Saudi’s: Turkey’s Seasonally Adjusted Jobless Rate Hits Highest on Record

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE SAUDI NEWS AGENCY ASHARQ AL-AWSAT)

 

Turkey’s Seasonally Adjusted Jobless Rate Hits Highest on Record

Thursday, 15 August, 2019 – 11:15
Vendors sell dry food near the New Mosque area in Istanbul’s Eminonu district. (AFP)
Asharq Al-Awsat
Turkey’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate climbed to its highest level on record, statistical data showed on Thursday, despite a slight fall in the April-June headline figures.

The seasonally adjusted rate hit 14.0%, according to Turkish Statistical Institute figures, reflecting Turkey’s slide into recession after a currency crisis last year saw the lira lose nearly 30% of its value against the dollar.

The rate is the highest recorded in the statistical institute’s data going back to 2005, said Reuters.

In the April-June period, when Turkey’s tourism and agriculture industries create temporary jobs, the headline jobless rate eased to 12.8%, down from a 10-year high of 14.7% in December-February. In the March-May period it stood at 13%.

Year-on-year, unemployment was up 3.1 percentage points in the April-June period, the data showed.

Enver Erkan, economist at GCM Investment, said he expects unemployment to rise again after July, when the effects of temporary tourism employment wear off.

“We will see the unadjusted unemployment rate rise towards 14% by the end of the year. Economic growth is important for a fall in unemployment independent of seasonal factors,” he said.

“We will probably see positive growth in the fourth quarter but this will not be enough to end the full year with growth.”

The non-agricultural unemployment rate was unchanged from a month earlier at 15%, the data showed.

Turkey Continues to Escalate in Eastern Mediterranean

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE SAUDI NEWS AGENCY ASHARQ AL-AWSAT)

 

Turkey Continues to Escalate in Eastern Mediterranean

Monday, 12 August, 2019 – 09:45
Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar addresses a meeting of his country’s ambassadors, in Ankara, Turkey, Wednesday, Aug. 7, 2019. (Turkish Defence Ministry via AP, Pool)
Ankara – Said Abdelrazek
Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar reiterated the country’s keenness on its rights and those of the people of the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC) in the wealth of the Eastern Mediterranean.

“We have defended the rights of our own, and the people of TRNC to the end and will continue to defend. Nobody should test our strength,” Akar said during his visit to the frigate accompanying the Turkish drilling vessel Yavuz.

“We won’t turn a blind eye to a fait accompli in Cyprus, the Eastern Mediterranean, and the Aegean… We won’t let any decision against our rights over this issue to be taken in any way,” Turkey’s defense minister affirmed.

Fatih and Yavuz vessels continue their tasks in the Mediterranean Sea near Cyprus.

“We are in favor of peace and good neighborhood in the Aegean, Eastern Mediterranean, and Cyprus. We are sincere and we stand behind our words,” said Akar.

“When we say ‘peace’ they perceive our statement as a weakness. When we say ‘we will get what is our right when necessary’ they perceive it as a threat,” he said adding that Turkey’s neighbors need to look at the situation objectively.

“To date, we have fulfilled our responsibilities in the scope of guarantee and alliance agreements and we are determined to do so. To continue this, the existence of the Turkish Armed Forces on the island is a must, and everyone should know that.”

Turkey will dispatch a third drilling vessel to the Eastern Mediterranean end of August, stated Turkey’s Energy and Natural Resources Minister Fatih Donmez.

Moreover, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres welcomed a proposal by President of Northern Cyprus Mustafa Akinci on the administration of hydrocarbon resources. Guterres said in a letter on Saturday to Akinci that all moves to ease tensions are welcomed.

On July 13, Akinci offered the Greek Cypriot side to set up a joint committee on hydrocarbon resources in the Eastern Mediterranean.

Saudis: US Says Will Prevent Turkish Incursion against Kurds in Syria

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE SAUDI NEWS AGENCY ASHARQ AL-AWSAT)

 

US Says Will Prevent Turkish Incursion against Kurds in Syria

Tuesday, 6 August, 2019 – 09:45
US Defense Secretary Mark Esper. (Reuters)
Asharq Al-Awsat
US Defense Secretary Mark Esper warned Turkey on Tuesday that Washington would prevent unilateral incursions into northern Syria against Kurdish forces.

