Turkey's Islamic-rooted governing party looks set to solidify its hold over domestic politics in local elections on March 29. The campaign season has been marked by apparent voter apathy, fueled by the lack of a convincing alternative to the Justice and Development Party (AKP).
Most polls predict the AKP will win about 47 percent of votes, roughly the same level of support it enjoyed in general elections of July 2007. That would translate into a 26-point lead over its nearest rival, the secularist Republican People's Party, or CHP.
On the face of it, the continuing high levels of support for AKP are a surprise.
First elected in 2002, the government had been boosted until 2007 by years of stellar economic growth. When they turn out on March 29 to vote for neighborhood representatives, city councilors and mayors, Turkish voters will be doing so against a backdrop of an economy severely hit by the global crisis.
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Nicolas Birch is a freelance journalist who specializes in Turkey, Iran and the Middle East.