Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan's Islamist-rooted Justice and Development Party (AKP) appears to be leading comfortably in polls ahead of Turkey's local elections.
AFP - More than 48 million Turks can vote in local elections Sunday, an electoral test of the ruling Islamist-rooted party that most observers think it will pass with ease.
According to the most recent polls, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan's Justice and Development Party (AKP) was leading comfortably going into the election.
But even if it is victorious, observers will be looking at the margin of any win over the opposition to see to what extent, if any, the global financial crisis has dented the government's popularity.
In 2007, the AKP was the comfortable winner of the legislative election, winning nearly 47 percent of the vote.
It is expected to retain control of the country's two main cities, the capital Ankara, and Istanbul, which straddles Europe and Asia.
On the other hand, the main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP) is expected to retain control of the western city of Izmir, on the Aegean coast.
In the southwest, the main Kurdish political movement, the Democratic Society Party (DTP), will seek to hold on to Diyarbakir.
It is the main city in the region which is the seat of the long-running conflict between the Turkish authorities and Kurdish insurgents.
Erdogan is hoping to emerge from the elections with an even stronger showing than in the 2007 election so he can try to push reforms through parliament.
Once the elections are over, the government is also hoping to make progress on reforms to boost Turkey's bid to join the European Union and a planned package of constitutional amendments.
The AKP had produced a draft constitution to replace the current one after the 2007 general elections which were called to resolve a deep crisis between the ruling party and its secular opponents.
But it was shelved after coming under fire from all quarters.
Whatever the result of Sunday's vote, the tensions between the AKP and Turkey's secular-minded establishment show no sign of abating.
The first estimated results from the vote are expect from 1800 GMT.
Date created : 2009-03-29