AK Party leads in Turkey's local elections

Ruling party under Prime Minister Erdogan overcomes sleaze and graft claims to boost support, according to early unofficial results

Ruling party under Prime Minister Erdogan overcomes sleaze and graft claims to boost support, according to early unofficial results

ANKARA - The ruling AK Party leads the polls in Sunday's local elections in Turkey, looking set to increase its votes in the first ballot since last year’s anti-government protests in the summer and the anti-corruption probes in December.

According to early unofficial results, the AK Party received 47 percent of the votes, with nearly 43 percent of ballot boxes having been opened across the country.

The early figures show a rise of nine points for Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan's party in comparison to the last local polls in 2009.

The results suggest Turkey's 52-million electorate, including first-time voters - some of whom were active in last year's anti-government 'Gezi' protests - have given their affirmation to Erdogan's rule.

It also indicates a convincing nod of approval for Erdogan in upcoming presidential polls in August should he decide to run, as many expect him to do after his three terms as prime minister.

Votes for mayors in Turkey's three big cities were evenly divided between the AK Party and the main opposition Republican People's Party, or CHP.

The closest of the three races was taking place in capital Ankara, where the winner was likely to be decided by less than five percentage points.

With the count continuing across Turkey, the main opposition Republican People's Party, or CHP, stands at 28 percent; the conservative National Movement Party, or MHP at 13.28 percent; and the Kurdish Peace and Democracy Party, or BDP, at 2.79 percent.

- 'Results to be trusted'

The AK Party's vote percentage in the polls compares well with the more recent general elections in 2011, where it got 49 percent. It won 38 percent in the 2009 local polls -- meaning it has maintained a loyal base of electoral support to retain power for another term at local administration level.

The result is likely to set the tone for a busy approaching election schedule for Turkey, which will witness presidential elections in August and general polls in July next year.

Turkey's elections authority has said the final results of the local polls across the country should be problem-free.

"Results published by political parties may be different than those broadcast on television," Sadi Guven, head of the electoral authority YSK, said late on Sunday. "We have yet to announce the official results. I do not think that there will be a problem with the polls results."

The Turkish government, led by three-term Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, views both of last year's protests and the graft investigations as attempts to topple it.

For these -- and a flurry of wiretapping leaks since late last year -- Erdogan holds responsible a "state within the state", comprising the followers of a U.S.-based Turkish preacher allegedly in cahoots with unspecified foreign elements.

Gezi Park protesters have been mostly defined as being a highly visible group of young protesters apparently disgruntled by Erdogan's 12-year rule in a country where they thought the state of rights and freedoms could be taking a turn for the worse.

The Turkish government's recent moves to block access to Twitter and YouTube, ostensibly to prevent the spread of potentially damaging wiretapping leaks, have faced international criticism, but appear to have failed to dent the AK Party's popularity.

Copyright © 2014 Anadolu Agency