UPDATE 2 – Erdogan unveils new projects at Istanbul mega-rally

                                       By Etem Geylan, Kaan Bozdogan, Cigdem Alyanak and Murat Paksoy<br></p>  <p>UPDATES WITH REMARKS FROM BAHCELI AND YILDIRIM </p>  <p>ISTANBUL (AA) - Addressing voters at a mega-rally in Istanbul on Sunday, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan announced several projects to create jobs and benefit the economy.</p>  <p>The rally of the ruling Justice and Development (AK) Party and its election ally the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) came just one week before Turkey faces critical local polls on March 31.</p>  <p>The rally was headlined by Erdogan, also the AK Party head, along with MHP leader Devlet Bahceli and Binali Yildirim, the party’s Istanbul mayoral candidate.  </p>  <p>Erdogan said the rally drew 1.6 million supporters, citing official figures.  </p>  <p>He said Turkey would establish a technology development facility worth 3.5 billion Turkish liras ($600 million), with a view to producing technology using its own resources.  </p>  <p>He added that Istanbul, Turkey’s commercial capital, would host a &quot;giant&quot; 900 million Turkish liras ($156 million) movie production facility.</p>  <p>&quot;We’re establishing the 6 billion Turkish liras [$1.04 billion] Tuzla Biotechnology Valley, where antibodies, vaccines, lenses, and chemotherapy drugs will be produced. It will create 20,000 jobs,&quot; he vowed.</p>  <p>President Erdogan went on to say that 17 large-scale rehabilitation centers would be set up to assist 200,000 disabled people in Istanbul.  </p>  <p>Speaking at the event, Yildirim said: &quot;I promise you a happier, more peaceful, safer Istanbul. This is my pledge. </p>  <p>&quot;Just like we revived this city in 1994, and will make Istanbul a world star on the 100th anniversary of our republic! Are you ready, Istanbul?&quot; he said, referring to the year Erdogan himself was elected Istanbul’s mayor.</p>  <p>He went on to say that if elected, he would serve everyone, regardless of their political background. 

"Our beliefs suggest unity, solidarity and coexistence," he added.

MHP leader Bahceli, for his part, called on Turkish people to unite against the threats to Turks and Islam.

Refering the July 2016 defeated coup orchestrated by the Fetullah Terrorist Organization (FETO) and led to the death of 251 people and the injury of thousands, Bahceli said those martyrs’ sacrifices foiled an attack on democracy.

"The assailants that shed blood in New Zealand never forgot about the Battle of Poitiers, 1,287 years ago, where the advance of Muslims into Europe was halted," he said, referring to the manifesto of the terrorist who killed dozens at Al-Noor Mosque in Christchurch, New Zealand earlier this month.

The massive rally in Yenikapi Square, spanning some 270,000 square meters, featured a huge platform, large speakers, and mega-video screens so all the spectators could see the stage.

With the clock ticking down to March 31, Election Day, Turkey is seeing daily campaign rallies and speeches by candidates and political leaders.

Twelve political parties are set to compete in the local polls.

The AK Party and MHP joined forces for the elections under the People’s Alliance banner.

Their opponents are the Nation Alliance, which is a bloc including the main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP) and Good (IYI) Party.

* Writing and contribution by Ali Murat Alhas from Ankara

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