Turkey votes in local elections seen as key test of Erdoğan's rule

Content image- Phnom Penh Post

Another closely watched mayoral election is in Istanbul, Turkey's largest city.

Turks are going to the polls in Sunday's nationwide local elections.

Two members of the small Islamist Felicity Party, a polling station official and an election observer, were shot dead in Malatya province, a party spokesman said.

As authorities again scrambled to shore up the lira over the past week, Erdogan cast the country's economic woes as resulting from attacks by the West, saying Turkey would overcome its troubles and adding he was "the boss" of the economy.

Referendum on Erdogan's rule: The Turkish capital, Ankara, and Erdogan's home city, Istanbul, are symbolically very important. Media reports said one person had been detained.

The U.S. senators on Thursday introduced a bipartisan bill to prohibit the transfer of F-35 aircraft from the United States to Turkey until the U.S. government certifies that Ankara will not take delivery of the Russian S-400 system, a statement on the move said.

The voting was marred by scattered election violence that killed at least two people and injured dozens of others across Turkey.

Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP) has fielded candidates in the Kurdish provinces where it traditionally gets the most votes in a bid to reclaim over 100 municipalities the Ankara government seized since 2016.

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With 75 percent of the ballot boxes counted, the opposition CHP candidate for Ankara mayor was ahead with 49.81% of votes, with the AKP candidate close behind at 47.82%, Anadolu state agency reported citing initial results.

After voting in Istanbul, Erdogan said the incident had "upset" him and that an official investigation had been launched. Ankara views YPG as an affiliate of the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), considered a terrorist organisation by Turkey.

The Ottoman-era Blue Mosque and the sixth-century Byzantine monument of Hagia Sofia (Ayasofya) are seen in the old city as skyscrapers of the city's financial district stand in the background over the port of Istanbul June 1, 2007. The main, secular-oriented opposition party has 30.5 percent. "I gave my vote to the AK Party for services to continue", said tradesman Haci Ahmet Beyaz, 43. Erdogan's party appeared to be still holding Istanbul, the country's commercial hub, although the opposition's candidate narrowed the gap.

Since 2016, Erdogan's government has replaced elected mayors from the pro-Kurdish party in almost 100 municipalities, installing in their place government-appointed trustees and alleging the ousted officials had links to outlawed Kurdish militants.

CHP leader Kemal Kilicdaroglu rebuked Yildirim for declaring victory "in haste".

Election campaigning was highly polarized, with Erdogan and other officials using hostile rhetoric toward opposition candidates.

Erdogan's ruling party has renewed an alliance with the country's nationalist party to increase votes.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan speaks during a pre-election rally at Bayrampasa district in Istanbul, March 30, 2019.

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