Turkish PM accuses opposition party of provoking protests

The Turkish prime minister has accused a pro-Kurdish opposition party of trying to stoke

tensions and create mass protests with accusations of electoral fraud ahead of next month's general election.

Hurriyet Daily News reported that prime minister Ahmet Davutoğlu rejected accusations from the Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP) that the government had established a 3,500-strong team to rig the elections due to be held on June 7.

Davutoğlu, who took over in August after former prime minister and close ally Recep Tayyip Erdoğan was elected as president, has vowed to resign if the accusations are proven to be true. Turkey goes to the polls next month in an election where the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) is expected to retain its grip on power.

Davutoğlu told Hurriyet that the HDP accusations constituted "slander" and were an attempt to "push people to take to the streets" in the event of an AKP victory.

"They are aiming two things," Davutoğlu said. "To find a justification for their election defeat and to call the people to hit the streets. I warn them: If they are involved in a democratic struggle, they will accept the results. We will not make any concessions for those who try to bring people to the streets." He added that "all necessary security measures" would be taken to deal with such protests.

However, local elections last year were also plagued by accusations of fraud after a series of power cuts took place on election night, one of which the Turkish energy minister blamed on a cat managing to get into an electricity distribution unit.

Thousands of protesters gathered outside Ankara's electoral commission following the local elections in April last year, demanding a recount of the result in the capital. Police used water cannons to disperse them.

The HDP is battling hard to cross the 10% threshold of votes needed to enter the Turkish parliament following the election. There were two explosions at HDP party offices in southern Turkey on Monday, injuring seven people. A HDP statement blamed "dark forces supported by the political authorities" for the explosions and accused officials from the AK party of inciting hatred towards them.

Benjamin Decker, Turkey analyst at Middle East security analysts the Levantine Group, says that the political opposition are trying to drum up a wave of populism against the AKP but also thinks there could be some substance to their accusations of electoral fraud.

"The opposition has been attempting a popular uprising of its own since the Taksim and Gezi Park protests," says Decker, referring to mass anti-government protests which took place in Istanbul two years ago and prompted a heavy-handed response by police.

"A lot of Davutoğlu's statements in this regard are to mobilise AKP supporters ahead of the election."

Turkey's primary opposition party, the Republican People's Party (CHP), have also expressed concern about the legitimacy of the elections. Party leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu said the CHP were taking measures to protect the fairness of the elections but were not able to guarantee their legitimacy.

"If there are problems concerning election safety, it would have serious consequences. The government would be seen an illegitimate and elections would be considered null and void," Kılıçdaroğlu told Hurriyet.

Whoever wins the election will be tasked with turning around Turkey's failing economy. The Turkish lira has lost 10% of its value since the beginning of the year and Turkey's 2.9% growth rate from last year trailed behind other emerging economies India and China, which both recorded growth of more than 7%.

Decker predicts that, even if the AKP triumphs at the polls as expected, it faces further challenges ahead.

"There's going to come a time when the economic situation gets even worse and the AKP may have to face up to all its negative policies," he says.