Islamists Lose Ground in Turkish Election
Government suffers setback as voters turn to secular parties
By Jason Farago,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 30, 2009 4:33 AM CDT
Supporters of the main opposition Republican People's Party demonstrate in Istanbul last week.   (AP Photo/Murad Sezer)
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(Newser) – Turkey's Islamist-leaning AK Party won local elections yesterday, but fell short of the overwhelming victory leaders had hoped for, reports the Los Angeles Times. With most of the votes counted, the party of Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan won 39% of the vote, but lost ground to secularists in Istanbul and other big cities. "This is a message from the people, and we will take the necessary lessons," said a disappointed prime minister.

This is the first poll setback for the popular Erdogan since coming to power in 2002. Observers said that the struggling economy may have contributed to his fall in support, an 8-point decline from the last election. The election was marred by violence as clashes broke out in various sites across Turkey, killing five people and injuring dozens.