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Turks Go To Polls In Local Elections In Erdogan Test

People voting in Ankara on March 31.
People voting in Ankara on March 31.

Turks are casting ballots in local elections, with some surveys indicating President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's ruling party could be in danger of being defeated in the capital, Ankara, and in other large cities.

The March 31 vote is the first municipal election since Turks gave Erdogan wide powers in 2017 by approving constitutional reforms to create an executive presidency.

Elections are being held for 1,389 mayors and thousands of municipal councils and other local officials.

The election was marred by violence in the southeast and Istanbul.

Two members of the small Islamist Felicity Party, a polling station official, and an election observer, were shot dead in Malatya Province, a party spokesman said. Media reports said one person had been detained.

In Diyarbakir, two people were hurt, one of them critically, after being stabbed in a dispute between candidates, a hospital source said. Dozens of people were hurt in other election-related clashes in the southeast, media reported.

One person was stabbed as 15 people clashed in a row between candidates in Istanbul, a police source said.

Some 553,000 police and security-force members are on duty for the vote nationwide.

Erdogan and his Justice and Development Party (AKP) -- who have won every election since the party came to power in 2002 -- are facing increased opposition with the country's economy in recession, unemployment up, and inflation soaring.

Erdogan has campaigned across Turkey in recent days, even though he is not on the ballot himself.

In Ankara, opposition mayoral candidate Mansur Yavas is in the lead, according to several polls, and Erdogan has repeatedly attacked him during his campaign speeches, accusing him of forgery and tax evasion.

Yavas, who ran for the Ankara mayoral post in 2014 but lost, has denied all the allegations. He will face the AKP’s Mehmet Ozhaseki, a former urban minister.

Some 57,058,636 people are eligible to vote nationwide among Turkey’s 82 million people.

Based on reporting by AFP and dpa