Six Killed as Turkish Government Accused of Vote-Rigging
At least six people have been killed and dozens more wounded in Turkey during clashes between rival village leaders, also known as muhtars, as local elections get underway Sunday.
The poll is seen as a test of Prime Minster Recep Tayyip Erdogan's weakening grip on power, as corruption scandals and accusations of authoritarianism rock his once-secure administration.
Four of the fatalities were in the southeastern province of Şanlıurfa, and the two others were killed in the Kırıkhan district of the southern province of Hatay, according to Hurriyet Daily. At least nine others were injured in the brawls which broke out between rival candidates, involving clubs, knives and arms" according to the Turkish news agency.
Five other people were seriously injured in clashes between prominent families in the Hilvan district, according to Doğan News Agency.
The deadly clashes come amid tension and chaos as over 50 million Turks head to the polls.
Opposition and rights groups have already accused Erdogan's government of working hard to rig the elections. Social media outlets have been flooded with pictures of opposition supporters allegedly beaten by security forces, while other activists have posted what appears to be bags of pre-stamped ballot papers for the AKP - the Islamist party of Prime Minister Erdogan - in Istanbul.
Meanwhile, controversial women's activist group Femen enraged conservative Muslims by staging a topless anti-Erdogan protest in the heart of the Prime Minister's own constituency in Istanbul's Üsküdar district.
Two female activists were arrested by police in that incident, but the group has pledged further protests against what it says are attacks on free speech by the government, including bans on social media platforms Twitter and YouTube.