ISTANBUL: Millions of people in Turkey have begun voting in local elections that are widely being seen as a referendum on President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
The poll comes amidst an economic slump, which is expected to impact the choice of his conservative supporters.
The governing AK Party fears it could lose control of Ankara and Istanbul, the country’s biggest cities.
Turkey is in recession, inflation is at 20% and the lira has plunged by a third, leading to bankruptcies.
Mayors and councillors will be elected across Turkey, with the tightest battles in a handful of cities where opposition parties have come together in a rare act of unity in a polarised country of more than 57 million voters.
The government says any candidate found to be supporting terror groups will be removed – a clear warning to the pro-Kurdish HDP party, which the president claims backs PKK Kurdish militants, though the party denies it.
Mr Erdogan is facing the fight of his career – he says Sunday’s vote is about the “survival” of his party and the country he has dominated for 16 years.
With several high-profile figures unhappy about Mr Erdogan’s increasingly authoritarian line, speculation of a party split could be prompted if citizens were to punish the ruling party in the polls.__BBC