On Sunday, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Turkey, which already has a foothold in northwest Syria, will carry out a military operation in a Kurdish-controlled area east of the Euphrates in northern Syria.

“Clearly we believe any unilateral action by them (Turkey) would be unacceptable,” Esper told reporters traveling with him to Japan.

“What we’re going to do is prevent unilateral incursions that would upset, again, these mutual interests… the United States, Turkey and the SDF share with regard to northern Syria,” Esper said.

The SDF stands for the Syrian Democratic Forces. With US backing, the SDF, which includes the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG), have taken control over the last four years of much of northeastern Syria from ISIS. Ankara sees the YPG as a terrorist organization.

Esper said the United States did not have any “ambition” to abandon the SDF, but stopped short of guaranteeing that the United States would protect them in case of a Turkish operation.

He said the US is trying to work out an arrangement that addresses Turkey’s concerns, adding: “I’m hopeful we’ll get there.”

He did not provide details on where progress is being made.

A team from the Pentagon was in Turkey to speak with Turkish officials about the issue.

Esper suggested that a Turkish operation into northern Syria could affect the SDF’s focus on ensuring ISIS did not retake the territory it once held in Syria and the ability of the US-backed forces to hold the thousands of alleged ISIS fighters in detention.

Esper said the US will not abandon its SDF allies.

The Turkish-led campaign, which has for months been delayed due to resistance from Washington, is aimed at evicting YPG forces from a string of border town in Raqqa and Hasaka provinces.

Ankara has accused Washington of stalling progress on setting up a safe zone inside Syria’s northeastern border with Turkey that would be cleared of the YPG.

This week, Erdogan said both Russia and the United States had been told of the planned operation, but did not say when it would begin. It would mark the third Turkish incursion into Syria in as many years.

Hundreds of US troops are stationed east of the Euphrates River in northern Syria working with the SDF, and an incursion by Turkey could put them in the middle of any firefight between Turkish and Kurdish forces.

Turkey and the US have been negotiating for months over the establishment of a safe zone along the Syrian border that would extend east of the Euphrates to Iraq.

Turkey wants to establish a 25-mile-deep zone. But so far the two sides have failed to reach an agreement.

Ties between the two NATO allies have been strained over a host of issues, including the United States’ removal of Turkey from the F-35 fighter jet program after Ankara bought and took delivery of Russian S-400 missile defenses that Washington sees as a threat.

Turkey: 6,000 Unregistered Migrants Arrested in Istanbul

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE SAUDI NEWS AGENCY ASHARQ AL-AWSAT)

 

6,000 Unregistered Migrants Arrested in Istanbul

Wednesday, 24 July, 2019 – 09:45
FILE PHOTO: Migrants in a dinghy paddle their way on the Mediterranean Sea to attempt crossing to the Greek island of Kos, as a Turkish Coast Guard ship patrols off the shores off Bodrum, Turkey, September 19, 2015. REUTERS/Umit Bektas/File Photo
Asharq Al-Awsat
A crackdown on unregistered migrants in Istanbul has seen 6,000 arrests, including Afghans and Syrians, in the past two weeks, Turkey’s interior minister said Wednesday.

“We have been carrying out an operation since July 12… We have caught 6,122 people in Istanbul, including 2,600 Afghans,” Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu told TV station NTV.

He said Syrians were part of the group, without giving numbers.

There has been concern in recent days over reports that hundreds of Syrian refugees have been sent back to Syria, after being forced to sign consent forms in Turkish that they do not understand.

Soylu denied the claims.

“When we catch Syrians who are not registered, we send them to refugee camps,” he said, citing a camp in the Turkish border province of Hatay.

However, Agence France Presse quoted him as saying that some Syrians were choosing to go back to their home country “voluntarily” to areas where fighting has abated.

Turkey has more than 3.5 million Syrian refugees — the highest number in the world.

Most have “temporary protection” permits but these restrict them to the province in which they were registered. The current crackdown is aimed at those who live in Istanbul without a permit to stay in the city.

A coalition of Syrian NGOs said Monday that more than 600 Syrians — mostly with protection permits issued in other provinces — were arrested in Istanbul last week and deported back to Syria, rather than to their assigned provinces.

A survey published this month by Kadir Has University in Istanbul showed growing hostility towards Syrians, rising from 54.5 percent of respondents in 2017 to 67.7 percent in 2019.

