Turkey’s Premier Faces Test in Istanbul

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from The Wall Street Journal,

Corruption Scandal Puts a Mayoral Race in Limelight

The political future of Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, his long hold on power weakened by a growing corruption scandal, now partly depends on a mayoral vote to be held on Sunday in this city where he rose to prominence 20 years ago.

In municipal elections across Turkey on Sunday, no race is likely to test the popularity of Mr. Erdogan and his Islamist-rooted Justice and Development Party, or AKP, ahead of national elections this summer more than the mayor’s contest in Istanbul.

The incumbent Kadir Topbas, backed by Mr. Erdogan, is facing off against Mustafa Sarigul, the candidate for the secularist Republican People’s Party, or CHP, who has governed Istanbul’s wealthy Sisli district for 15 years.

Acutely aware of the political risks of losing control of Turkey’s commercial and cultural capital, Mr. Erdogan has thrown himself into campaigning, delivering dozens of speeches to hundreds of thousands of supporters in the city, lauding the AKP’s economic achievements and launching scathing attacks against Mr. Sarigul and his party.

“We will triumph in this great city,” the prime minister proclaimed during a two-hour speech at an election rally in Istanbul’s Yenikapi district on Sunday. “I don’t care who it is, I’m not listening. Even if the whole world stands up against us, I am obliged to takes measures to prevent attacks on our nation’s security,” added Mr. Erdogan, who served as Istanbul’s mayor from 1994 until 1998.

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