Ankara (Agencies): Thousands of workers and students tried to march on Parliament in the Turkish capital during a union-led demonstration against the labour law. Police fired water cannon and tear gas in order to disperse the crowd.

Opinion polls show Prime Minister Taayip Erdogan's ruling Justice and Development Party, known as the AK Party, well set to win a third term in power at parliamentary elections due in June, though experts note an rising polarisation of Turkish society between secular and conservative Muslims.

The protesters reacted to the water cannon and tear gas by throwing stones at the police. Television news channels put the size of the protest at up to 10,000 people.

The workers were protesting against new employment legislation, presently being debated by Parliament, which they argue will reduce workers' rights and allow employers to exploit unregulated labour.

The government says the law is needed to create a more flexible labour model. Opposition deputies were backing the protest.

The angry protesters, converging on the capital from as far away as Izmir in the west and Diyarbakir in the southeast, were aiming to form a human chain around parliament.

Interior Minister Besir Atalay had warned the unions that a protest would not be allowed at the Parliament.

The AK Party government has overseen a time of unprecedented economic growth in Turkey. While reformist stresses on economic issues, the AK Party is conservative on social issues. The party denies opponents' accusations that it is pushing an Islamist agenda by stealth, weakening Turkey's secularism.