Mitch Joel WARNING... LONG RANT! It takes a lot for me to both get angry and publish about it. Canada’s…
Turkey/Turkiye January-July 2023
Marc Pierini: Understanding Turkey’s Geostrategic Posture
(Carnegie Eu) In the run-up to the 2023 elections, Turkey’s foreign policy will be shaped by domestic politics. To stand a chance of winning, the opposition must unite and put forward a cohesive electoral program. (17 November 2022)
By pulling out of the Ukrainian grain deal, Russia risks alienating its few remaining partners
Putin’s actions not only threaten global food security but also could backfire against Russia’s own interests, potentially causing concern in China, straining Moscow’s relations with key partner Turkey and hurting its ties with African countries.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who helped broker the grain deal with the U.N. a year ago, has pushed for its extension and said he would negotiate with Putin.
Some observers in Moscow speculate that Russia agreed to extend the grain deal for two months in May to help Erdogan win reelection but was appalled to see his pro-Western shift afterward.
Erdogan backed Sweden’s membership in NATO earlier this month. In another snub to Moscow, Turkey allowed several Ukrainian commanders who led the defense of Mariupol last year to return home. They surrendered after a two-month Russian siege and then moved to Turkey under a deal that they stay there until the end of the war.
Kerim Has, a Moscow-based expert on Turkey-Russia ties, said Erdogan had been emboldened by his reelection to pursue rapprochement with the West, appointing a “pro-Western” Cabinet and adopting a stance that was causing “discomfort” in the Kremlin.
With re-election behind him, Erdogan is turning toward the West
(Atlantic Council) Red light, green light. When Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan gave Sweden a green light for NATO membership, he also signaled a change in Turkey’s geopolitical posture… [a]ccording to Grady Wilson, that posture is now leaning more clearly westward. And the pivot is happening despite Turkey and Russia’s deep economic ties and Turkey’s historic grievances with transatlantic partners. But Russia’s weakness, seen most recently in last month’s Wagner Group mutiny, makes it a less reliable partner for Turkey—and has helped open the door for a surprising post-election pivot.
Turkey won’t back Swedish NATO bid unless it stops anti-Turkish protests, Erdogan says
By Ece Toksabay and Huseyin Hayatsever
(Reuters) – Sweden should not expect a green light from Ankara on its NATO membership bid at the Western alliance’s summit next month unless it prevents anti-Turkey protests in Stockholm, Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan was quoted as saying on Wednesday.
Turkey cannot approach Sweden’s NATO bid positively while “terrorists” were protesting in Stockholm, and Turkey’s position would be made clear once again in talks with Swedish officials in Ankara on Wednesday, Erdogan was quoted as telling reporters on a flight returning from Azerbaijan on Tuesday.
28 – 29 May
Turkey elections: What to expect from newly emboldened Erdogan
(BBC) Recep Tayyip Erdogan read the electorate better than the pollsters and analysts, who suggested he could be beaten by the opposition. Well, not this time. His opponent – Kemal Kilicdaroglu – was just four percentage points behind him. No doubt President Erdogan will be reflecting on that as he starts his third term in office.
This is the outcome President Vladimir Putin wanted – no surprises that he was one of the first to offer his congratulations to the Turkish leader. Mr Putin did what he could to tilt the scales in his favour, including postponing a $600m (£486m) payment for Russian natural gas. …
Turkey is now a divided nation with a broken economy. Critics say the president has no solution for either.
And where does the election result leave Turkey’s neighbours and its Nato allies? They will be watchful, knowing President Erdogan often seems to relish upending the established international order.
Erdogan’s victory could be fateful for Turkey’s democracy and role in the world
(NPR) Now the focus is on the state of that democracy and the country.
Turkey has played an increasingly robust and sometimes contentious role on the global stage as a key NATO member and major military power in the Black Sea.
At home, he still faces soaring inflation, a highly-criticized, sluggish response to massive earthquakes in February and concerns that he’s creating one-man rule.
The survival of Turkish democracy is still at stake
For the millions who voted against him, Erdogan is seen as an authoritarian. He has stacked the judiciary, monopolizes the media and jails perceived opponents — including journalists and critics on social media. He’s accused of allowing corruption to flourish, leading to shoddy, unregulated construction that collapsed in the quakes. He’s replaced opposition mayors even though they won local elections.
This election was hardly a fair fight. Erdogan has near-total control of Turkey’s broadcast media. And while Erdogan made frequent and lengthy appearances on TV, his challenger, Kilicdaroglu, had to make do with social media and YouTube to get his message across. Erdogan also took advantage of government resources to hand out benefits to millions of citizens and raised the minimum wage several times in the last year.
Turkey’s Erdogan prevails in election test of his 20-year rule
By Can Sezer, , Ali Kucukgocmen and Huseyin Hayatsever
Erdogan to enter third decade in power
Putin congratulates his ‘dear friend’
Vote shows polarised nation after divisive campaign
(Reuters) – President Tayyip Erdogan extended his two decades in power in elections on Sunday, winning a mandate to pursue increasingly authoritarian policies which have polarised Turkey and strengthened its position as a regional military power.
His challenger, Kemal Kilicdaroglu, called it “the most unfair election in years” but did not dispute the outcome.
Official results showed Kilicdaroglu won 47.9% of the votes to Erdogan’s 52.1%, pointing to a deeply divided nation.
…. victory reinforced his image of invincibility, after having already redrawn domestic, economic, security and foreign policy in the NATO member country of 85 million people.
The prospect of five more years of his rule is a major blow to opponents who accuse him of undermining democracy as he has amassed ever more power – a charge he denies.
Digital editor Adam Roberts said it best in Sunday’s The Economist today newsletter:
Turkey loses its chance to restore democracy
“I’ve developed a rule of thumb that applies to most. We journalists, yearning for dramatic stories, lean towards seeing evidence change because that’s more exciting than continuity. As we seek out signs that an upset may be looming, we risk overestimating the chances of opposition figures, for example in authoritarian-leaning democracies.
Take Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who has been in power for two decades—and has just won another general election. Before the first round of voting, two weeks ago, it was common to read analysis (and polls) suggesting that he faced a real chance of losing power to an energised and united opposition. Today, voting is over and he has already declared victory. He probably won on the back of those rural, less-educated voters far from Istanbul and Ankara.
What to make of this? A few weeks ago we commented that a defeat for Mr Erdogan would send a message to strongmen rulers in other parts of the world. Sadly, a victory for Mr Erdogan also sends a message.”
