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Turkey Elections Turn Violent in Southeast

Turkish authorities say fighting between rival political groups left at least four people dead Sunday as the country held local elections.

Officials say the fighting broke out in three cities in the mainly Kurdish southeast, including the region's largest city, Diyarbakir.

Around 48 million people are eligible to vote in Sunday's elections for mayors and other local representatives in 81 provinces.

The polls are considered a popularity test for Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Most opinion polls are predicting a solid victory for his moderate, Islamist-rooted Justice and Development Party, known by its Turkish initials AKP.

But record-high unemployment and a global financial crisis could hurt the AKP's showing.

Secular and nationalist opposition leaders have been fiercely critical of the AKP. But analysts say the opposition parties are weak and fragmented, posing less of a challenge to Mr. Erdogan's party.

The prime minister's administration courted poor voters with heavy spending on social assistance programs ahead of the elections.

The government has held off signing a new deal with the International Monetary Fund until after the elections. Many analysts attribute the delay to spending cuts the IMF would likely impose on Turkey.

The ruling party also has been campaigning heavily in the mainly Kurdish southeastern region, hoping to draw votes away from pro-Kurdish parties.

Some information for this report was provided by Reuters.