Turkey was holding local elections on Sunday that would decide who controls Istanbul and other major cities. The vote was also a gauge of the popularity of the president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who was trying to regain control of crucial urban areas he lost to the opposition five years ago.

The main places in contention are the economic core of Istanbul and the capital, Ankara, where Erdogan lost in 2019, shattering his image of invincibility.

Turkey’s 70-year-old president has set himself the goal of winning back Istanbul, a city of 16 million people where he was born and raised, and where he began his political career as mayor in 1994.

A good result for his Islamic-leaning Justice and Development Party, or AKP, would likely strengthen his determination to introduce a new constitution that reflects his conservative values and allows him to rule beyond 2028, when his current term ends, analysts say.

For the opposition, divided and demoralized after a defeat in last year’s presidential and parliamentary elections, retaining Istanbul and Ankara would be a major boost and help re-mobilize supporters.

“In the past there have been political disagreements. There have been unfair situations that we have expressed concerns about. We have come to today without major setbacks,” main opposition leader Ozgur Ozel said after voting. It was an apparent reference to Erdogan and government officials taking advantage of their positions and media dominance during the campaign.

Some 61 million people, including more than a million first-time voters, were called to the polls in all municipalities and districts, as well as in neighborhood administrations.

Turnout is usually high in Turkey, although this vote was being held in the midst of a cost-of-living crisis. Analysts said disenchanted opposition supporters might choose to stay home, lacking confidence in their ability to turn things around. Ruling party supporters, meanwhile, could also decide not to turn out to vote in protest over the economic crisis that has left many struggling to pay for food, supplies and rent.

Some 594,000 security officers would be deployed across the country to ensure that the day passed without incident, according to Interior Minister Ali Yerlikaya.

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