How Erdogan held onto power in Turkey, and what this means for the country’s future
Mehmet Ozalp, Associate Professor in Islamic Studies, Director of The Centre for Islamic Studies and Civilisation and Executive Member of Public and Contextual Theology, Charles Sturt University
(The Conversation) Recep Tayyib Erdogan will remain president of Turkey for another five years after winning Sunday’s run-off election over his long-time rival, Kemal Kilicdaroglu. If he serves the full five-year term, he will have held power for 26 years – almost the entire history of Turkey in the 21st century.
What is astonishing is how the majority of Turkish people elected Erdogan despite a worsening economy and now chronic hyperinflation that would likely bring down any government in a democratic country.
So, how did Erdogan win the election and, more significantly, what is likely to happen in the country in the foreseeable future?
The election was free in that political parties could put forth nominees on their own and carry out campaigns. Parties also had the right to have representatives in every polling station to ensure the votes were counted correctly. And voters were free to vote.
However, the election was far from fair.
Turkey: Erdogan to run off with the runoff
By most accounts, the only real question ahead of Turkey’s presidential runoff this weekend is: by how much?
It seems all but certain that incumbent President Recep Tayyip Erdogan will defeat challenger Kemal Kilicdaroglu, a technocrat who has cast himself as a moderate alternative to Erdogan’s unique brand of Islamist-inspired populist nationalism.
…the third-place finisher, ultranationalist Sinan Ogan, has endorsed him, while Kilicdaroglu’s campaign has floundered.
A strong mandate will almost certainly embolden Erdogan to double down on policies that many critics thought would doom him: suppressing interest rates in order to combat inflation, cracking down on opponents and the media, driving hard bargains with the EU over migrants, and infuriating his NATO allies by keeping cozy with Vladimir Putin.
But as the election results show, Erdogan – for all his eccentric ideas, authoritarian inklings, and economic mismanagement – is genuinely popular even in a deeply divided society. Having overcome the most significant electoral challenge he has faced during his 20 years on the national stage, the wily Erdogan will be vindicated. He is unlikely to change his stripes now.
Erdogan hails ‘special relationship’ with Putin ahead of crucial Turkey runoff vote
CNN — Turkey has a “special” and growing relationship with Russian President Vladimir Putin despite mounting pressure on Ankara to help bolster Western sanctions against Moscow, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said in an exclusive interview ahead of next week’s presidential election runoff.
“We are not at a point where we would impose sanctions on Russia like the West have done. We are not bound by the West’s sanctions,” Erdogan told CNN’s Becky Anderson. “We are a strong state and we have a positive relationship with Russia.”
“Russia and Turkey need each other in every field possible,” he added.
The West may have to learn how to live with Erdoğan
The Turkish elections speak to the democratic resilience of a society that deserves support, but it also tells us something about the resilience of authoritarian populism.
(Politico Eu) An 89 percent voter turnout in a close to 90 million-strong country is an electoral outcome that puts most liberal democracies to shame.
Turkey, of course, is not a liberal democracy. Violations of human rights and fundamental freedoms, an eroded rule of law and a destroyed separation of powers leave no room for doubt.
Why Erdoğan Wins
Daron Acemoglu, Professor of Economics at MIT, is a co-author (with James A. Robinson) of Why Nations Fail: The Origins of Power, Prosperity and Poverty (Profile, 2019) and a co-author (with Simon Johnson) of Power and Progress: Our Thousand-Year Struggle Over Technology and Prosperity (PublicAffairs, May 2023).
Turkey’s autocratic president and his Justice and Development Party (AKP) are likely to retain power, despite rampant corruption and economic mismanagement. That’s good news for other right-wing populists, but very bad news for Turkey’s cratering economy.
(Project Syndicate) What went wrong was more fundamental than faulty polling. It is impossible to make sense of the results without recognizing how nationalistic the Turkish electorate has become. That change reflects the long-running conflict with Kurdish separatists in the southeast of the country, massive inflows of refugees from the Middle East, and decades of propaganda led by major media outlets and Erdoğan’s Justice and Development Party (AKP). …
The truth is that many Turkish voters supported Erdoğan, despite recognizing that corruption in his party has reached astronomical proportions and that economic mismanagement has led to triple-digit inflation and severe hardship. They supported him even in areas hardest hit by the earthquake, where AKP’s graft was a major factor in the staggering damage and loss of life. On the other hand, the election cannot be described as free and fair. Television and print media are under the almost complete control of Erdoğan and his allies. The leader of the Kurdish minority’s party has been in jail for several years, and the judiciary and much of the bureaucracy are no longer independent and consistently do Erdoğan’s bidding.
Erdoğan and AKP also use the state’s resources to sustain the formidable patronage network they created and to cater to key constituencies. Minimum-wage increases, pay raises to government employees, cheap credit from state banks to allied businesses, and pressure on companies to maintain employment, even in hard times, have cemented voter loyalties. Part of the reason why Erdoğan received so much support in earthquake zones is that he personally handed out cash, expanded government employment, and promised new houses to the victims. …
AKP and its allies in the bureaucracy do not have the expertise to shepherd the economy through these difficult times. Several economists and bureaucrats who were sympathetic to the party’s conservatism and were willing to work with it have been driven out of Erdoğan’s circle, in favor of yes-men.
Turkey’s election holds broader lessons. First, Erdoğan’s success is good news for other right-wing populists and strongmen, such as Narendra Modi in India and Donald Trump in the United States, who are likely to continue to use similar tactics and aggressive nationalist rhetoric to animate their base and deepen polarization. Second, Turkey’s experience in the coming months will reveal the economic consequences of this type of politics, who will pay the price, and how foreign and domestic capital will respond. With authoritarianism often associated with economic mismanagement, what happens in Turkey will not stay in Turkey.
Istanbul Gets Caught Between Housing Crunch and Earthquake Risk
(Bloomberg CityLab) Decades of bad building practices have left Istanbul with a vulnerable housing stock: Some 200,000 buildings could sustain at least moderate damage during a severe earthquake, according to experts. …millions of Istanbul residents have to potentially choose between endangering their lives or navigating the inflated housing market amid Turkey’s ongoing cost-of-living crisis, which emerged as a key voter issue in Sunday’s presidential election.
Turkey will hold a runoff election on May 28, with Erdogan in the lead
Turkey is set to hold a presidential runoff for the first time — which will be held in two weeks on May 28 — following a tight election on Sunday. Current President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan faced the strongest challenge to his 20-year rule, but remains popular among many voters. Erdoğan secured 49.5% of the vote, while his main challenger Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu won 44.9%, with nearly all ballots counted. Both sides agreed on Monday to accept the runoff.
Mark Leon Goldberg: Better Know Kemal Kilicdaroglu, the Politician Who May Oust Erdogan
…he’s someone who had a lot of strikes against him, but he’s been able, in the wake of the earthquakes, to be a very stoic figure — a very uniting, calming, reassuring figure who refuses to be defeated by identity politics.
