As Economy Sours, Erdogan’s Party Could Lose Grip On Big Cities In Local Polls | 1/15/2019 | Staff
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ANKARA (Reuters) – After a decade and a half in power and an economic boom gone sour, Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan’s AK Party could lose control of some large cities in local elections on March 31.

While Erdogan will continue to hold sweeping executive powers, a weak showing by the AKP would be a symbolic blow and illustrate how frustration over the economy has hurt a politician long seen as unbeatable.

Party - Sources - Reuters - Polls - Support

Two party sources told Reuters that two of its internal polls showed support for the AKP had fallen to 32-35 percent, before accounting for the 30 percent of voters still undecided. In 2014 local elections the AKP took 43 percent, far ahead of its nearest rival, the secularist Republican People’s Party (CHP), which polled less than 25 percent.

The AKP now faces the potential loss of Ankara, the capital, and a tight race in Istanbul, the sources said. The AKP party, or its predecessor, has controlled both cities, as well as most other big Turkish municipalities, for more than 20 years.

Erdogan - Mayor - Istanbul - Importance - Elections

Erdogan rose to prominence as mayor of Istanbul and is known to attach special importance to municipal elections, seeing local politics as key to how voters view the national government. While he is not up for election, the polls are widely regarded as a referendum on his rule.

A sharp fall in AKP support would be all the more discomforting given that its alliance partner, the nationalist MHP, is not fielding candidates in some municipalities.

Erdogan - Prestige - Alliances - Parties - Elections

“For Erdogan, it’s about prestige, too. He had to form alliances with other parties in the last two elections, which he didn’t need to in the past,” said Gareth Jenkins, a veteran Turkey analyst.

“If he loses Ankara or Istanbul this time despite the alliance, it will mean that his political career is in decline. It may be a long...
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