Early Turkish vote results suggest strong lead for Erdogan's party

ANKARA, March 30 Sun Mar 30, 2014 4:57pm EDT

ANKARA, March 30 (Reuters) - Initial results in Turkey's local elections suggested a strong showing for Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan's ruling party on Sunday, an outcome likely to bolster his authority in battling "traitors" within the state he accuses of seeking to topple him.

With around half of the votes counted, results broadcast on Turkish television put Erdogan's Islamist-rooted AK Party ahead with 44-46 percent of the vote. The main opposition CHP, the party of the modern secular republic's founder Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, captured around 23-28 percent.

The nationwide elections are widely being seen in Turkey as a referendum on Erdogan's 11-year rule, a test of his support as he battles corruption allegations and security leaks he has cast as a "dirty campaign" of espionage by his political enemies.

Erdogan said the election results would reaffirm his legitimacy after a turbulent election campaign which has seen his government tighten its grip on the courts, purge thousands of police, and block access to Twitter and YouTube as it tried to stem the flow of allegations.

(Writing by Nick Tattersall)

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