Eight dead as Turkey goes to the polls in municipal elections

Turkey’s municipal elections have been marred by violence. Security officials said eight people have died as fights broke out between rival candidates in two villages near the southeastern border with Syria. The election is being viewed as a crisis referendum, say analysts on Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s 10-year-rule. He was not standing but criss-crossed the country in the build up to Sunday’s vote campaigning for his Justice and Development Party – the AKP. Tensions had risen in advance of the ballot and the PM was in a defiant mood when he cast his vote. “So far in political rallies there have been undesirable statements and speeches, our public today will have the last word, they will express themselves. Despite those political meetings, their last word will be decisive,” he said. Voting went ahead peacefully in most parts and the clashes which led to the eight deaths were over local council positions and not directly linked to the wider tensions in the country. Erdogan is hoping the election will boost his standing after allegations of a corruption scandal and string of damaging security leaks. The main opposition, the Republican People’s party portrays him as a corrupt dictator ready to hang on to power by any means. The Islamist – rooted AK Party is aiming to equal or better its 2009 vote of 38.8 percent. A vote below the 36 percent mark would be considered a huge blow to the PM.

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