Turkey’s prime minister appeared to have scored a decisive victory in local elections seen as a referendum on his rule over an increasingly divided country, setting the stage for a possible run for president. Exit polls showed Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s ruling Justice and Development Party, or AKP, winning a comfortable plurality of votes nationally, but the margin of victory and his party’s control of major cities was unclear early Monday. Two polls showed the party registering 46% of the vote with 80% of the ballots counted, with the main opposition Republican People’s Party, or CHP, securing 28%. In Turkey’s largest city, Istanbul, and the capital, Ankara—the most closely watched and influential constituencies—both the government and the opposition claimed victory and accused each another of fraud. The AKP appeared to have held Istanbul but the final results in Ankara were still unclear at midnight.
Normally, local elections in Turkey are minor affairs that garner little international attention. But the stakes in Sunday’s voting have soared in recent weeks amid mounting allegations of financial and political impropriety against the premier and his allies.
Mr. Erdogan has denied the allegations and has sought to quash the sprawling graft probe by overhauling the judiciary, purging thousands of police officials he deems nettlesome and blocking social-networking websites Twitter and YouTube, where most of the alleged leaks first appeared.
Flanked by several close allies who were ensnared in the corruption scandal including his son Bilal and three ministers forced to resign, Mr. Erdogan told thousands of supporters gathered in Ankara that his victory had dealt his political enemies an “Ottoman slap.”
Full Article: Premier Gains Ground in Turkish Elections – WSJ.com.