He has really struck the right tone in his messaging — very authentic and genuine, not the firebrand populist stuff that you get from Erdogan.
…since the selection as head of the opposition, he’s been able to achieve some things that I think people didn’t expect. And one is to find some way to deal with some of the identity politics that the AKP, the ruling party, has been trying to use to split the opposition. On that, I mean, the Kurdish issue.
The fact is that Kiricdaroglu is an oddity. He comes from Dersim — he’s a Kurdish Alevi — which was a site of attacks against Alevis in the past. … Alevis tend to be quite leftist, quite progressive. Women and men worship together.
And then there will be those who say that it’s not really a religion at all, it’s much more of a cultural identity. One thing that I think is worth noting is that if you’re born as an Alevi or you’re coming from a region like Dersim, that is an identity that really sticks.
Erdogan’s moment of truth
(GZERO media) Perhaps no election in 2023 will have as much global impact as Turkey’s presidential and parliamentary votes, which begin this Sunday.
President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who has dominated Turkish politics for more than two decades, now faces the toughest test of his political career. That’s partly because millions of voters are feeling the pain of Turkey’s economic crisis, and partly because five opposition parties have united behind a single challenger: technocrat Kemal Kilicdaroglu. Neither man looks poised to surpass 50% of the vote, meaning there will likely be a head-to-head runoff on May 28.
From earthquakes to elections: Türkiye’s unforgettable anniversary
2023, the 100th anniversary of the Turkish Republic was meant to be an annus mirabilis, or wonderful year
By Chris Kilford, volunteer co-editor of Open Canada, has been covering events and issues in Türkiye since serving as Canada’s Defence Attaché to Turkey from 2011-2014
(Open Canada) Besides the recent earthquakes, Türkiye was already facing numerous other hardships including a serious economic crisis with the official inflation rate hovering at just over 85 percent late last year. Some economists suggested the real rate of inflation was much higher, even double the official rate. Inflation has since fallen but still sits at around 55 percent while the Turkish Lira (TL) continues to weaken against most major currencies. …
Russia’s most recent invasion of Ukraine has also placed strains on Türkiye’s economy and its relations with the West, especially when Ankara dallied on granting its approval for Finland and Sweden joining NATO, and before that purchased the Russian S-400 air defense system. The latter also resulted in Ankara’s removal from the prestigious F-35 fighter-jet program. And while Türkiye has since given the nod to Finland joining NATO, it refuses to budge on Sweden.
…back in 2010, the government had high hopes that by now Türkiye would be one of the top ten economies in the world, with a GDP of $2 trillion USD and an influential member of the European Union. However, the impact of the Arab Spring, which resulted in millions of Syrian refugees finding refuge in Türkiye, a failed military coup in 2016, the global pandemic, and a disastrous domestic interest rate policy, conspired to thwart many of Türkiye’s ambitions. The country’s GDP now stands at less than $1 trillion USD and Türkiye’s economy has slipped to 19th place globally. On the other hand, the country’s tourism goals are back on track, bolstered by just over 5 million Russian tourists who visited Türkiye last year.
… if the election is free, Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu has a very good chance of winning, although recent polling data suggests the outcome could be very tight. Indeed, voting is already underway for some three million Turkish citizens abroad who have until 9 May to cast their vote. By all accounts, they have been turning out in record numbers, no doubt recognizing that this election is one of the most pivotal in Türkiye’s history.
Challenger in Turkey presidential race offers sharp contrast
Opinion surveys give Kılıçdaroğlu, 74, a slight lead over Erdogan
(AP) — The main challenger trying to unseat Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in this month’s presidential election cuts a starkly different figure than the incumbent who has ruled the country for two decades.
Where Erdogan is a mesmerizing orator, the unassuming Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu is soft spoken. Erdogan is also a master campaigner who uses state resources and events to reach supporters while Kılıçdaroğlu talks to voters in videos recorded in his kitchen. As the polarizing Erdogan has grown increasingly authoritarian, Kılıçdaroğlu has built a reputation as a bridge builder and vows to restore democracy.
The contrasts are reflected in the two men’s political paths. Erdogan’s staying power has kept him in office first as prime minister then as president since 2003. Kılıçdaroğlu (pronounced KEH-lich-DAHR-OH-loo) has not won a general election since taking the helm of his secular, center-left Republican People’s Party, or CHP, in 2010.
What You Need to Know About Turkey’s Big Elections
(Global Dispatches) Turkey is holding major national elections on May 14, and for the first time in twenty years, President Erdogan is facing a serious challenge at the ballot box. Soaring inflation and fallout from the major earthquakes have reshaped Turkish politics. Meanwhile, opposition parties are unified around 74 year-old career politician Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, whose mild-mannered demeanor stands in stark contrast to Erdogan’s bombast and charisma.
So who is Kılıçdaroğlu? And how might these elections change Turkey’s approach to NATO, its role in the Ukraine conflict and its relationships in the Middle East? Joining me on the podcast to answer these questions and more is Dr. Lisel Hintz, Assistant Professor of International Relations at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies.
Erdogan cancels election rallies: Turkish president ‘resting at home’ after stomach bug
(France 24) Three weeks out in a tight Turkish election race and the incumbent’s having to hit pause. A stomach flu blamed for Recep Tayep Erdogan scrapping three campaign stops in the Anatolian heartland this Wednesday. On Tuesday evening, the 69-year old Erdogan had to interrupt a television interview for 30 minutes before returning to the set.
Erdogan health mystery
(GZERO media) … the Turkish strongman president abruptly cut short a TV interview on Tuesday with an apparent health problem. There’s no public footage of his side of it, but in the interview there’s audio of some muffled groaning and what sounds like a gastric sound. The interviewer stands up, alarmed. The interview ends. A day later, Erdoğan canceled several campaign rallies for health reasons. … Erdoğan is just weeks away from what looks like a difficult reelection bid. Any serious health troubles will not only limit his campaigning ability but could also raise questions about the 69-year-old leader’s fitness for office.
Foreign investors set sights on Turkey after elections
By Orhan Coskun
M&A deals fell by almost two-thirds to $5.3 billion last year
Concerns about unorthodox policy have unsettled investors
More normal policy expected whoever wins elections
(Reuters) – International investors are looking to increase investments in Turkey, notably in mergers and acquisitions, as they anticipate a shift to a more orthodox economic policy after May 14 elections, four government officials and analysts said.
Opinion polls show President Tayyip Erdogan facing the greatest electoral challenge of his two decades in power in the presidential and parliamentary votes after an inflation-driven cost of living crisis eroded his support in recent years.
What We’re Watching: Three ways to address inflation … with varying degrees of success
(GZero Daily) Turkey has long had a hyperinflation problem, but that doesn’t mean that its central bank has sought to raise interest rates to bring prices down. In fact, Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, whose unorthodox economic approach has been dubbed Erdonomics, has even sought to lower interest rates during inflationary times. Why?
