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: Can The People Force The Tyrant/Murderer Erdogan Out Of Office?

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE BROOKINGS INSTITUTE)

 

After 15 years in government—particularly since a failed coup attempt in July 2016 crowned him with extraordinary executive authority—Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has never been more powerful.

Authors

Yet as the June 24 snap elections called by his ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) approach, there are growing signs that the political dexterity that has long allowed Erdoğan to determine the course of Turkish politics could be waning. While Turkish polls need to be read cautiously, many of them now suggest a high likelihood that the upcoming presidential election will be decided in a run-off, and that Erdoğan’s AKP will fail to retain its majority in parliament. This would create a completely novel and challenging political picture in which the opposition could have a greater say in policymaking than it has had for at least a decade.

CHALLENGES MOUNTING

Many thought that the decision to move the elections forward by over 16 months was a pre-emptive move by Erdoğan to avoid the damage an increasingly volatile Turkish economy is likely to inflict on his popular support. Both inflation and unemployment are over 10 percent and on the rise, the budget deficit saw a 58 percent increase in the past year, and the lira has lost more than 20 percent of its value against the U.S. dollar this year alone. (The dollar-to-lira rate is now 4.6 to 1; it was 3.75 to 1 in January, and around 2 to 1 as recently as mid-2013.) Nor is the Turkish government able to stem the tide: To the contrary, Erdoğan’s frequent and ideologically charged declarations against high interest rates as well as his recent promise to intervene more directly in the policymaking of Turkey’s Central Bank after the elections are increasingly perceived as contributing to the lira’s plunge.

Amid these economic worries, Erdoğan also faces the most diverse and rigorous pool of opposition candidates since he came to power in 2003. A new electoral alliance hoping to unseat Erdoğan includes not only the center-left Republican People’s Party (CHP) and the new center-right İyi (Good) Party, but also an Islamist faction, represented by the small yet influential Felicity Party—ironically, Erdoğan’s own political home during his rise to political stardom in the 1990s.

The allied opposition parties have each fielded their own candidates, but promise to unite behind whichever candidate makes it to a run-off against Erdoğan. The CHP’s presidential candidate is Muharrem İnce, a fiery orator who was once known for his staunch secularism and perceived as insensitive to the needs of Turkey’s pious Muslims and large Kurdish minority. Recently, however, he has struck a remarkably conciliatory tone on the campaign trail, adopting a narrative embracing Turkey’s ethnic and social diversity, promoting teaching Kurdish in government schools, and declaring that he has no intention to resurrect Turkey’s once-infamous headscarf ban. İyi Party leader Meral Akşener, the only woman in the race, is the first serious right-wing challenger to Erdoğan in over a decade. Finally, the conservative Felicity Party candidate, the British-educated party head Temel Karamollaoğlu, is easing into his role as an elder statesman and is dishing out intense moral criticism of the ruling AKP. The pro-Kurdish People’s Democracy Party (HDP)—which the government has heavily stigmatized—was left outside of the opposition alliance, but its party head and candidate Selahattin Demirtaş remains a charismatic leader for much of Turkey’s Kurds and secular youth. This diversity of options available to Turks of all political and ideological persuasions means that Erdoğan is now challenged from multiple sides and that there is likely to be increased opposition turnout at the polls.

ERDOĞAN’S VULNERABILITY

Indeed, such a widened political battleground was exactly what Erdoğan hoped to avoid in calling for the snap vote. Turkey’s opposition parties were outraged at what they took as an attempt to prevent Akşener’s newly-founded İyi Party from participating on a legal technicality. This was circumvented when CHP—shrewdly and unexpectedly—allowed 15 of its members of parliament to be transferred to İyi Party, allowing it to attain the minimum number of sitting MPs to qualify to participate in the snap elections.

Erdoğan himself, in what many perceived as a slip that only proved foul play by the government, criticized Turkey’s High Electoral Commission for not pre-empting what he called an “immoral” opposition strategy. Perhaps even more strikingly, HDP’s Selahattin Demirtaş, who has been jailed since late 2016 with multiple charges but still no indictment (let alone a verdict), is forced to run from behind bars while opposition candidates from Turkey’s right and left continue to call for his immediate release.

