Mar. 21 - Turkish prime minister Tayyip Erdogan's battle over corruption allegations becomes increasingly bitter as he bans Twitter in the run-up to local elections next week. Ivor Bennett reports.
At his rallies, they're still cheering. But Turkish prime minister Tayyip Erdogan knows his popularity is waning. Blocking Twitter a last-ditch attempt to salvage support before next week's crucial local elections. (SOUNDBITE)(Turkish) TURKISH PRIME MINISTER TAYYIP ERDOGAN SAYING: "Twitter schmitter! We have a court order now. We will wipe out all of these. The international community can say this, can say that, I don't care at all. Everyone will see how powerful the Republic of Turkey is." The move comes after details of a prosecutor's report into bribery leaked on the website. The latest episode in a long running corruption scandal that just won't go away. Turkey's president has called the ban unacceptable. Many voters are similarly unimpressed. (SOUNDBITE) (Turkish) ISTANBUL RESIDENT, DOGA SATIR, SAYING: "We resemble the Arab countries. Turkey's future is not bright. We cannot even talk to people on the street about this issue. It is not good for the country." (SOUNDBITE) (Turkish) ISTANBUL RESIDENT, AYLIN VURAL, SAYING: "He thinks we cannot criticize him if he shuts down Twitter but our struggle will continue. Nothing will change despite the ban." In many ways the damage has already been done. Violent protests are becoming an increasingly regular feature and a symptom of the country's mounting economic woes. Rising unemployment, rapidly slowing growth and a currency in freefall - what a difference a year makes. A member of the new MINT acronym of investor hotspots - Turkey was supposedly the economic equivalent of a diamond in the rough. But for Mike Ingram of BGC Partners, the diamond is losing its lustre. SOUNDBITE (English) MIKE INGRAM, MARKET COMMENTATOR, BGC PARTNERS, SAYING: "I personally think that Erdogan has lost the plot, I think, as political leaders after they've been in power for a very long time often do. And what's just happened with Twitter doesn't help matters." After 11 years in power, Erdogan is facing one of his toughest tests yet. The elections being seen as a litmus test of how far the corruption scandal has damaged his party. Anything other than a comprehensive victory could spell the beginning of the end.