China: Turkey blocked from F-35 program for accepting Russian S-400

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF SHANGHAI CHINA’S ‘SHINE’ NEWS NETWORK)

 

Turkey blocked from F-35 program for accepting Russian S-400: White House

Xinhua
Turkey blocked from F-35 program for accepting Russian S-400: White House

AFP

In this file photo taken on June 12, 2019, an F-35 fighter plane flies over the White House in Washington DC.

The White House confirmed on Wednesday that Turkey’s purchase of Russian S-400 air defense systems has led to the termination of Ankara’s involvement with the F-35 program.

“Turkey’s decision to purchase Russian S-400 air defense systems renders its continued involvement with the F-35 impossible,” the White House said in a statement.

The statement noted the F-35 jets cannot coexist with S-400 systems, arguing that its intelligence collection platform would be used to learn about the advanced capabilities of F-35 stealth fighters.

“Much of the F-35’s strength lies in its stealth capabilities. So, the ability to detect those capabilities would jeopardize the long-term security of the F-35 program,” Undersecretary of Defense for Acquisition and Sustainment Ellen Lord told the media at the Pentagon later on Wednesday.

The US and other F-35 partners are aligned in this decision to suspend Turkey from the program and initiate the process to formally remove Turkey from the program, Lord said.

Turkey suppliers, which provide over 900 parts for F-35, would no longer receive US$9 billion in projected work share over the life of the program, according to Pentagon.

“Turkey will certainly and regrettably lose jobs and future economic opportunities from this decision,” Lord added.

Turkey has ordered over 100 F-35 fighter jets, and a handful of them had been scheduled to transport to Turkey in the coming months. The arrangement of those F-35 was still under discussion, according to Lord.

Ankara’s acceptance of the S-400 not only has detrimental impacts on Turkish interoperability with the NATO alliance but also undermines the commitments all NATO allies made to each other to move away from Russian systems, the White House said.

The Trump administration, at the same time, sought to reduce the repercussion for the bilateral relations.

Washington still greatly values the strategic relationship with Turkey, the statement added, saying US-Turkey military-to-military relationship is strong and the two allies would continue to cooperate extensively.

The United States has been actively working with Turkey to provide air defense solutions to meet its legitimate air defense needs, said the statement.

The statement, however, made no mention of possible sanctions against Turkey as required by law under the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act.

Pentagon officials also deferred all questions about possible sanctions to the Department of State.

In December 2017, Ankara and Moscow signed a US$2.5 billion agreement for two batteries of the S-400 system. Turkey began taking the delivery of the S-400 system Friday.

Turkey takes delivery of Russian S-400 systems defying US

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF SHANGHAI CHINA’S ‘SHINE’ NEWS NETWORK)

 

Turkey takes delivery of Russian S-400 systems defying US

Xinhua
Turkey takes delivery of Russian S-400 systems defying US

Xinhua

A Russian Antonov military cargo plane, carrying parts of the S-400 missile defense system from Russia, is unloaded after landing at the Murted Air Base in Ankara, Turkey, on July 12, 2019. The first batch of Russian S-400 air defense system was delivered in Turkish capital city of Ankara on Friday, the Turkish Defense Ministry said.

Turkey began taking the delivery of Russia’s S-400 air-defense system on Friday, completing a much-debated deal that is likely to trigger sanctions from the United States and test the NATO alliance.

The first components for the state-of-the-art system arrived aboard three Russian military planes at the Murted air base, located at a distant suburb of Ankara, the Turkish Defense Ministry said in a statement.

“Turkey received the first batch of S-400 air defense systems. The deliveries are sent to the Murted air base,” the ministry said. Two more deliveries are expected in the coming days.

Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu told reporters in Ankara that “there is no problem in the deliveries,” adding that “the process will also continue in a healthy pace in the future.”

The purchase, which is the fruit of a controversial agreement inked between Ankara and Moscow in 2017, signals, according to observers, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s willingness to coordinate more with Russia and could set off a new crisis in relations between Turkey and the US, two major NATO allies.

The US President Donald Trump’s administration had given mixed signals about how it might respond if Turkey went through with the deal, but US officials had warned of repercussions, including canceling sales of around 100 high-tech US-made F-35 fighter jets to Ankara and the imposition of sanctions under a 2017 law in cooperation with adversaries.

During a visit to NATO headquarters in Belgium in June, acting US Defense Secretary Mark Esper said “if Turkey accepts delivery of the S-400s, they will not receive the F-35.”

