ISTANBUL — Eight people were killed Sunday in clashes during Turkey's local elections. Voting was peaceful throughout most of Turkey, but feuds broke out in two villages near Turkey's southeastern border with Syria. Another 13 people were reported injured in the gunfire. The balloting was largely seen as a referendum on Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his ruling AK Party. He is battling a corruption scandal that has forced the resignation of several of his Cabinet ministers. After voting in Istanbul, Erdogan said the elections were more important than street protests against his government. "Our people will tell the truth above anything else," he said. "And beyond what's talked about in the public squares, what will be decisive, is what the people will say. In my opinion, what the people say goes. The people's decision is respected. Anything outside of this, one way or another, will be recorded only in history, once the results from the polls are in tonight." More than 50 million people are expected to vote in local elections. The election has been one of most keenly contested in recent years, with all the main parties holding mass rallies on the eve of the polls Saturday. Political columnist Semih Idiz of the Turkish newspaper Taraf and the Al Monitor website says the polls are more than local elections. "The government has turned them into a plebiscite on its credibility, the government is accused of corruption charges, and ministers have had to resign over this," said Idiz. "There are tapes have been leaked to the media, that implicate the Prime Minister himself. So the government is really putting its all into these elections." Turkish authorities during the campaign banned two popular websites, Twitter and You Tube, to stop the release of alleged recordings of government members that implicated them in corruption and other political misdeeds. The elections are the first since nationwide anti-government protests began in mid-2013. Prime Minister Erdogan has said success will be surpassing the 38 percent of the vote he secured in the last local elections. But observers say just as important a test will be the ability of the ruling AK Party to maintain its 20-year control of the government of the capital, Ankara, and Istanbul, which are being predicted to be closely fought contests. The ruling AK Party is also targeting Turkey’s third largest city, Izmir, which is a stronghold of the opposition Republican People’s Party. The results of the polls could be key in determining whether Erdogan runs in August's presidential election. With such high stakes, all the main political parties have expressed concerns over the fairness of the polls. An unprecedented number of election monitors is expected to supervise the voting.
— Eight people were killed Sunday in clashes during Turkey's local elections.