Central to his approach is the belief that economic growth trumps all, including price stability. So Turkey’s central bank has been unwilling to raise interest rates to reverse hyperinflation, and Erdogan has even called himself an “enemy” of interest rates.
As the Turkish president explains it, keeping interest rates low – and static – stimulates demand, driving economic growth.
But that hasn’t panned out. Inflation in Turkey soared to a quarter-century high of 85% in October – largely due to roaring food and fuel prices. Crucially, analysts think the official number was closer to 186%, meaning prices would have almost tripled. As a result, the average Turk has far less disposable cash to inject into the economy. What’s more, Turkey has seen its currency, the lira, plummet a whopping 90% since 2008.
What do Turks think of the cost-of-living crunch? They will get to weigh in on May 14, when the country heads to the polls. Erdogan is facing a united opposition that has been pushing the message that he has wrecked the economy.
Turkey approves Finland’s NATO bid, clearing path for it to join alliance
(WaPo) Turkey’s parliament has voted to approve Finland’s NATO membership bid, paving the way for the Nordic country to join the security alliance.
The decision only applies to Finland, not Sweden, its neighbor and fellow NATO hopeful. Both countries applied on the same day last year, having made the decision to join the alliance after Russia invaded Ukraine.
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Thursday’s vote was the last hurdle in Finland’s quest to join the military organization. Its eventual accession would remake European security, doubling NATO’s land border with Russia and bringing the full force of the alliance to Europe’s far north.
Adam Roberts, The Economist newsletter
Some characters, in part because they have been around for so long, seem to loom extra large in international politics. One of those whom I’ll be watching closely in the coming weeks is Turkey’s president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan. After a couple of decades at, or near, the top of Turkish politics, might his days in office be numbered?
He presides over and mismanages an economy that looks ever more troubled—battered by inflation, deficits and a volatile currency. Voters are deeply unhappy with the way his government has responded to the earthquakes in February that killed at least 50,000 people. Rebuilding is likely to cost more than $100bn. Elections, meanwhile, are looming in May. The opposition parties, once fractured, are closing ranks around a unity candidate, Kemal Kilicdaroglu, who is ahead (just) in the polls.
What Mr Erdogan does in the six weeks or so before voting day will be decisive.
Ahead of a critical election Turkey’s economy is running on borrowed time
With the lira down 80%, Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s medicine isn’t working
It’s going to be hard to get rid of Turkey’s Erdoğan
Even if the unthinkable does happen and the Turkish president loses, will he relinquish power?
(Politico Eu) During his two decades in power, Erdoğan has reshaped Turkey with creeping Islamization and by weakening a parliamentary-based system, transforming it into a presidential one that amounts to virtual one-man rule. Turkey’s modern sultan has purged the courts, law enforcement agencies, civil service, intelligence agencies, the officer cadre of the armed forces, and the media, and he has stacked them with loyalists.
The Turkish president also took ample advantage of a failed military putsch to accelerate shaping the “Erdoğan system.” On his arrival at Istanbul’s Atatürk Airport after the amateurish 2016 coup, he vowed vengeance on the bungling plotters. “They will pay a heavy price for this,” he said. “This uprising is a gift from God to us.”
… Erdoğan’s grip over large swathes of Turkish media is fearsome. “The biggest media brands are controlled by companies and people close to Erdoğan and his AK Party, following a series of acquisitions starting in 2008,” a Reuters investigation concluded. Tight hierarchical editorial control is coordinated right from the top, with former academic Fahrettin Altun, head of the government’s Directorate of Communications, overseeing the instructions sent to newsrooms.
… “If Erdoğan senses defeat, no one should expect him to leave quietly,” reckoned [Sinan Ciddi, an associate professor of national security studies and author of the book “Kemalism in Turkish Politics.”]. “If defeat seems imminent, judges and elections officials loyal to Erdoğan may overturn the results, as they attempted to do by annulling Istanbul’s mayoral election results in 2019. Or he may even rely on the police and the armed forces. Indeed, he may not relinquish power after having lost an election,” he added.
As May inches closer, there’s a lot for the Turkish opposition and Turkey’s Western allies to worry about.
Key dates in Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s 20-year rule of Turkey
(AP) — Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who is seeking a third consecutive term in office in elections in May, marks 20 years in power on Tuesday.
The 69-year-old, who served as prime minister from 2003-2014 and as president thereafter, started as a reformist who expanded rights and freedoms, allowing his majority-Muslim country to start European Union membership negotiations.
He later reversed course, cracking down on dissent, stifling the media and passing measures that eroded democracy.
The presidential and parliamentary elections set for May 14 could be Erdogan’s most challenging yet. They will be held amid economic turmoil and high inflation, just three months after a devastating earthquake that killed tens of thousands.
Turkey’s ‘Gandhi’ sets his sights on strongman Erdoğan
The earthquake seems to have damaged the charismatic populist’s image. And voters may finally be ready for an uncharismatic man who promises to put things in order.
Gönül Tol, founding director of the Middle East Institute’s Turkey program, and author of “Erdoğan’s War: A Strongman’s Struggle at Home and in Syria.”
(Politico Eu) Turkey’s main opposition party leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu is everything President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan isn’t.
Nicknamed “Gandhi Kemal,” the soft-spoken and calm demeanor of the leader of the People’s Republican Party (CHP) stands in sharp contrast to Erdoğan’s bombast and brashness — a style that earned the sitting president the title of reis, or chief, among his admirers.
Kılıçdaroğlu wants to diffuse power and resuscitate Turkish democracy — a task the country’s opposition coalition officially gave him this week, naming him their presidential candidate in what many believe will be make-or-break elections in May.
Turkey’s six-party opposition alliance names Kilicdaroglu as presidential candidate
(Al Jazeera) Turkish opposition leader Kemal Kilicdaroglu has been named as the main challenger to President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in a landmark presidential and parliamentary vote, after days of wrangling by a six-party alliance over the nomination.
Kilicdaroglu, 74, could take advantage of years of economic crisis and soaring inflation, as well as last month’s devastating earthquakes in the south that killed more than 46,000 people and brought criticism of the state’s response.
Yet some doubt that the former economist who climbed the ranks as a corruption fighter can defeat Erdogan, Turkey’s longest-serving leader whose campaigning charisma has helped him win more than a dozen election victories.
Turkey’s opposition leader looks to emerge from Erdogan’s shadow
(Reuters) – Stuck in Tayyip Erdogan’s shadow throughout his career, Turkish opposition leader Kemal Kilicdaroglu believes his time may have come after suffering repeated election defeats and scorn from the man who has dominated politics for two decades.