However, Trump has been publicly supportive of the Turkish president and expressed recently sympathy for Erdogan’s decision to purchase the surface-to-air S-400s. Erdogan, after meeting Trump at the G-20 Summit in June in Osaka, said he did not believe that the United States would sanction Turkey.

Erdogan has refused to back down on the S-400 deal and defended the 2.5 billion US dollar acquisition of the Russian system as part of Turkey’s sovereign right to defend itself, and said he tried to purchase the US-made Patriot air defense system but was not offered favorable terms in the past.

US officials fear that Turkey’s possession of the S-400 could give Russia access to secrets of the F-35’s stealth technology and argued that it would create interoperability problems inside NATO.

Ankara has ruled out such a possibility, saying that it is a long standing NATO country, since 1952, and that the S-400 would not be integrated in NATO capabilities.

Nevertheless, Turkey’s purchase of F-35 planes could be compromised as a concrete move last month, the Pentagon said it would halt the training of Turkish pilots to fly the warplane.

Possible US economic sanctions would mark a new standoff in Turkish-American ties. Last year, Washington imposed sanctions on Turkey over its detention of an American pastor, triggering a currency crisis. Sanctions were lifted after Ankara released the clergyman.

Following the arrival of the first S-400 components to the Turkish capital, the Turkish lira dropped about 1.5 percent against the greenback, trading at 5.76 lira.

The deal with Russia also raised some concerns in Western circles that Turkey is drifting away, closer to Moscow’s sphere of influence.

Deliveries of the S-400 components to Turkey would continue “in the coming days,” according to a statement by Turkey’s defense industries authority, which did not say when or where the completed system would ultimately be deployed.

“Once the system is completely ready, it will begin to be used in a way determined by relevant authorities,” said the statement.

An official close to the matter said to Xinhua that the first battery could be deployed at Murted base and a second one likely in southeastern Turkey, near the Syrian and Iraqi border and be operational by October.

“Assessments are underway at several levels to decide on the issue, but everything is going according to plan,” said the official on the condition of anonymity.

PM Modi meets Turkish President, holds talks on counter-terrorism, defence

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF INDIA’S HINDUSTAN TIMES)

 

PM Modi meets Turkish President, holds talks on counter-terrorism, defence

The two leaders, who are in Osaka, Japan, met in the morning on the margins of the two-day G20 Summit and talked about the strong development partnership between India and Turkey.

WORLD Updated: Jun 29, 2019 12:00 IST

Press Trust of India
Press Trust of India
Osaka
PM Modi,Turkey,President
Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Saturday met with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and held talks on a host of key issues including trade and investment, defence and counter-terrorism.(PM Modi/Twitter)

Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Saturday met with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and held talks on a host of key issues including trade and investment, defence and counter-terrorism.

The two leaders, who are in Osaka, Japan, met in the morning on the margins of the two-day G20 Summit and talked about the strong development partnership between India and Turkey.

According to Ministry of External Affairs spokesperson Raveesh Kumar, the two leaders’ discussions focused on trade and investment, defence, counter-terrorism, IT and civil aviation.

Follow live updates here

“The interactions in Osaka continue. A productive meeting with President @RTErdogan on the sidelines of the #G20 Summit. Both leaders talked about the strong development partnership between India and Turkey,” the Prime Minister’s Office said in a tweet.

The Turkish leader, during a two-day visit to India in July, 2018, assured India of his country’s full support in the fight against terrorism.

Earlier on Saturday, Prime Minister Modi met the presidents of Indonesia and Brazil separately on the sidelines of the G-20 Summit and discussed ways to boost bilateral ties and enhance cooperation in trade and investment.

On Friday, Modi held bilateral and plurilateral meetings with many leaders, including US President Donald Trump, Russian president Vladimir Putin and China’s Xi Jinping.

(This story has been published from a wire agency feed without modifications to the text. Only the headline has been changed.)

First Published: Jun 29, 2019 11:59 IST

Turkey: Istanbul mayoral re-run: Erdogan’s ruling AKP set to lose

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE BBC)

 

Istanbul mayoral re-run: Erdogan’s ruling AKP set to lose

Ekrem ImamogluImage copyright REUTERS
Image caption Ekrem Imamoglu hailed the result as a “new beginning” for the city

Turkey’s ruling party is set to lose control of Istanbul after a re-run of the city’s mayoral election, latest results show.

