Turkish PM Blames Opposition for Pre-election Violence

Posted June 1st, 2011 at 4:15 pm (UTC-5)
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Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has blamed the opposition for provoking clashes in Turkey ahead of June 12 parliamentary elections.

In a speech in Istanbul Wednesday, Mr. Erdogan said the provocations were a ploy to drag his ruling Justice and Development Party into what he called a “trap,” and vowed to steer clear of such violence.

The leader of the far-right Nationalist Action Party , Devlet Bahceli, blamed the government for the recent tensions in the country, accusing it of efforts to provoke separatists and escalate attacks.

Earlier Wednesday, Turkish police detained 18 people suspected of planning attacks at an election rally by the Nationalist Action Party in the mostly Kurdish city of Diyarbakir set for next Monday, adding to already high tensions ahead of the June 12 vote.

Mr. Erdogan earlier Wednesday announced new projects for Diyarbakir, in what is viewed as an attempt to gain Kurdish support ahead of the elections.

The prime minister launched an initiative in 2009 to grant Kurds greater cultural rights, including the establishment of a Kurdish-language television channel and the teaching of Kurdish in schools, but Kurdish parties also want political reform and autonomy.

Polls show Mr. Erdogan's ruling party is set to win a third term in power. The Nationalist Action Party is struggling to reach the 10-percent threshold needed to get into parliament.