Erdogan claims victory in key "test" poll ahead of Turkey's August presidential vote
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has declared victory for his Justice and Development Party (AKP) in the country’s local elections.
"Those who attacked Turkey got disappointed," Erdogan told thousands of cheering supporters in Ankara on Sunday night.
Speaking from the balcony of his party's Ankara headquarters, Erdogan thanked his fans for their support and also warned his rivals that they will “pay the price” for their accusations and criticisms.
Erdogan also vowed to bring to justice those behind a series of leaked audio recordings of top Turkish officials.
Partial results from Turkey’s local elections show the prime minister's AKP has taken a strong lead.
With over 50 percent of the votes counted, the ruling AKP has gained about 48 percent of the nationwide ballot.
The elections are seen as a key test for Erdogan, ahead of a presidential vote scheduled for August.
The Erdogan administration has been faced with mass protests, corruption scandals and criticism for internet blocks over the past months, which mark the most turbulent period in his 11-year-rule.
On Friday, audio recordings were uploaded on the video-sharing website YouTube that revealed a discussion among top Turkish security officials about a possible military intervention in neighboring Syria.
Ankara has accused loyalists of US-based cleric Fethullah Gulen in the police and judiciary of bugging secret security talks on Syria, then releasing the audio recordings on YouTube.
Ankara reacted to the anonymous posting by blocking users’ access to YouTube throughout Turkey, saying the leaking of the controversial recordings had created “a national security issue”.
The YouTube ban came a week after the government blocked users’ access to Twitter after evidence of corruption among Erdogan’s inner circle was leaked on the social networking platform.