Dozens of people have been injured in eastern Turkey, local officials say, after police fired tear gas and water cannon to disperse nationalists protesting against an election rally by the pro-Kurdish People's Democratic Party (HDP).

Thursday's clashes in the northeastern city of Erzurum were the latest in a string of incidents in the run-up to Sunday's parliamentary elections, in which the HDP is trying to clear a 10 percent threshold for entering parliament as a party under proportional representation.

The unrest erupted a day after unidentified men opened fire on a HDP campaign bus in Kurdish-majority eastern Bingol province, killing the driver.

The governor's office for Bingol said an investigation into the shooting had been launched.

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Around 1,000 Turkish nationalists stormed the rally in the main square of Erzurum, an area seen as a bastion for Turkish nationalists.

About 2,000 HDP supporters had gathered to hear Selahattin Demirtas, the party leader, speak at the rally.

His appearance had been seen as a bold statement in a region where his party is far from popular, as it tries to win votes from outside its southeastern Kurdish-majority heartland.

Should the HDP pass the 10 percent threshold, it would become more difficult for President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to reach his goal of changing the constitution to boost presidential powers.

Private NTV television showed the demonstrators breaking through police barricades, before security forces responded with tear gas and water cannon.

The demonstrators, mostly young people, waved Turkish flags and chanted slogans such as "This is Erzurum, there is no way out from here" and "God is greatest". 

A minibus driver suffered severe burns when his vehicle, covered with HDP flags, was set on fire, the Dogan news agency said.

Security forces thanked

Ahmet Altiparmak, Erzurum's governor, said in a statement quoted by Turkish media that 38 people had been wounded, including 11 police, 17 HDP supporters and 10 protesters.

But he also thanked the security forces and public for showing sensitivity so that the situation did not get out of hand.

The injuries were said to be not serious.

Demirtas went on with the rally and urged caution, saying: "There are only three days left. We will continue to work with patience, without allowing provocations."

The HDP has long been accused by Turkish nationalists of being linked to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), which has waged a decades-long armed insurgency in the southeast for Kurdish autonomy.

In May, two blasts targeting HDP's headquarters in the southern cities of Adana and Mersin injured several people.

 

Source: Agencies