A vendor works on potatoes and onions as he sells them in an open market in central Ankara February 5, 2014. (REUTERS/Umit Bektas)
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The humble potato has become a factor in Turkey's political and economic turmoil as prices of the staple soar, hurting the living standards of poorer Turks just before the ruling AK Party's toughest election test in a decade.At a market in the lower-incosme Istanbul suburb of Kucukcekmece, potatoes sell for between 3 and 4 lira ($1.33 and $1.77) a kilogram, up from slightly more than 1 lira at about this time last year.That could be a political headache for the government at the best of times, but it comes just before March 30 local government elections in which Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan's AK Party will try to keep its dominance after a high-level corruption scandal erupted in December. Rising potato prices are an economic as well as political headache for Turkey because inflation is now running far above the central bank's target.Nationally, Turkish consumer prices rose sharply in January, climbing 1.72 percent on the month and 7.48 percent year-on-year, the government announced this week.Tax hikes and the weak lira were partly responsible for January inflation, but potato prices soared 58 percent from a month earlier. Other factors may also be boosting potato prices.
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