Turkey’s opposition unsure on embracing pro-Kurdish party
– Opposition alliance named presidential candidate Monday
– Nationalist voters uneasy with open pro-Kurdish HDP support
– Erdogan expected to play up alleged HDP ties to militants
– HDP role requires “very fine balance”, bloc source says
(Reuters) – A call by Turkey’s pro-Kurdish party for talks with an opposition alliance on supporting its joint candidate to challenge President Tayyip Erdogan in May elections has caused unease among some nationalist elements of the diverse union.
Mithat Sancar, co-leader of the left-wing Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), parliament’s third biggest, made the appeal late on Monday.
Factbox: Turkey’s anti-Erdogan bloc vows to reverse his legacy
(Reuters) – Turkey’s opposition alliance has vowed to reverse many of President Tayyip Erdogan’s policies if elected in a vote expected May 14, and on Monday named Republican People’s Party (CHP) chair Kemal Kilicdaroglu as their presidential candidate.
The six-party Nation Alliance promises to return to a parliamentary democracy, roll back unorthodox economic policies and introduce a major shift in foreign policy.
Turkey is blocking NATO’s expansion. It could backfire and hand Putin a propaganda coup
CNN – NATO diplomats are split on whether they think Turkey will budge before the July summit. Central to both schools of thought is this year’s Turkish election, perceived as the biggest political threat Erdogan has faced in years.
“The image he has created of a strongman who gets results for the Turkish people has been shattered,” explains Gonul Tol of the Middle East Institute’s Turkey program. “There is a lot of anti-West and anti-Kurd sentiment in Turkey at the moment. This is a good topic for him to bang his drum and a dramatic U-turn would only make him look weaker.”
Tol believes there are other reasons that Erdogan doesn’t want to upset Russia’s President Vladimir Putin.
“Russia has been a lifeline economically for Turkey after other nations imposed sanctions for their activities in Syria, their cooperation militarily with Russia and other hostile activity,” Tol explains. “Without Russian money, Erdogan would not have been able to raise wages or provide financial support to students. He is now promising mass rebuilding, post-earthquake. So Russia is still an attractive partner for Erdogan.”
Like many Western officials, Tol believes the Turkish claims about Sweden and Finland harboring terrorists provide perfect cover for Erdogan not to engage at a politically inconvenient time on the NATO question.
Death toll rises after fresh earthquake hits Turkey-Syria border
By Ali Kucukgocmen and Henriette Chacar
Quake came as rescue work winds down in Turkey
(Reuters) – Six people were killed in an earthquake which struck the border region of Turkey and Syria, CNN Turk reported on Tuesday, two weeks after a larger quake killed more than 47,000 people and damaged or destroyed hundreds of thousands of homes.
Monday’s quake, this time with a magnitude of 6.4, was centred near the southern Turkish city of Antakya and was felt in Syria, Egypt and Lebanon. It struck at a depth of 10 km (6.2 miles), the European Mediterranean Seismological Centre (EMSC) said.
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on a visit to Turkey on Monday that Washington would help “for as long as it takes” as rescue operations in the wake of the Feb. 6 earthquake and its aftershocks wound down, and the focus turned to toward shelter and reconstruction work.
The death toll from the quakes two weeks ago rose to 41,156 in Turkey, AFAD said on Monday, and it was expected to climb further, with 385,000 apartments known to have been destroyed or seriously damaged and many people still missing.
President Tayyip Erdogan said construction work on nearly 200,000 apartments in 11 earthquake-hit provinces of Turkey would begin next month.
Turkey earthquake: Rescue effort ends in all but two areas
(BBC) Turkey has ended rescue efforts in all but two provinces, almost two weeks after a massive earthquake killed tens of thousands of people, the country’s disaster agency said.
Searches will continue in Kahramanmaras and Hatay, the agency’s chief said. However, hopes of finding anyone else alive in the rubble are fading fast.
Meanwhile, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken has arrived in Turkey and announced $100m (£83m) in humanitarian aid.
The epicentre of the 7.8-magnitude earthquake on 6 February was in Kahramanmaras. More than 44,000 people are confirmed to have lost their lives in south-eastern Turkey and northern Syria.
The death toll is expected to climb, with about 345,000 apartments in Turkey known to have been destroyed and many people still missing. Neither Turkey nor Syria have said how many people are still unaccounted for.
Rescue workers pulled at least three people from the rubble on Friday, more than 11 days after they were trapped when the earthquake hit.
Don’t let Erdogan use the earthquake to postpone Turkey’s election
By Henry Olsen
(WaPo) In Turkey’s most recent elections, the opposition captured the mayoralties of its two largest cities, Istanbul and Ankara. Polls taken before the earthquakes showed Erdogan and his party behind because of the country’s record-high inflation. Erdogan and the AKP had been gaining on the heels of his attempts to mediate the Russia-Ukraine conflict, but the opposition was still slightly favored to prevail.
The earthquakes could significantly harm Erdogan’s chances of retaining power. Observers generally acknowledge that the government botched its initial response, perhaps adding to the death toll. The fact that Erdogan reorganized the nation’s disaster preparedness agency and placed AKP cronies in charge makes him even more politically vulnerable. He has tried to shift blame by arresting developers and others alleged to have constructed flimsy buildings in the afflicted region in violation of the law. That might not be enough to stem public anger.
Political geography also bodes poorly for Erdogan. The earthquakes largely occurred in regions where Erdogan won between 63 and 74 percent of the vote in the 2018 election.
Death toll in Turkey and Syria earthquake tops 41,000 as UN says rescue phase is coming to a close
(CNBC) “The needs are huge, increasing by the hour,” said Hans Henri P. Kluge, the World Health Organization’s director for Europe. “Some 26 million people across both countries need humanitarian assistance.”
“There are also growing concerns over emerging health issues linked to the cold weather, hygiene and sanitation, and the spread of infectious diseases – with vulnerable people especially at risk.”
Post-earthquake disaster diplomacy can help repair US-Turkey ties
(Atlantic Council) Turkey is reeling from the destruction left behind by the strongest earthquake to hit the country since 1939. The numbers of the dead and injured—which continue to rise in both Turkey and neighboring Syria to more than thirty-five thousand at last count—are shocking and difficult to comprehend. It’s harder still to imagine on a human level the manner in which people’s lives and livelihoods were erased overnight, while apartment blocks and indeed entire neighborhoods crumbled. This disaster requires global help and solidarity and, so far, the international community’s response has been inspiring.
US President Joe Biden swiftly expressed condolences to Turkey and promised aid coordinated through United States Agency for International Development’s (USAID) Disaster Assistance Response Team. This was, of course, the right thing to do. It is also the smart thing to do. Amid the horrific scenes of devastation emerging from the regions hit by the earthquakes, sensitive and sensible disaster diplomacy can open new pathways for dialogue and create fresh goodwill for the United States in its otherwise troubled relations with Turkey.