The candidate for the main opposition party, Ekrem Imamoglu, has won 54% of the vote with nearly all ballots counted.

He won a surprise victory in March which was annulled after the ruling AK party complained of irregularities.

His opponent, former Prime Minister Binali Yildirim, has conceded.

The result is a major setback for President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who has previously said that “whoever wins Istanbul, wins Turkey”.

In his victory speech, Mr Imamoglu said the result marked a “new beginning” for both the city and the country.

“We are opening up a new page in Istanbul,” he said. “On this new page, there will be justice, equality, love.”

He added that he was willing to work with Mr Erdogan, saying: “Mr President, I am ready to work in harmony with you.”

Mr Imamoglu’s lead of more than 775,000 votes marks a huge increase on his victory in March, when he won by just 13,000.

Who were the candidates?

Mr Imamoglu, 49, is from the secular Republican People’s Party and is mayor of Istanbul’s Beylikduzu district.

But his name was barely known before he ran for mayor in the March election.

Binali Yildirim on his final campaign before the election on June 23Image copy right EPA
Image caption Binali Yildirim is an Erdogan loyalist

Mr Yildirim was a founding member of Mr Erdogan’s AKP and was prime minister from 2016 until 2018, when Turkey became a presidential democracy and the role ceased to exist.

He was elected Speaker of the new parliament in February and before that served as minister of transportation and communication.

Why was the previous result annulled?

Mr. Imamoglu’s narrow victory of 13,000 votes in March was not enough for Mr Yildirim to accept defeat.

The ruling party alleged that votes were stolen and many ballot box observers did not have official approval, leading the election board to demand a re-run of he vote.

Critics argue that pressure from President Erdogan was behind the decision.

Why is this election so important?

Mr Erdogan, who is from Istanbul, was elected mayor in 1994.

He founded the AKP in 2001 and served as prime minister between 2003 and 2014, before becoming president.

President Erdogan voting in Istanbul election - 23 JuneImage copy right AFP
Image caption Mr Erdogan, seen voting, is a native of Istanbul and a former mayor of the city

But cracks in the party are now beginning to show and analysts suggest these could be exacerbated by this loss.

“Erdogan is extremely worried,” Murat Yetkin, a journalist and writer, said ahead of the vote.

“He is playing every card he has. If he loses, by whatever margin, it’s the end of his steady political rise over the past quarter of a century,” he added.

“In reality, he’ll still be president, his coalition will still control parliament – although many will perceive his defeat as the beginning of the end for him.”

Turkey Plans to Tap 40 Bln Lira ($6.6 Billion) from Central Bank Reserves

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE SAUDI NEWS AGENCY ASHARQ AL-AWSAT)

 

Turkey Plans to Tap 40 Bln Lira from Central Bank Reserves

Monday, 13 May, 2019 – 11:00
A money changer counts Turkish lira banknotes at a currency exchange office in Istanbul, Turkey August 2, 2018. (Reuters)
Asharq Al-Awsat
Turkey’s Treasury ministry is working on legislation to transfer the central bank’s 40 billion lira ($6.6 billion) in legal reserves to the government’s budget to shore it up, three economic officials told Reuters.

The budget is deeper in deficit than expected, said the sources, who requested anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly.

It was unclear when or whether the draft law would reach parliament, however, though one of the sources said it would happen “soon.”

Turkey’s economy tipped into recession last year after the lira fell sharply. The currency is under pressure again, in part due to worries over the central bank’s depleted foreign exchange reserves, which would help it defend against another crisis.

Separate to foreign exchange reserves, “legal reserves” are what the central bank sets aside from profits by law to be used in extraordinary circumstances. At end-2018, they stood at 27.6 billion lira, according to the bank’s balance sheet data.

A second source with knowledge of the matter said last year’s “legal reserves” combined with this year’s amounted to the 40-billion lira figure, which was cited by all three people who spoke to Reuters.

“The Turkish central bank has around 40 billion lira in legal reserves. The transfer of this amount to the 2019 central administration budget was seen as suitable. This step aims at improving and strengthening the budget,” the second source said.

It remained unclear how much of the reserves would ultimately be transferred and what, if any, new requirements would apply to the central bank.

Central Bank and Treasury ministry officials could not immediately be reached for comment.

