Turkey local elections: Litmus test for Erdogan

Ankara [Turkey]: Thousands of voters on Sunday headed to the polls across Turkey to cast their ballots in the local elections, which is viewed as a litmus test for President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Al Jazeera reported that the municipal election is considered to be the first nationwide referendum on Erdogan’s leadership since he won the presidential polls last year in June.

Official statistics showed that in the last two quarters of 2018 the Turkish economy slipped into its first recession in a decade, as inflation and interest rates soared due to the currency meltdown. The Turkish lira lost as much as 40 per cent of its value against the US dollar last year.

In February, inflation stood at just under 20 per cent, while the Turkish Central Bank’s main interest rate is currently 24 per cent.

The voting ended in Turkey’s eastern provinces around 4 pm (13:00 GMT) and in western provinces around 14:00 GMT.
Meanwhile, two people, including an election observer, were killed in the eastern province of Malatya, while dozens of others were wounded when a fight broke out at a polling station in Malatya, while the voting was underway.
ChannelNews Asia cited the official website of the governor of Malatya city, which said: “Two of our citizens lost their lives as a result of a dispute … at the ballot box around 10 am (0700 GMT) in the Puturge district of Malatya.”

Political experts have dubbed the local elections as the “hardest” faced by Erdogan’s Justice and Development (AK) Party since it came to power in 2002.

During the last two polls in Turkey, Erdogan’s AK party took control over two major cities, namely Istanbul and Ankara, along with its allies, the far-right Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), under the People’s Alliance.
While, the bloc’s biggest rival is the Nation’s Alliance, which was formed by the center-left main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) and the right-wing Good (IYI) Party.

However, the pro-Kurdish People’s Democracy Party (HDP) the fifth party represented in parliament, has not listed any of its candidates in this election, instead opted to support the candidates running against Erdogan’s alliance.

The local elections triggered international criticisms after Erdogan repeatedly aired footage of the New Zealand mosque attacks, which claimed lives of 50 people during the Friday’s prayers in Christchurch, during his election campaign.