Gwynne Dyer: Blame Erdogan, not ‘destiny,’ for the earthquake devastation in Turkey
Turkey, like most earthquake zones, has strong regulations on building safety. However, it also has “construction amnesties,” which register and legalize buildings that are put up without planning permissions and ignore fire and seismic codes. So build whatever you want, and wait for Erdogan’s next amnesty to report it. …
Turkey is still a democracy, despite having been run by a ruthless populist strongman for 20 years. Thousands are jailed for political reasons, the media work for the boss, corruption and oppression are everywhere — but the voting system is still relatively intact. Erdogan could lose, and he knows it.
So he will want to make a great show of summoning help from his rich friends abroad for the immense task of rebuilding the region devastated by the earthquakes. His problem is that he no longer has any rich friends abroad.
Russia certainly can’t afford to bail him out, nor can Iran. The rich Arab regimes don’t trust him because they see him as an Islamist, and China is not splashing the cash around to buy influence overseas any more. Turkey’s Western allies in the NATO alliance have the money, but Erdogan has alienated them with his games too.
To get the reconstruction aid he needs, he would have to lift his veto on Sweden and Finland joining NATO, stop selling drones to Russia, stop threatening NATO ally Greece with a Turkish attack, and a good deal more. That might be too much for him to swallow — or he might swallow it and still lose the election.
GZERO: Ankara searches for someone to blame
As the search and rescue effort in Turkey and Syria becomes increasingly disheartening a week after a deadly 7.8-magnitude earthquake hit the region, the central government in Ankara has turned to recriminations, issuing 113 arrest warrants for people suspected of being responsible for the thousands of collapsed buildings. Engineers and building contractors are among those who have been given detention orders (though only 12 have so far been taken into custody) after 170,000 buildings collapsed or were badly damaged. President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, however, has sent mixed messages on liability: After first saying that “such things have always happened” in quake-prone Turkey, he has also pushed for more arrests. Some analysts suggest that – ahead of a tough reelection battle in May – Erdogan is trying to divert blame for failing to enforce building regulations and refusing to account for the billions of dollars raised under an earthquake tax implemented after the devastating İzmit quake in 1999. Authorities say that the security situation is also deteriorating in southern Turkey, where lootings and clashes between rival groups are rife. Still, amid the devastation there is a very small silver lining: The border crossing between Turkey and Armenia opened Saturday for the first time in more than three decades to allow aid through.
Contractors arrested as they try to flee Turkey after earthquakes
The combined death toll in Turkey and Syria from the earthquakes rose to 36,000 on Monday, and could go as high as 50,000, the UN warned
Family rescued after 133 hours as quake death toll tops 25,000
(AP/CTV) Dramatic rescues were being broadcast on Turkish television, including the rescue of the Narli family in central Kahramanmaras 133 hours after the 7.8-magnitude temblor struck Monday. First, 12-year-old Nehir Naz Narli was saved, then both of her parents.
How Corruption and Misrule Made Turkey’s Earthquake Deadlier
While Erdogan and his cronies’ disregard for safety regulations makes disasters more common, the government’s slow and inadequate response makes them more lethal.
(Foreign Policy) It wasn’t just loved ones who were buried under the rubble but also the promises of good governance, a corruption-free country, and a state that is responsive to the needs of its people.
Erdogan has centralized power in his own hands. To do that, he hollowed out state institutions, placed loyalists in key positions, wiped out most civil society organizations, and enriched his cronies to create a small circle of loyalists around him. The culmination of all those things paved the way for the tragedy that struck my country on Monday.
The sheer magnitude of the quake made it deadly, but academic research shows that earthquakes kill more people in countries affected by widespread corruption. The Turkish economy under Erdogan rode high on the back of a construction boom. He enriched a small circle of close associates from the construction sector by awarding them infrastructure projects without competitive tenders or proper regulatory oversight.
Hope for more survivors fades as Turkey-Syria earthquake toll passes 20,000
(Reuters) A Turkish official said the disaster posed “very serious difficulties” for the holding of an election scheduled for May 14 in which President Tayyip Erdogan has been expected to face his toughest challenge in two decades in power.
One official told Reuters it was too early to make any decision on elections, noting that a three-month state of emergency had been announced and that some 15% of Turkey’s population lived in the affected area.
‘What happens, happens’: how Erdoğan’s earthquake response tarnished his brand
President has done little to quell public anger over relief efforts that some say came too little, too late to save loved ones
When he did stop to speak briefly to the area’s shattered and distraught residents, it was to double down on the notion that the quake was solely responsible for the devastation, rather than poorly constructed buildings linked to corruption, or a rescue response beset by delays.
No aid in NW Syria, ‘only dead bodies coming through’: Rescuers
Rescuers are racing against time to save thousands of people believed to be buried under rubble in Turkey and Syria.
(Al Jazeera) The Syrian Civil Defence, leading efforts to rescue people buried under rubble in rebel-held areas of earthquake-hit Syria, says it has not received any aid so far.
The death toll from the earthquake that struck Turkey and Syria on Monday has risen to more than 12,000.
Turkey is working on opening two more border gates with Syria to enable the flow of humanitarian aid to its earthquake-hit neighbour, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu says.
The Bab al-Hawa border gate is the only one open for humanitarian aid under United Nations Security Council authorisation, but Cavusoglu told reporters that damage to the Syrian road leading away from the border crossing is hampering the quake response.
“There are some difficulties in terms of Turkey’s and the international community’s aid [reaching Syria],” the foreign minister said. “For this reason, efforts are being made to open two more border gates.”
How Turkey’s Erdoğan responds to quake could impact his reelection chances
(GZERO) While offers of international aid pour in and rescue teams work around the clock to find survivors, one person wants to be seen as being firmly in command and on top of the recovery effort in Turkey: President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.
After all, it’s an election year with very high stakes for him. Ahead of the May 14 presidential vote, Erdoğan’s reelection bid remains too close to call in the polls as he faces the biggest challenge to his leadership since he came to power 20 years ago, first as PM and later as president.
What’s more, failing to rise to the moment amid a large-scale natural disaster can be a political death knell in Turkey.
… Turkey’s leader will also step up his diplomatic game. Somewhat out of character for the famously pugnacious Erdoğan, it’s unlikely he will now want to pick even more fights with Sweden over its already stalled NATO bid, with eternal rival Greece over maritime sovereignty in the eastern Mediterranean, or with Kurdish militants over, well, being Kurdish militants.
