The votes of millions of Istanbul residents were being counted on Sunday after polls closed on a re-run of a mayoral election that has become a referendum on President Tayyip Erdogan’s policies, and a test of Turkey’s ailing democracy.
In the initial March 31 vote, the opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) candidate secured a narrow victory over Erdogan’s AK Party (AKP) in Turkey’s largest city, a rare electoral defeat for the president.
But after weeks of AKP appeals, Turkey’s High Election Board in May annulled the vote citing irregularities. The opposition called the decision a “coup” against democracy, which has raised the stakes for round two.
“It is really ridiculous that the election is being re-run. It was an election won fair and square,” said Asim Solak, 50, who said he was voting for the opposition candidate in the CHP stronghold of Tesvikiye.
“It is clear who canceled the election. We hope this election re-run will be a big lesson for them,” he said.
Polling stations across Istanbul closed at 5 p.m. (1400 GMT), with 10.56 million people registered to vote in a city which makes up nearly a fifth of Turkey’s 82 million population. Results will be announced in the evening.
Real estate agent Bayram, 60, said he voted for the AKP’s candidate, former prime minister Binali Yildirim, as he believed foreign powers the United States, Europe and Israel supported the opposition.
“All of these will want a piece from Istanbul and then there will be chaos. The enemy of my enemy is my friend. All these foreign powers don’t like Erdogan, so he is my friend,” he said after voting in Kagithane district, an AKP stronghold.