The AKP’s apparent heavy-handedness is paired with considerable hubris in the lead-up to the elections. The government casually postponed Turkey’s massively important university entrance exams—the culmination of a multi-year process, exhausting for students and financially draining for parents—once it became apparent that they coincided with the planned election date. In a similarly self-assured move, Finance Minister Mehmet Şimşek has noted that Turkey’s troubled markets will see normalization and reform “after the elections,” rejecting out of hand the possibility that the elections may disturb his own policymaking mandate.

But even as the ruling AKP is dismissive of the possibility that Turkey’s next president could be decided in a run-off, Erdoğan himself has been providing much of the fodder for Turkey’s reinvigorated opposition. Phrases lifted cheekily from awkward moments in Erdoğan’s own recent speeches have become humorous opposition slogans. Erdoğan once said he and his party would leave power if and when the electorate said “Tamam” (roughly meaning “okay,” or “that’s enough” in Turkish)—on Twitter, opposition activists have said “T A M A M” in over two million tweets, and the phrase has seeped into daily conversations. Similarly, “Sıkıldık mı?” (“Are we bored yet?” as employed somewhat sheepishly by the president mid-way through a lengthy address to an AKP youth congress) is a phrase that has caught on. İnce, Akşener, and Koramollaoğlu joined in, using the catchphrases both on and off social media often. Indeed, “T A M A M” and “Sıkıldık mı?” represent more than Turkey’s latest social media fad: Their easy and cheerful spread suggests an opposition that is increasingly able to unite around common themes and is rediscovering the tone of youthful irreverence that last befuddled and outraged the AKP government during the Gezi Park protests in 2013. Indeed, a growing number of Turkish commentators opine that it is increasingly the opposition that determines the tone and course of political debate in the country, with AKP officials adopting a clumsily defensive tenor.

Related Books

And ironically, it may have been the AKP government itself that has exposed Erdoğan’s Achilles heel. In pushing for the constitutional change that concentrated most executive powers in the person of the president but retained certain lawmaking and veto rights in the parliament, AKP lawmakers do not seem to have considered the possibility that the president’s party may not always hold a majority in parliament. Before the constitutional amendment, the fact that the AKP polled significantly higher than its individual competitors meant that it easily dominated the National Assembly; but the multi-party alliances officiated under the new system, as well as a widened political arena, change electoral math in such a way as to make an AKP parliamentary majority harder to achieve.

Precisely because the creators of last year’s constitutional amendment thought that the AKP was invincible at the polls and that Turkey’s diverse opposition was fundamentally incapable of achieving any internal harmony, then, an opposition parliament under an Erdoğan presidency is a real likelihood. The new system makes little provision for such a cohabitation, and an aggressive opposition could effectively cripple much of Erdoğan’s policymaking. Indeed, if the AKP were to lose its parliamentary majority in the first round of elections, Erdoğan would be entering the presidential run-off election with his aura of invincibility and traditional mastery over Turkish politics severely weakened.

WINNING VOTES, FAIRLY

To gain the upper hand, both sides will have to come up with more concrete policy proposals to remedy an ailing economy, prove their willingness to diffuse the country’s suffocating political polarization, and stir the hearts and minds of an increasingly young and well-educated electorate, 1.5 million of whom will vote for the first time in June.

Opposition parties are just starting to roll out their election programs. These programs, in particular, must convince the electorate that their vision is one that goes beyond unseating Erdoğan: It remains unclear, for example, how a politically and legally cumbersome return to the parliamentary system, which all opposition candidates promise, would be achieved. On the question of the economy, İnce in particular is making waves with talk of moving emphasis from an increasingly unwieldy construction sector to boosting high-tech industrial production, and Akşener with a thoughtful critique of youth unemployment. But a thorough and convincing roadmap for much-needed macroeconomic reform has not been forthcoming from either Erdoğan or his opponents. On foreign policy, İnce is unequivocally advocating improved relations with trans-Atlantic allies and the EU. Akşener, while stressing the need for a strong European-Turkish partnership, is critical of the EU for driving Turkey’s membership talks into a dead end, and not surprisingly emphasizes the importance of relations with the Turkic and Muslim world.

