Istanbul (AFP) – Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Sunday was cheered on by tens of thousands of supporters at a rally in Istanbul ahead of next weekend’s election, after facing tough opposition in the campaign.
Erdogan and his Justice and Development Party (AKP) which he co-founded in 2001 are seeking a second term in power in snap parliamentary and presidential polls on June 24.
“Are you in for a strong government on June 24?” Erdogan asked the crowds who filled the Yenikapi rallying ground on the European side despite the heavy rains earlier in the day.
“Are you in for a strong Turkey on June 24? Will you make history on June 24?,” he said, with the crowd replying “yes” in harmony.
“I believe this job is over in Istanbul. With Allah’s permission, Istanbul has made its decision,” Erdogan told his supporters waving Turkish flags.
Erdogan is a clear favourite to win Sunday’s elections but analysts say the victory is a not foregone conclusion and that the vote could go to a run-off.
“When we already have a true servant of the people, I don’t care about the utopia of his rivals,” Ali Beral, a fervent supporter of Erdogan, told AFP during the rally.
“God willing, we will win again and we will emerge stronger,” he said.
The Turkish leader is up against increasing pressure from rival Muharrem Ince of the secular Republican People’s Party (CHP) who has brought dynamism to the heated contest with his rhetorical skills matching those of Erdogan.
Erdogan has boasted of his mega projects for Istanbul during the Yenikapi rally including a third bridge across the Bosphorus slated to open in October, as well as Canal Istanbul — an alternative sea route aimed at taking pressure off the waterway.
“I am not fabricating dreams but talking of what we have done,” he added.
Erdogan and Ince are both holding several rallies daily, in what appears to be the biggest ballot box challenge of Erdogan’s career.
In an address to his supporters in northern Anatolian city of Tokat, Ince said: “An exhausted man cannot help Turkey get out of hole. Turkey is need of fresh flood.”