The ruling Justice and Development party (AK) in Turkey won the local elections by a narrow margin throughout the country on Sunday, preliminary results showed.
The results of the municipal elections are a barometer to test the popularity of AK, and the man who heads it, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
It also clarifies the inclinations of the secular and religious populations in Turkey.
Turkey has a strict separation of state and religion, even though many of its citizens are devout Muslims.
The AK has been accused of lending the country too much of a religious character.
Opposition parties are concerned the party is jeopardizing the secular nature of the country and the heritage of its founder, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk.
Opponents have even tried to outlaw the party, alleging the AK was undermining the country’s secular nature.
However, the party has vowed the country will remain on its secular path under its rule.
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Unofficial results showed that the AK won almost 40 percent overall of the seats up for grabs, with the remainder of the seats spilt among smaller parties.
The margin of victory is lower than it was in the 2007 local elections, when the AK’s gains stood at 47% of the vote.
This signals a decline in the AK’s popularity, which can be attributed to frustration over the economic situation, as the country is registering a record-high rate of unemployment, and allegations of corruption within the party.
The AK, an Islamist party, is facing fierce competition from the opposition secular party in the big cities such as Istanbul and Ankara, whereas in the past these were easily AK strongholds.
More than 48 million Turks headed to ballot boxes to vote in local representatives in 81 provinces.
The elections were marred by violence in the southeast, where fighting between rival political groups left at least four people dead.