But perhaps most critically, all parties—government and opposition alike—should ensure that controversial new election laws should be applied conscientiously, and that the June 24 elections are free and fair without the slightest shadow of a doubt. Any domestic and international perception that the elections have been tampered with would only aggravate Turkey’s mounting social and economic woes. If the worst fears of some commentators are confirmed and incidents of coercion and violence sully the elections or their aftermath, Turkey’s already heated political scene could be brought to the brink.

To go back to the question we pose in the title: Yes, both Erdoğan and his challengers do have a real chance at victory in what may become Turkey’s most contested electoral race in recent history, and the AKP’s own mistakes should show that there is little to be gained by looking at Turkish politics dismissively.

Erdogan’s Post-Evolutionary Turkey Floods School Classrooms, Threatens Universities

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF GLOBAL VOICES.ORG)

Erdogan’s Post-Evolutionary Turkey Floods School Classrooms, Threatens Universities

Photo of Recep Tayyip Erdogan taken from r4bia.com. Creative commons.

While the earlier education reforms of Turkey’s socially conservative AKP (Justice and Development Party) pointed towards inclusiveness, the current ones have a far more troubling direction.

Not content with removing around 45,000 education ministry staff from the government payroll following an abortive coup in July last year, Turkey’s ruling party is now looking to take down Darwin.

Last month the government announced that the theory of evolution would be removed from the teaching curriculum at Turkish schools until students reach university.

The announcement adds to evidence cited by concerned secularists who suggest Turkey’s education system is being remodelled in line with President Erdogan’s bid to raise “pious generations” and forge a “New Turkey”.

Efforts to rejig the country’s teaching curriculum along more religious lines are not new, dating back at least as February 2012.

What has changed since is President Erdogan’s seemingly unassailable position in post-coup attempt and post-referendum Turkey.

‘New Turkey’

Despite its shrunken majority and the ever-increasing polarization of the Turkish electorate — or perhaps because of these things — AKP is pushing its policy agenda more aggressively than ever before.

Along with the ban on evolution in the classroom, the AKP educational reforms will see the government’s narrative on the 2016 coup attempt embedded in school syllabi, while class time dedicated to modern Turkey’s secular founder Kemal Attaturk will be reduced.

Forced enrolment of some school-age students into controversial religious imam-hatip state schools is another feature of the new education agenda.

The AKP government won praise from both liberals and conservatives for managing to reverse the country’s repressive ban on headscarfs in universities back in 2010. The move allowed women from observant Muslim families to receive further education.

But the imam-hatip schools have faced criticism for discouraging girls from doing that very thing. Secularists see the schools growing role in Turkey’s education system as yet another sign that AKP is trying to recast the country in its own traditionalist image.

An evolving threat

According to the head of curriculum for the Turkish education ministry, teaching evolution in schools is “controversial”, but opponents of the ban were quick to side with science.

Evrim müfredattan çıkarıldı, biyoloji ders saati %33 azaltılırken din dersi saati % 100 arttırıldı. İran’ı kısa zamanda geçeriz İnşaAllah!

They have removed evolution from the curriculum, biology class hours have been reduced by 33%, while religion class hours have been increased by 100%. God willing, we are going to get ahead of Iran soon.

Evrim teorisi dersi kalkıyormuş arkadaşlar, arttık neyin dersini verecekler çocuklarımıza onu merak ediyorum 😠😠😠

They are removing evolution theory class. I am not wondering what they are going to teach our children.

Okullarda evrim dersleri okutulmayacak ama şeriat ceza hukuku din dersi okutulacak # işte yeni Türkiye anlayışı

There won’t be any classes on evolution. But there are classes on Sharia criminal law and religion. This is the meaning of ‘New Turkey’.

Biyoloji dersi ilk ders ilk slayt; evrim bir gerçektir, tartışılamaz. 29 yıldır aklımda. Hoca haklıydı.

Biology class, first class, first slide: evolution is real, and cannot be argued against. I have remembered this for 29 years. The teacher was right.

