#World News

Battle to run Istanbul becomes key to Turkey's future

By Cagil Kasapoglu

Millions of Turks vote in elections on Sunday to decide who runs their biggest cities – and whether President Recep Tayyip Erdogan can wrest back control from the opposition.

Turkey’s economic and social powerhouse, Istanbul, was won by a united opposition five years ago under popular mayor Ekrem Imamoglu, shattering the president’s long run of electoral success.

Now Mr Erdogan, who was born in this megacity of 16 million people, wants it back and the vote is on a knife-edge.

Whatever happens in Istanbul is being seen as a crucial test of whether the opposition can pose a serious threat to Mr Erdogan and his AK Party in the next presidential elections in four years’ time.

“Istanbul is his home. Losing Istanbul to the opposition in the 2019 local elections was devastating for him,” says Ihsan Aktas of the department of communication at Istanbul Medipol University and chair of the Genar Political Research Centre.

Istanbul was where he grew up, selling sesame bread snacks called Simits before going into politics in the 1970s.

He headed an Islamist party’s youth branch in the district of Beyogluthen, and rose through the ranks to become mayor, prime minister and ultimately president of Turkey.

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