In local elections in Turkey that are seen as a key test of support for Prime Minister Erdogan, eight people have been killed during clashes in rural areas. Elsewhere, the vote remained peaceful and turnout was high.
Sunday's elections, which will determine provincial assembly members and city mayors, saw isolated instances of clashes between supporters of rival politicians in rural areas with eight people killed and another 20 injured. For the most part, however, the elections were peaceful and lines were long at polling stations.
The vote is seen as a litmus test for Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan's Justice and Development Party (AKP). Despite not even being on the ballot, Erdogan campaigned heavily across the country as he and the AKP fight the implications of leaked audio recordings that connect Erdogan’s government to a graft scandal and indicate it was planning a military intervention in Syria.
In the run-up to Sunday's elections, Erdogan attacked his opponents as "traitors," blaming them for the leaked audio recordings.
"Our people will tell the truth today," Erdogan said on Sunday after casting his ballot in Istanbul.
Results on Monday
According to the pollster Konda, Erdogan's Justice and Development Party stood at 46 percent support in the run-up to Sunday's vote despite the recent scandals.
The opposition Republican People's Party polled at 27 percent, while the Nationalist Movement Party and the pro-Kurdish Peace and Democracy Party garnered a combined 22 percent.
Some 50 million Turks were eligible to vote in Sunday's local elections. Early returns will likely come in later on Sunday, with full results expected Monday.
Crackdown on opposition
Erdogan has purged 7,000 people from the police and judiciary in response to anti-graft raids that targeted businessmen close to the prime minister last December. Last month, an audio recording was leaked in which Erdogan apparently tells his son Bilal to hide large sums of money.
Although the authenticity of the recording has not been confirmed, the prime minister blocked access to Twitter after the tapped conversation went viral. A Turkish court overturned the Twitter ban, but the site still remains blocked.
Another recording, leaked on YouTube, revealed Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu and top military officials discussing a possible military intervention in Syria. The Turkish government has blocked YouTube in response to the leak.
Erdogan blames Islamist cleric Fethullah Gulen, who lives in self-imposed exiled in the US, and his Hizmet network of orchestrating the leaks. Hizmet denies any involvement.
slk,mz/dr (AFP, Reuters, dpa, AP)