Erdogan's AKP Party Leading as Initial Results Come In

With 45 percent of the votes counted, the governing party leads with 44 percent of the vote.

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Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his wife Emine Erdogan cast their votes in Istanbul on March 30, 2014.Credit: AFP

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan's Justice and Development Party (AKP) is in the lead as results are being reported in Turkey's local elections, according to local television stations.

The contests in Istanbul and Ankara, where the AKP is the incumbent, are particularly close. In Istanbul the AKP leads the opposition Republican People's Party (CHP) with 45.8 percent to the latter's 43.3 percent. In Ankara, the AKP leads as well, garnering 45.6 percent of the vote to the CHP's 42.6 percent.

Nationally, with about 45 percent of votes counted, CNN Turk said AKP had about 44 percent of the votes. Voter turnout appeared high throughout the day, and reports suggest that voters formed long lines at many polling places. According to the Turkish government, more than 50 million people are eligible to vote.

The vote has been marred by sporadic violence. A clash in the southeast left eight dead.

The Islamist AKP won 50 percent of the vote in the country's last national elections. This round, the party's leaders have stated that they hope to win only 39 percent, which would match the party's performance in local elections in 2009.

The elections are widely seen as referenda on the prime minister and his administration, which have come under corruption allegations amid a heated public dispute with followers of the U.S.-based Muslim cleric Fethullah Gulen. The release of tapes that purport to depict Erdogan and members of his family has prompted a particularly strident response from the prime minister, who attempted to restrict access to Twitter across Turkey in order to prevent further dissemination of the tapes.

The controversy has led many erstwhile Erdogan allies, including President Abdullah Gul, to distance themselves from the prime minister's recent actions.

In the days before the vote, Erdogan dubbed his secular opponents "traitors" and urged voters to deliver them "an Ottoman slap."