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Turks voted for local elections Sunday amidst growing concern over the country's economic situation which the government blames on Western pressure.
Turks voted Sunday in local elections which President Tayyip Erdogan has described as a matter of survival for Turkey and which were tarnished by violence that left two members of an Islamist party dead in the country's southeast.
Voting started at 7:00 a.m. local time in eastern Turkey and an hour later in the rest of the country. Polling stations close at 4 p.m. local time in the east and 5 p.m. local time in the west.
Just over 57 million people are eligible to vote. A clear picture of the winners will probably emerge around midnight.
Erdogan and his party has been in power for more than 16 years but he could be dealt an electoral blow with polls indicating his ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) may lose control of the capital Ankara, and even Istanbul, the country's largest city. This was attributed to a growing economic crisis in the country.
Erdogan says the country's economic woes are the result from attacks by the West through sanctions and other fincial measures against the Turkish government.
"The aim behind the increasing attacks towards our country ahead of the elections is to block the road of the big, strong Turkey," Erdogan said at a rally in Istanbul Saturday.
"Attempts by a range of Western countries, most importantly the US, to put pressure on Ankara were behind the August 2018 manipulations in the Turkish currency market," Erdogan told reporters.
Sunday's elections, in which Turks vote for mayors and other local officials across the country, are the first since Erdogan assumed the presidency last year after the country changed its government system to a presidential one.
The elections witnessed some violence. 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.
After voting in Istanbul, Erdogan said he was saddened by the incident and that it was being thoroughly investigated. Some 553,000 police and security force members were on duty for the vote nationwide.
In the main Kurdish city of 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, local media reported.
One person was stabbed as 15 people clashed in a row between candidates in Istanbul's Kadikoy district, a police source said.
Ahead of the vote, the main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP) and Iyi (Good) Party formed an electoral alliance to rival that of the AKP and its nationalist far-right MHP partners.
The pro-Kurdish opposition Peoples Democratic Party (HDP) has not made an official alliance and is not fielding candidates for mayor in Istanbul or Ankara, which is likely to benefit the CHP.
In the days leading up to the vote, Erdogan held around 100 rallies across the country, speaking 14 times in different districts of Istanbul over the past two days alone. He has described the elections as an existential choice for Turkey.