Eight killed Turkish local elections clashes

Sunday 30 March 2014 17.29
Recep Tayyip Erdogan has faced anti-government protests and a major corruption scandal in recent times
Recep Tayyip Erdogan has faced anti-government protests and a major corruption scandal in recent times

Eight people have died in clashes in Turkey during municipal elections there.

Voting went ahead peacefully in most parts of the country but fights broke out between groups supporting rival candidates in two villages near the southeastern border with Syria.

Six people were killed in a shoot-out in Sanliurfa province while two more died in a village in Hatay, security officials said.

The clashes were over local council positions and were not directly linked to the wider tensions in the country.

The level of support for Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan will be crucial for his Islamist-rooted AK Party's political survival as well as his possible bid to become the president in August.

"Today it is what the people say which matters rather than what was said in the city squares," Mr Erdogan told reporters as he voted in Istanbul, his supporters chanting "Turkey is proud of you" as he left the polling station.

Mr Erdogan has purged some 7,000 people from the judiciary and police since anti-graft raids in December targeting businessmen close to him and sons of ministers.

He blames the raids on US-based Islamic cleric Fethullah Gulen, an ex-ally, who he says is using supporters in the police to try to topple the government.

"They are all traitors," Mr Erdogan said of his opponents at a rally in Istanbul on the eve of the vote.

"Let them do what they want. Go to the ballot box tomorrow and teach all of them a lesson ... Let's give them an Ottoman slap."

AK's main opposition, the Republican People's Party (CHP), portrays Mr Erdogan as a corrupt dictator ready to hang on to powerby any means.

Capture of the capital Ankara or Istanbul would allow them to claim some form of victory.

AK, which swept to power in 2002 on a platform of eradicating the corruption that blights Turkish life, hopes to equal or better its 2009 vote of 38.8% and markets have steadied this week in expectation of such a result.