On Sunday Turkey holds critical local elections, with control of the country’s main cities up for grabs. With inflation soaring and recession threatening, the election may pose President Recep Tayyip Erdogan biggest challenge.
A week ahead of Sunday’s polls Erdogan rallied hundreds of thousands in his hometown of Istanbul, in a bid to consolidate his voting base.
Even though Erdogan is not up for election, he is leading the campaign, aware his AK Party’s more than decade-long grip on most of Turkey’s main cities is under threat.
Since Erdogan won Istanbul’s mayorship in 1994, a victory that served as a springboard for him to dominate Turkish politics, the city has been his unassailable power base. However, the latest opinion polls indicate the outcome of Istanbul local elections is too close call.
‘All the poverty’
In Istanbul’s Gungoren district, people line up for state-subsidized food in a small local park, which is overshadowed by a vast, idle construction site.
“I see Gungoren as worse now, then how it once was. Is that right?” said CHP Istanbul mayoral candidate Ekrem Imamoglu, addressing a crowd from the roof of his campaign bus.
“Yes,” shout the people, waving CHP flags.
“All the poverty that a person can experience exists here,” Imamoglu said, “there are no green areas, there is no social life, it is a district that is left deprived of all the richness of life. We will take care of that.”
Gungoren in the past strongly backed Erdogan’s AK Party, but people are angry.
“We are retired people, by the 15th of the month our pension is finished, after that we are hungry,” said Seniye, who wears a religious headscarf.