UPDATE Death toll from massive Turkey-Syria earthquakes soars over 7,000
(CBS) Tens of thousands of people were injured in the two nations and an untold number left homeless in harsh winter conditions.
The death toll from Monday’s devastating earthquakes and more than 300 aftershocks in southeast Turkey and northern Syria soared over 6,000 Tuesday, authorities said, as crews raced to try to find survivors in the rubble of thousands of collapsed buildings. … Nations from around the world began pouring aid material and rescue teams into the region. Oktay said rescue teams from 14 countries were already in Turkey and teams from 70 more nations were expected as the day progressed.
Rescuers scramble in Turkey, Syria after quake kills 4,000
(AP) — Rescuers in Turkey and war-ravaged Syria searched through the frigid night into Tuesday, hoping to pull more survivors from the rubble after a 7.8 magnitude earthquake killed more than 4,000 people and toppled thousands of buildings across a wide region.
Authorities feared the death toll from Monday’s pre-dawn earthquake and aftershocks would keep climbing as rescuers looked for survivors among tangles of metal and concrete spread across the region beset by Syria’s 12-year civil war and refugee crisis.
… Seismic activity continued to rattle the region, including another jolt nearly as powerful as the initial quake. The quake, which was centered in Turkey’s southeastern province of Kahramanmaras, sent residents of Damascus and Beirut rushing into the street and was felt as far away as Cairo.
Erdogan says Turkey may accept Finland in NATO, but block Sweden
Turkey and Hungary are the only members of the 30-nation alliance yet to approve the Nordic nations’ application.
Erdogan was speaking just days after Ankara suspended NATO accession talks with the two countries after a protest in Stockholm in which a far-right politician burned a copy of the Quran.
Burning of Qur’an in Stockholm funded by journalist with Kremlin ties
Permit for demonstration at which anti-Islam provocateur burned Muslim holy book was paid for by far-right journalist linked to Moscow-backed media
The holy book was set alight last Saturday near Turkey’s embassy in Stockholm by a far-right politician and anti-Islam provocateur, Rasmus Paludan, a dual Danish-Swedish national, with a reputation for carrying out similar acts.
Swedish media have reported that Paludan’s demonstration permit of 320 Swedish krona (£25, $31) was paid for by a former contributor to the Kremlin-backed channel RT, Chang Frick, who now does regular media spots for the far-right Sweden Democrats. Frick has confirmed he paid for the permit to hold the protest, but denied he had asked anyone to burn the Muslim holy book.
What Turkey really wants from Sweden
By Rich Outzen
Turkish elections loom large in the current impasse. PKK supporters say they are using protests to “sabotage” NATO enlargement, prevent Turco-Swedish rapprochement, and damage Erdoğan politically prior to the elections. This political warfare is supplemented by Erdoğan opponents in the West, who dismiss Turkish security concerns and amplify narratives that Turkey does not belong in NATO anyway. Only after the election—whether Erdoğan or the opposition wins—are consultations and progress likely to resume.
(Atlantic Council) Turkey continues to favor NATO enlargement—for Ukraine and Georgia as well as Finland and ultimately Sweden—but needs more concrete action on Syria, as well as on anti-Turkish activity within Sweden. Given the atmosphere in Turkey and Sweden created by the recent provocations, further tripartite meetings have been placed on hold. Yet Erdoğan indicated after a late January Turkish National Security Council meeting that progress remains possible, pending steps toward Swedish and Finnish fulfillment of the memorandum. Turkey seems intent on keeping up the pressure to get satisfaction on key concerns, without entirely derailing the process.
Ultimately, aspiring members have to take Ankara’s security demands seriously, and Ankara has a strategic obligation to strengthen and build out the Atlantic alliance. Frustration is evident on both sides at present. The strongest grounds for confidence may be that Ankara truly does benefit from a bigger and stronger NATO, given its many complicated bilateral relations with Western countries and disappointments with stalled European Union accession. Turkey’s critical role in a large, strong NATO is its strongest strategic guarantee. That is why Ankara will opt in the end to approve enlargement, albeit on terms that meet its security red lines.
Why Erdogan’s Reelection Bid in Turkey Isn’t a Sure Bet
By Selcan Hacaoglu
(Bloomberg) Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who wields almost unbridled power in Turkey, is seeking another term as president in elections likely to come in May. With the country facing an economic crisis, polls suggest a tight race that could threaten his 20-year rule, the longest in Turkey’s history. Even before a date’s been set, it’s become a rancorous contest. Electoral rules have been rewritten to give Erdogan and his party an edge. And critics say he’s leaning on the courts to disqualify strong competitors and that he’s violating the constitution by running again.
What’s the main election issue?
Erdogan, who will turn 69 on Feb. 26, faces a vote over his increasingly authoritarian leadership after effectively shifting Turkey to an executive presidency with sweeping powers in 2018. Turkey’s opposition parties rarely coordinate strategy, but this time Erdogan faces a serious challenge from a six-party opposition bloc, which includes ex-allies who helped build his political empire. The vote comes as the nation is contending with the worst cost-of-living crisis in two decades. Though Erdogan remains Turkey’s most popular politician, his Justice and Development Party has lost support among the poor, who’ve typically been among its most stalwart backers. Leaders of the opposition bloc promise to run the country through consensus. Erdogan attacks their plan as a recipe for a return to the bickering within coalition governments that produced decades of political and economic instability before he rose to power.
The six-party alliance has yet to declare its candidate for the presidency. Kemal Kilicdaroglu, the leader of its biggest party, has put himself forward. In local elections in 2019, Kilicdaroglu led his Republican People’s Party to victory against Erdogan’s party in Turkey’s largest cities. He’s not as popular as the party’s Ekrem Imamoglu, the mayor of Istanbul. But in December, Imamoglu was convicted of insulting election officials and his prison sentence of two years and seven months, if upheld on appeal, will ban him from politics. Critics accuse Erdogan of influencing the judiciary to prevent rivals such as Imamoglu from running, an allegation the government has denied.
Erdoğan says Turkey won’t support Sweden’s NATO bid
‘That’s not happening,’ the Turkish president said of Sweden’s NATO bid following protests in Stockholm where a Quran was burned.
Sweden’s NATO bid in trouble after Quran-burning protest
(GZERO Signal) Sweden is scrambling to contain the political fallout from Saturday’s far-right, Quran-burning protest outside the Turkish embassy in Stockholm, which triggered rallies near the Swedish consulate in Istanbul. Because the Swedish government had given the go-ahead for the demonstration, Turkey had already canceled planned bilateral talks about Sweden’s NATO bid before the rally. Now, Ankara is condemning the burning of the holy book for Muslims as an Islamophobic hate crime. The incident gives President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan fodder for whipping up nationalist sentiment in Turkey ahead of the country’s general election in May or June, as well as extra leverage over other NATO members, all of whom are hoping Ankara relents. The Turks have been using the joint bid by Finland and Sweden to join NATO — which requires unanimous approval — to force the two countries to tighten laws that allow Turkish and Kurdish dissidents to go there. Erdogan is now expected to further delay his consent — perhaps until after the election.
