erdogan in key municipalities such as Istanbul and Ankara where polls show a tight race.

“Losing either city now would be a huge symbolic blow to his power in Turkey,” said Soner Cagaptay, an analyst with the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. “He has gone for a strategy of pulling out all the stops.”

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