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Turkey: In final elections stretch, Istanbul gears up for mega-rallies

With only days to go until Turkey’s crucial elections, Erdogan and his top rival will rally their supporters in the country’s largest metropolis.
People walk past a campaign vehicle carrying a picture of Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan in a busy shopping district on May 03, 2023 in Istanbul, Turkey. Persistently high inflation has led to a cost-of-living crisis in Turkey that has hurt President Erdogan's popularity ahead of the March 14 presidential election. (Photo by Burak Kara/Getty Images)

ISTANBUL — President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his top rival, main opposition leader Kemal Kilicdaroglu, are set to make a final push for voters at dueling rallies in what will be one of the most symbolic rallies of the campaign.

Presidential candidate and Republican People’s Party (CHP) leader Kilicdaroglu and Erdogan are set to hold rival mass rallies in Istanbul, the country's largest metropolis and financial capital, on Saturday and Sunday, respectively.

In major grandstanding, all five opposition party leaders within the main opposition-led six-party bloc as well as the CHP’s popular Istanbul and Ankara mayors will join Kilicdaroglu at his rally, the main opposition’s press office confirmed to Al-Monitor Friday. The six-party bloc previously announced that the leaders within the alliance and two mayors would serve as vice presidents should Kilicdaroglu win

In his rally just a week before the May 14 vote, Erdogan, in turn, will appear before his supporters at a symbolic venue, Istanbul’s now-defunct Ataturk International Airport, according to a statement by the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) Istanbul branch. The arena last week hosted TEKNOFEST, an aviation, space and technology festival organized by Baykar, the company producing Turkey’s famed Bayraktar drones, which is owned by the family of Erdogan’s younger son-in-law. Defense projects have been one of the dominating themes of Erdogan’s polarizing campaign. While accusing his rivals of being collaborators with outlaw groups and mysterious dark international powers, Erdogan tries to portray himself as the champion of the country’s indigenous defense projects. Earlier this week, Erdogan changed his profile picture on his social media accounts to a picture of him in a pilot's jacket.

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