Counting underway in Turkey elections as Kurds try to reclaim their cities

Jeannie Matthews
April 1, 2019

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has riled Turkey's North Atlantic Treaty Organisation allies, especially the U.S., by purchasing the Russian arms system and by drawing closer to Russia's President Vladimir Putin.

"A meaningful loss of votes for the AKP would certainly worry Erdogan as it would undermine his aura of invincibility", said Teneo Intelligence's co-president, Wolfango Piccoli.

On Sunday, the Felicity party leader, Temel Karamollaoğlu, tweeted that two party members, a polling station volunteer and a party observer, were killed in eastern Malatya province by AKP voters.

Last month, US Vice President Mike Pence personally appealed to Erdogan in a phone call to renege on a missile deal with Russian Federation in favour of an American one, Middle East Eye reported exclusively.

Elsewhere, Istanbul police detained seven people after a fight between candidates for muhtar (a village chief) in the Esenyurt district.

That win "was a springboard for him to go on and dominate Turkish politics", said DW's Turkey correspondent, Dorian Jones.

But in Ankara, Mansur Yavas - the candidate for both the opposition Republican People's Party or CHP and the nationalist Good Party - had been slightly ahead in some recent opinion polls.

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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Erdogan appears to have also been wrong-footed by the surprise move of the pro-Kurdish HD Party's decision not to contest the main cities outside of Turkey's predominantly Kurdish southeast region.

The HDP denies links to the outlawed militant Kurdistan Workers' Party. "I gave my vote to the AK Party for services to continue", said tradesman Haci Ahmet Beyaz, 43.

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan greets his supporters as he leaves after voting during the municipal elections, outside a polling station in Istanbul, Turkey, March 31, 2019.

With 44.2 percent of the votes counted as of 8pm (17:00 GMT), an AK Party-led alliance had secured 52.3 percent of the votes countrywide, according to state-run Anadolu Agency.

His opponents have denied the accusations and challenged his characterisation of the elections as a matter of survival.

"We have an agreement with Russian Federation, and we are bound by it", he said, adding that pressure from other countries was against global law.

Gen. Curtis Scaparrotti, head of U.S. European Command, told Congress this month he would recommend that the United States withhold the delivery of the jet if Turkey buys the Russian system.

Erdogan, who began his own political career as Istanbul mayor, personally campaigned hard across Turkey, often with several rallies a day, even though he was not on the ballot.

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