Mustafa Sarigul greets his supporters during a rally in Istanbul January 26, 2014. R(EUTERS/Osman Orsal)
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Immaculately coiffed with a camera-ready smile, Mustafa Sarigul's composure cracks a little as his campaign bus swings toward Istanbul's old city walls.Two months before elections which could reshape Turkey's political landscape, the main opposition candidate for mayor of its biggest city is taking the fight to a bastion of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan's Islamist-rooted AK Party.The municipal elections on March 30 will be the first concrete test of Erdogan's popularity since street protests swept Istanbul and other cities last summer, and a corruption scandal last month which forced the resignation of three ministers and opened a feud with an influential Islamic sheikh.The significance of the battle for Istanbul – capital of four empires over the ages and the economic and cultural heart of modern Turkey – is not lost on Erdogan, who served as its mayor and keeps offices in former Ottoman palaces on the shores of the Bosphorus.The political opposition may struggle to achieve this diversity at a national level, but Sarigul hopes it could help him in Istanbul.In a sign of how seriously Erdogan is taking the battle with Sarigul, he used a rally of AK Party faithful in an Istanbul sports stadium to revive old accusations of corruption against the man who could change his own political destiny.In a political landscape so dominated by one man, Erdogan may also see in Sarigul a charisma that could one day rival his own.
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