The transfer would mark the second recent move by Ankara to tap the central bank’s funds to boost its budget. In January, the bank transferred some 37 billion lira in profits to the Treasury three months earlier than scheduled.

“I do not remember the use of legal reserves before. This method came up to stop further deterioration of the budget,” the first source said.

“There needs to be a legislation to transfer the central bank’s legal reserves. The new legislation is planned to be presented to the parliament soon.” the source said.

Turkey’s budget recorded a 36.2 billion lira deficit in the first quarter of 2019, according to Treasury and Finance Ministry data. The deficit is expected to reach 80.6 billion lira by year end.

Erdogan Orders A Do-Over Election Because He Lost: Turkey; No Hint Of Democracy

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF TIME.COM)

 

Turkey Orders a Do-Over of Istanbul Election Narrowly Won by Opposition

(ANKARA, Turkey) — Turkey’s top election authority voided the Istanbul mayoral election won by an opposition candidate and ordered a do-over, ruling Monday in favor of a request by the president’s party to throw out the vote it narrowly lost.

Opposition leaders said the Supreme Electoral Board’s decision to invalidate the results from Istanbul’s election raises concerns about President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s grip on power and Turkish democracy in general.

A top aide for Erdogan told The Associated Press that the voiding of the mayoral election in Turkey’s biggest city amounts to “a victory for Turkish democracy” by ensuring the results reflect the voters’ choice.

Ekrem Imamoglu of the opposition Republican People’s Party placed first by a slim margin in the March 31 mayoral election, defeating the ruling party candidate, former Prime Minister Binali Yildirim. Erdogan’s conservative and Islamic-based Justice and Development Party then charged that a series of election irregularities made the results illegitimate.

Turkey’s state-run Anadolu Agency said the Supreme Electoral Board revoked Imamoglu’s mandate and called a new election for June 23. As grounds to annul the March 31 results, the board said that some ballot station heads were not civil servants as required by law, the news agency said.

Yildirim, the loser in the election, said he hoped the decision would lead to “beneficial and beautiful results for Istanbul.”

In a statement to the AP, presidential communications director Fahrettin Altun said: “Having held free and fair elections for nearly seven decades, Turkey will complete this process in a transparent, lawful and orderly manner.”

Leaders of the Imamoglu’s main opposition party held an emergency meeting in the capital of Ankara late Monday.

Addressing thousands of his supporters in Istanbul, Imamoglu accused the electoral board of bowing to pressure and threats from Erdogan’s party. He vowed to use “democracy” to win back the “rights” that he said were taken away by force. The crowd called for the electoral board members to resign and accused Erdogan of stealing the vote.

Kati Piri, the European Parliament’s rapporteur on Turkey, said on Twitter: “This ends the credibility of democratic transition of power through elections in Turkey.”

Police set up barricades around the electoral board’s headquarters in Turkey’s capital, but there were no immediate signs of major demonstrations. Protesters banged pots and pans in several Istanbul neighborhoods, the opposition Birgun newspaper reported.

Howard Eissenstat, a Turkey expert at the nonprofit Project for Middle East Democracy and a Middle East history scholar at St. Lawrence University in New York, said Monday’s ruling “removes the last fig leaf of competitive elections” hiding the erosion of democracy in Turkey.

“Turkey wasn’t democratic yesterday and it’s not democratic today,” Eissenstat said.

He noted that Erdogan’s party previously invalidated election results in Turkey’s mostly Kurdish-populated regions after a pro-Kurdish party won and replaced elected mayors with government appointees.

“Erdogan cannot afford to lose in the second round. It would a disastrous display of weakness,” Eissenstat said.

The local elections held across Turkey on March 31 produced setbacks for the president. His party lost city hall in the capital as well as in Istanbul, ending 25 years of the Justice and Development Party and its Islamist predecessor governing both cities.

The loss of Istanbul, the country’s commercial and cultural capital, was particularly hard for Erdogan. He began his political ascent as Istanbul’s mayor.

At pre-election rallies, the president had repeatedly told crowds, “Whoever wins Istanbul, wins Turkey” and “Whoever loses Istanbul, loses Turkey.”

Istanbul, with its 15 million residents and strategic location straddling Europe and Asia, accounted for 31% of Turkey’s GDP of $851 billion in 2017 and draws millions of tourists.

The city government had a budget of $8.8 billion last year. The municipality has awarded lucrative contracts to businesses close to the government over the years and offers huge financial resources and employment opportunities.

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