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Two killed in fight at ballot box in east Turkey: official

The scuffle broke out at a polling station and left two dead [Getty]

Date of publication: 31 March, 2019

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A dispute at a school-based polling station in eastern Turkey on Sunday left two people dead, authorities said.

An election observer and another man were killed in a fight at a school-based polling station in eastern Turkey Sunday as voting got underway in Turkey's local elections, the local governor's office said.

"Two of our citizens lost their lives as a result of a dispute... at the ballot box around 10.00 am (0700 GMT)" in the Puturge district of Malatya, it said on its website.

Security forces arrested four suspects in connection with the deaths, the governor’s office added. 

The violence took place as Turks voted in a grassroots support test for President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP). 

Experts say the AKP could lose Ankara, and even Istanbul, in the municipal poll.

After voting in Istanbul, Erdogan said the incident had "upset" him and that an official investigation had been launched.

"My wish is that no other incident like this happens again," he said.

The private DHA news agency reported the two men were shot after an argument between two rival political groups turned violent.

The bodies were taken to a mortuary and police boosted security around the school where voting was taking place, the news agency said.

The men were members of Saadet (Felicity), a religiously conservative party. One of them was an election observer.

Saadet chairman Temel Karamollaoglu said on Twitter they had been "attacked" by an AKP candidate's nephew at the polling station.

Erdogan called Karamollaoglu to offer condolences, his office said, and vowed the culprits would face justice.

Elsewhere, Istanbul police detained seven people after a fight between candidates for muhtar (a village chief) in the Esenyurt district. 

In a third incident, in Istanbul, a man was stabbed in the Kadikoy district on the Asian side of the city during a disturbance among local candidates, police said. 

Sunday's vote is the first municipal ballot since new constitutional reforms were approved in 2017 to create an executive presidency, giving Erdogan wider powers.

But Erdogan and his party, after a decade and a half in office, appears more vulnerable with the country's economy in recession, in addition to high unemployment and inflation.

In this local election, voters are to elect a number of mayors, municipal councils and other local officials.

For Erdogan's supporters, he remains the strong leader Turkey needs. 

However, human rights activists and even Turkey's Western allies say that democracy has been eroded under his leadership, particularly after a failed 2016 coup that led to the arrest of tens of thousands of people.

FETO, or the Fethullah Gulen Terrorist Organisation, is the Turkish government moniker for the Gulen movement, which it accused of orchestrating a coup attempt in 2016.

At least 77,000 people have arrested and around 130,000 others have lost their jobs in the public sector for alleged associations with Gulen since 2016.

Hundreds of private companies have also been forced to close or pass into the control of the government. 

Oppositional media organisations have also been hit hard in the crackdown, during which many of those targeted face thin evidence of their association with Gulen.

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