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Turkish PM Touts Apparent Elections Win, Warns Foes

by VOA News March 30, 2014

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has warned his political foes they will 'pay the price' for accusing him and his party of corruption. Erdogan spoke Sunday to thousands of supporters in Ankara, as he claimed victory in local elections seen as a referendum on his rule.

Early and partial results showed the prime minister's Justice and Development party winning about 45 percent of the vote, with the opposition Republican People's Party carrying about 25 percent.

The Erdogan warning comes just days after his government blocked nationwide access to YouTube, after the video sharing website circulated what is thought to be an audio recording implicating senior officials in corruption.

The audio is purported to be of Turkey's foreign minister discussing options with other senior officials for staging bogus attacks on Turkey from Syrian soil to create a pretext for war.

Earlier this month, the Ankara government banned the micro-blogging service Twitter for circulating other audio files implicating the prime minister and his son in corruption.

The blockages have drawn international condemnation.

The Sunni-dominated Erdogan government has supported elements of the Syrian opposition fighting to unseat the Iran-backed government of President Bashar al-Assad. Analysts say Turkey also is a key entry point for military supplies bound for rebels.

On Sunday, Erdogan equated the leaks to attacks on Turkey. He has linked them to former ally Fethullah Gulen, a U.S.-based Islamic cleric he says used a network of followers in Turkey's police force to concoct a corruption case against him.

Eight people were killed Sunday in clashes as ballots were cast across the country. Authorities say the violence occurred in two villages near Turkey's southeastern border with Syria. Another 13 people were reported wounded in the gunfire.

Human rights groups and Turkey's NATO allies have widely condemned Erdogan for blocking access to the Internet.

Sunday's polls were the first since nationwide anti-government protests last year that sparked weeks of clashes that left eight people dead and thousands wounded.

Fifty million people were expected to cast ballots. But no early data was reported on voter turnout.

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