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Turkey prepares for local elections with Erdogan’s redemption in mind

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As Turkey gears up for local elections next Sunday, all eyes are on President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s bid to reclaim Istanbul, a city he once governed and lost in a surprising defeat in 2019. The upcoming polls hold significant weight as they offer Erdogan an opportunity to avenge what has been considered the worst political setback during his two-decade reign.

The 2019 local elections marked a turning point as the secular opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) wrestled control of Istanbul, Ankara, and Izmir from Erdogan’s ruling party, AKP, shattering the perception of Erdogan’s invincibility in Turkish politics. Now, Erdogan has pinned his hopes on Murat Kurum, his former environment minister, to lead the charge in Istanbul.

The rivalry between Erdogan and CHP’s Ekrem Imamoglu, who secured victory in Istanbul’s mayoral race in 2019, has intensified. Imamoglu’s triumph in the rerun election catapulted him to prominence, posing a formidable challenge to Erdogan’s dominance. With Erdogan eyeing a return to power in Istanbul, the stage is set for a high-stakes showdown.

Despite Erdogan’s resurgence in the general elections last year, where he emerged victorious amidst economic turmoil and natural disasters, the upcoming local elections present a fresh test of his political influence. Analysts view Imamoglu as a beacon of hope for those opposing Erdogan’s rule, highlighting his potential to challenge the AKP’s grip on power.

However, internal rifts within the opposition have emerged, with the pro-Kurdish DEM Party fielding its own candidates, potentially diluting the opposition’s strength. The fragmented opposition landscape underscores the challenges facing Imamoglu as he vies to consolidate support across ideological divides.

Erdogan’s campaign strategy remains robust, with his rallies dominating television airwaves, while opposition candidates rely heavily on social media outreach. Yet, Erdogan’s failure to address rampant inflation could dent his party’s prospects, adding a layer of uncertainty to the electoral outcome.

As Istanbul emerges as the ultimate prize in Turkish politics, both Erdogan and Imamoglu are locked in a fierce battle for its control. With opinion polls indicating a neck-and-neck race, the outcome of the elections remains uncertain, with analysts cautioning against underestimating the resilience of Erdogan’s support base.

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