Turkish voters have delivered a victory for the ruling AK Party in local elections, but not by as big a margin as Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan had hoped. It is the first time since 2002 that the party, with its roots in Islam, has suffered a slide in public support in the staunchly secular nation.
The Prime Minister said last week he would consider it a failure if the AKP did not reach the 47 per cent level of support it won at the last general election. At 39 per cent, it has fallen well short of that. Erdogan called it a message from the people. “We will look seriously at the results,” he said, “and the government will learn the necessary lesson.” The secular opposition made inroads in Turkey’s biggest city Istanbul, and the capital Ankara. And the AKP was unable to win several important cities, like Izmir and Diyarbakir, the largest in the Kurdish south east of the country. The region was the scene of violent clashes between supporters of rival candidates. At least five people died and nearly 100 were injured. Erdogan had campaigned there heavily, hoping AKP success win would temper separatist feeling.