A few hours before the polls opened for municipal elections in Turkey, interest turns to the battle of Constantinoplewhere the current mayor Ekrem Imamoglu and the chosen one of President Erdoğan, Murat Kurum, are competing.

It is widely believed that this is a duel between Erdogan and Imamoglu.

The latest polls showed a slight opening in favor of Imamoglu over Erdogan’s pick Murat Kurum, but the battle remains lopsided.

Erdogan has taken the burden of the election campaign personally. In the last 48 hours alone until today at 6:00 pm, when the ban on election activities began, he organized six election rallies, all in Istanbul. The same is done by his ministers who “plowed” Istanbul in the last week, which however led to the obscurity of Murat Kurum, who is not particularly charismatic anyway.

In a final move to impress the Islamist base of the electorate, hours before the polls opened, Erdogan, accompanied by Kurum, prayed Saturday night at the Hagia Sophia.

The outcome of Sunday’s municipal elections may further strengthen President Erdogan’s control over the political system. However, in the event that he does not manage to take back the municipality of Istanbul, the political scene in Turkey changes and the way is opened for the current mayor Ekrem Imamoglu to become the undisputed leader of the opposition – if the internal strife in the Republican People’s Party to which he belongs allows it. .

Imamoglu has the entire government apparatus against him, as well as the opposition parties, which is entering these elections fragmented.

On the last day of the pre-election campaign today, Ekrem Imamoglu appealed to the voters of all the parties of the fragmented opposition to come to the polls with a supra-party attitude for a “strong alliance of the people and conscience”.

Of decisive importance for Imamoglu is the vote of the Kurdish voters of the newly founded party DEM, which, although it does not officially support him, but “turned a blind eye” to him, putting down a weak candidacy in Istanbul.

The current mayor draws a significant percentage from the “reservoir” of Kurdish voters, but not everyone in the party agrees on whether they should support the DEM candidates or support Imamoglu.

The pressures exerted just before the polls on the small Islamist party of Fatih Erbakan, son of a former prime minister, which gathers the protest vote of disgruntled Erdogan voters, mainly pensioners who buckle under the weight of punctuality, but also Islamists who, despite Erdogan’s harsh rhetoric against Israel over the war in Gaza, accuse him of continuing and even increasing trade with Israel. The 3% he is estimated to get could deprive Kurum of victory.

The capital Ankara the ruling AKP also lost it in the 2019 elections from the Republican People’s Party (CHP) and Mansour Yavas who will keep it in tomorrow’s elections as well, according to opinion polls. The mayor of Ankara enjoys acceptance in the nationalist and conservative part of the electorate. Some polls even predict that it may even reach 60%.

Izmir, the country’s third largest city, is traditionally a stronghold of the Kemalists, and remains beyond the reach of the AKP, despite the deterioration of the Republican People’s Party, due to internal conflict at the local level.