Turkey votes in local elections

Prime minister's Justice and Development party expected to win in nationwide polls.

    Opinion polls indicate Erdogan's AKP will win 
     despite rising unemployment [AFP]

    A few incidents of violence were reported as the vote got under way.

    Security sources said a man was killed and seven people wounded in clashes between candidates in southeast Turkey.

    Adnan Yalcin, 41, was shot dead in Lice district of Diyarbakir, the biggest city in mainly Kurdish southeastern Turkey. Four people were also hurt.   

    In separate violence between two groups in Igdir province, three people were wounded, the sources said.

    Economic concerns

    A win in local elections is likely to strengthen the power of Tayyip Erdogan, the Turkish prime minister, as he pushes for constitutional reforms.

    Economy in turmoil

     Turkish exports have fallen dramatically since this time last year – down 35 per cent.

    As factories close, industrial output has plummeted by 21 per cent.

     The value of the Turkish lira is down 26 per cent.

     Layoffs have sent unemployment in the nation of 71 million people to a four-year-high, at 13.6 per cent.

     Turkey's budget deficit has soared to $4.4bn.

    Al Jazeera's Anita McNaught, reporting from Istanbul, said the polls were a litmus test for Erdogan.

    "There isn't a Turk here who isn't aware they're in the grip of the same storm that the rest of the world is in.

    "Turkey is a country heavily dependent on exports, it could feel the pain already - unemployment is climbing, and you could see that.

    "However, no one is blaming the government for it yet, it's how it handles the unfolding crisis to come that people will be assessing," she said.

    Bulent Keres, a political columnist, said Erdogan seemed to be on a strong ground.

    "The welfare system is improving, the economy has grown and in comparison with previous governments, they've done more with government spending," Keres said.

    But he said a "vacuum in the opposition parties has left the government with more power than they deserve".

    Government 'tactic'

    But commentators say that an AKP victory could also be the result a failure by the opposition parties to turn enthusiasm into votes.

    "The opposition are not running a great game at the moment. The [AK party] comes to the polls municipally without a hugely successful opposition fighting against them"

    Anita McNaught, Al Jazeera correspondent

    "The opposition are not running a great game at the moment. The [AK party] comes to the polls municipally without a hugely successful opposition fighting against them," McNaught said. 

    In the country's southeast, the AKP is attempting to win votes from Kurdish citizens, in an area where residents have historically supported the Kurdish Democratic Society party (DTP).

    The government recently launched a Kurdish language TV station - the latest in several policy shifts considered more accommodating to Kurdish rights.

    But Akin Birdal Istanbul, a DTP candidate, said the government initiatives would not sway DTP supporters.

    "The Kurdish people know that this is a tactic to get their vote. Up to now, a high price and pain was paid by us in order to gain our rights. So why is the government doing this now?"

    The AKP, first elected to government in 2002, won general elections in 2007 with more than 46 per cent of the vote.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and agencies


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