Turkey PM 'ready to quit' if party loses local polls

AFP , Wednesday 5 Mar 2014

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan (Photo: Reuters)

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Wednesday he was ready to step down if his ruling party, in power since 2002, failed to win key local elections later this month.

"I am ready to quit politics unless my party emerges winner in the elections" scheduled for March 30, said Erdogan, who is battling a damaging corruption investigation which poses the greatest challenge yet to his 11 years in power.

The Turkish strongman, who has dominated the country's political scene for more than a decade, remained in a defiant mood.

He said the number of supporters filling election rallies indicated a backlash against that corruption charges targeting his government.

Erdogan has accused associates of ally-turned-opponent Fethullah Gulen, an influential Muslim cleric based in the United States, of concocting the graft probe that has ensnared key allies of the government.

Last week, audio tapes leaked online put Erdogan himself at the heart of the corruption allegations.

The recordings, which could not be independently verified, were purportedly of Erdogan and his son Bilal discussing how to hide large sums of money on December 17 -- the same day as the launch of a graft probe that ensnared the premier's inner circle.

Erdogan denounced them as a "vile attack" and a "montage" carried out by his political rivals ahead of an election cycle this year.

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