Turkey condemns burning of Qur’an during far-right protest in Sweden
Event in front of Turkish embassy will further inflame tensions between two countries
Turkey pushes back vote on Sweden and Finland’s Nato accession
Ratification will have to wait at least until after elections in May or June, says senior official
Turkey could be on the brink of dictatorship
President Erdogan could tip his country over the edge
(The Economist) Turkey has NATO’s second-biggest armed forces. It plays a crucial role in a turbulent neighbourhood, especially in war-scorched Syria. It exerts growing influence in the western Balkans, in the eastern Mediterranean and more recently in Africa. Above all, it is important in the Black Sea and in Russia’s war in Ukraine; last year it helped broker a deal to let more Ukrainian grain be shipped to a hungry world.
So outsiders should pay attention to Turkey’s presidential and parliamentary elections, which Recep Tayyip Erdogan suggested this week will be held on May 14th. All the more so since, under its increasingly erratic president, the country is on the brink of disaster. Mr Erdogan’s behaviour as the election approaches could push what is today a deeply flawed democracy over the edge into a full-blown dictatorship.
Turkey urges Biden administration to be ‘decisive’ over F-16 deal as Congress objects
Turkish foreign minister in Washington in first official visit
Ankara wants to buy F-16 fighter jets, Congress not supportive
Sweden and Finland’s NATO bid, Syria top the agenda
(Reuters) Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu told reporters in Washington he had told U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken that Turkey dropping its objections to Sweden and Finland joining NATO should not be a precondition for the F-16 sale.
The Biden administration has expressed its support for the sale of the jets to Turkey, despite opposition from Congress over Ankara’s problematic human rights record and Syria policy, as it seeks to keep NATO unity in the face of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Recently, Ankara’s refusal to ratify the NATO membership of Sweden and Finland has become more central to Congress’ opposition.
In the Global Resistance to Autocracy, Turkey’s Boğaziçi University Faculty Deserves Pride of Place
(Just Security) The faculty at Boğaziçi has earned a rightful place in the fellowship of those standing for democratic governance, cultural pluralism, tolerance, primacy of merit over loyalty, scholarship over dogma. They deserve recognition beyond the few liberal media outlets in Turkey and the academic world. If they lose their fight, it would bring Turkey another giant step closer to the camp of the autocrats.
For the upcoming elections, Erdoğan relies on other like-minded rulers to ensure an outcome in his favor. The financial assistance he receives from what he terms as “friendly” countries, including Azerbaijan, China, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, and Russia, help him sustain his spending largesse to win votes. Among this cohort of autocrats, Erdoğan’s close relations with Putin stand out despite his professed claim to be keeping a “balanced approach” to Russia’s war against Ukraine. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, in his address to the joint session of the U. S. Congress on Dec. 21, drew a parallel between Ukraine’s defense against Russia and the defense of democracy against autocracy. Indeed, Ukraine’s struggle can be seen as occupying one extreme — in its intensity and blood sacrifice — of a wide spectrum of battles; varying in degree, method, or immediate objectives, but they are fought for the same common idea of upholding the rule of law and democratic values against the onslaught of authoritarianism.
Sweden, Finland must send up to 130 “terrorists” to Turkey for NATO bid
(Reuters) – Sweden and Finland must deport or extradite up to 130 “terrorists” to Turkey before the Turkish parliament will approve their bids to join NATO, President Tayyip Erdogan said.
Turkey has said Sweden in particular must first take a clearer stance against what it sees as terrorists, mainly Kurdish militants and a group it blames for a 2016 coup attempt.
Swedish Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson said the protest was an act of sabotage against his country’s Nato application, and dangerous for Sweden’s national security. … But a member of the pro-Kurdish group behind the stunt told Swedish newspaper Dagens Nyheter that the activists were trying to stand up for Swedish democracy – which was being “sabotaged” by Mr Kristersson.
Who are ‘terrorists’ Turkey wants from Sweden and Finland?
(BBC) President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Sweden had promised to extradite 73 “terrorists” and had already sent three or four of them. Pro-government Turkish daily Hurriyet published a list of 45 people, including 33 sought from Sweden and 12 from Finland.
Barriers to extradition
Legal requirements in Sweden and Finland make it very hard for Turkey to extradite the kind of numbers it wants:
An independent court has the final say on extradition – not politicians
Citizens of neither Sweden nor Finland can be extradited
Foreign nationals can be extradited – but only if in line with the European Convention on Extradition
Extradition is not allowed for political crimes or to countries where people risk persecution
Alleged offences must be seen as a crime in Sweden or Finland.
According to Swedish newspaper Dagens Nyheter, of the 33 Swedish names listed in Turkish media, 19 have already been rejected for extradition by Stockholm’s Supreme Court.
“We cannot go through earlier cases that have already been processed,” said Chief Justice Anders Eka. (5 July 2022)
Hanged Erdogan effigy protest in Sweden angers Turkey
(BBC) Images of the hanged effigy of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan near Stockholm City Hall were published on Wednesday by a pro-Kurdish group called the Swedish Solidarity Committee for Rojava. …
Turkey’s Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu blamed the stunt on the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and the Syrian Kurdish YPG militia – both of which Ankara calls terror groups.
Erdoğan plots war, crackdown to save his skin
The Turkish leader is using every trick in the autocrat’s book to snatch reelection.
(Politico Eu) Having crashed the Turkish economy and impoverished the middle class that he himself had enriched, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan is now dragging his country toward an unnecessary war and manipulating the courts against his rivals.
Despite opposition from both Washington and Moscow, Erdoğan has trumpeted preparations to send tanks into Syria, looking to dislodge Kurdish militias allied with the West in the fight against Islamic State militants, but that Ankara sees as linked to outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) guerrillas. He seems determined to complete a buffer zone on the other side of Turkey’s southern border.
Meanwhile, the Turkish president is also threatening to strike NATO ally Greece amid manufactured disputes over gas drilling, Cyprus, and the alleged “militarization” of Greek islands in the Aegean Sea — although the international economic and political cost of any such action makes it highly improbable.
It’s a ruthless drive by Erdoğan to cling to power in 2023 — the centenary of the Turkish Republic — and let’s hope he fails.
According to the polls, Erdoğan — who has ruled with an increasingly autocratic hand after amending the constitution to create a made-to-measure presidential system — is in serious political trouble, with the AKP barely receiving 30 percent support.
Of course, his response has been characteristically brutal on both the domestic and international fronts.