The international response has also been critical:

 continues to change ‘s identity by erasing evolution from the country’s education curriculum.https://www.nytimes.com/2017/06/23/world/europe/turkey-evolution-high-school-curriculum.html?rref=collection%2Fsectioncollection%2Feurope&_r=0 

Schoolchildren in Istanbul. Turkey’s decision to stop teaching evolution in high schools has deepened concerns that the president, a conservative Muslim, wants to radically change the identity of the secular country.

Turkey Drops Evolution From Curriculum, Angering Secularists

A chapter on evolution will no longer appear in ninth graders’ textbooks because it is considered too “controversial” an idea, an education official said.

nytimes.com

Currently the evolution ban only applies to schools, but many fear that universities are being targeted for a serious government-led overhaul, too. Thousands of academics were dismissed from their jobs following the military coup, while out of 180 universities currently operating in Turkey, 15 were shut down.

Netherlands Bars Turkish Foreign Minister’s Plane From Landing

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF CNN)

The Netherlands bars Turkish foreign minister’s plane from landing

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan compares the Dutch to Nazis in a rally Saturday in Istanbul.

Story highlights

  • Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu was set to address political rally in Rotterdam
  • Turkish President has provoked controversy with his comparisons of allies to Nazis.

(CNN) The Netherlands barred a plane carrying Turkey’s foreign minister from landing to stop him from addressing a political rally Saturday in Rotterdam.

The Dutch government announced that Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu’s flight permit was revoked amid concerns over public order at the expected large gathering of Turkish expatriates.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan reacted angrily to the news, comparing the Dutch government to Nazis.
Addressing crowds at an opening ceremony in Istanbul, Erdogan said: “They are timid and coward. They are Nazi remnants and fascists.”
Earlier this week Erdogan had angered German Chancellor Angela Merkel by making similar remarks about Nazism in her country.

Turkish referendum

Cavusoglu was due to address Turkish expatriates in Rotterdam to win support for an April 16 referendum vote on the Turkish Constitution.
Pushed by Erdogan’s ruling Justice and Development Party, or AKP, these sweeping constitutional changes would grant new powers to Turkey’s President and transform the way the country is governed.

Erdogan: Germany using 'Nazi practices'

Erdogan: Germany using ‘Nazi practices’
Turkish politicians have sought to address rallies in European cities and towns with large populations of Turkish expatriates, but the authorities in several countries have blocked their plans.
Around 1.5 million Turkish nationals living in Germany are eligible to vote in the referendum, according to Turkish news agency Anadolu.

Increased tensions

In the latest twist in the row, Cavusoglu angered the Dutch by threatening “severe sanctions” if he were banned from traveling to the Rotterdam rally.
“If the Netherlands cancels my flight, we will impose severe sanctions on them that will affect it economically and politically,” the foreign minister said in remarks in a TV interview on CNN Turk.
He added, “If tension will increase (between the two countries) because of my visit, then let it increase.”
In a statement posted on his Facebook page, Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte said: “Many Dutch people with Turkish heritage are voting in the referendum on the Turkish constitution. The Dutch government has no objection to meetings in our country in order to inform them about that.
“But these meetings cannot contribute to tensions in our society and everyone who wants to contribute to an event must comply with instructions from the authorities so that public order and security can be guaranteed. It should be noted that, in this respect, the Turkish government does not want to respect those rules.”

Negotiations failed

Rutte said there had been discussions with the Turkish authorities to try to find a way to hold a smaller-scale meeting in a Turkish Consulate or Embassy.
However, he said, a public threat of sanctions made by the Turks before the negotiations were complete made it impossible to find a “reasonable solution” — so the Netherlands banned the foreign minister’s flight.
The Dutch will vote Wednesday in national elections in a campaign that has focused heavily on the issue of immigration from Muslim countries.
Far-right presidential candidate Geert Wilders praised the decision to bar the Turkish minister from speaking in Rotterdam, taking credit due to the influence of his party, the Party For Freedom, or PVV.
“Great! Thanks to heavy PVV- pressure a few days before the Dutch elections our government did NOT allow the Turkish minister to land here,” Wilders wrote.
Meanwhile, the Turkish Foreign Ministry summoned the Dutch charge d’affaires Saturday following the decision to bar Cavusoglu’s flight.