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.”

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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Dec.14th, Trump Tells Turkey’s President Erdogan That Syria Is “All Yours”

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF CNN)

 

US President Donald Trump told Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan the US was “done” with Syria as the pair discussed the possible withdrawal of US forces from the country.

Erdogan was explaining all the problems with the US presence in Iraq and Syria and was irritating Trump, according to a senior administration official who received a detailed readout of the phone call between both presidents.
“OK, it’s all yours. We are done,” Trump said, according to the source.
Erdogan made his case to Trump during the December 14 call that the US should pull out of Syria by pointing to the near-total defeat of ISIS in the country, according to a separate source familiar with the call. The President then sought assurances from Erdogan that Turkey would continue to fight ISIS and defeat the terrorist group.
A senior White House official said Erdogan gave Trump his “word” that Turkey would finish off ISIS.
“In the call on Friday, Erdogan said to the President, ‘In fact, as your friend, I give you my word in this,'” the senior White House official said.
Erdogan, for his part, described his conversation with Trump during a speech last Friday, saying he told Trump that he could clear Syria of ISIS.
“During a conversation I had with Mr. Trump — he said ‘ISIS, can you clear ISIS from this area?'” Erdogan recalled. “We did it before, and we can again as long as we have logistic support from you.”
“And so they began pulling out,” Erdogan said.
“Within the framework of the phone call we had with Mr. Trump, we have started preparing plans for operations to clear the ISIS elements still within Syria,” he continued.
The Associated Press first reported some details of the phone call.
Trump and Erdogan held a phone call again on Sunday where the two discussed the conflict in Syria, both nations said.
“I just had a long and productive call with President @RT_Erdogan of Turkey. We discussed ISIS, our mutual involvement in Syria, & the slow & highly coordinated pullout of U.S. troops from the area. After many years they are coming home. We also discussed heavily expanded Trade,” Trump tweeted.

Saudi Crown Prince: Khashoggi’s Killers Will Be Brought to Justice

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

 

Saudi Crown Prince: Khashoggi’s Killers Will Be Brought to Justice

(WHAT IS THE CROWN PRINCE GOING TO DO, HANG HIMSELF? IS IT MORE LIKELY HE WILL FIND 15 OTHER ENEMIES TO BLAME, AND HANG THEM?)
Wednesday, 24 October, 2018 – 17:00
Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman at FII 2018 in Riyadh. (SPA)
Asharq Al-Awsat

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Defense, described on Wednesday the murder of a citizen Jamal Khashoggi as “ugly and painful” to Saudis and the world.

“We are working with Turkey to uncover the truth and complete the investigations. We will bring the criminals to justice,” he told the Future Investment Initiative forum that is being held in Riyadh.

Some sides are exploiting the Khashoggi case to drive a wedge between Saudi Arabia and Turkey, he continued.

“I want to send them a message that they cannot do this as long as King Salman is here, and the Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman is in Saudi Arabia and the head of Turkey, whose name is (Recep Tayyip) Erdogan … this division won’t happen.”

On the economy, Prince Mohammed said: “Numbers will speak about the improvement of the Saudi economy.”

“We will continue to develop our country and no one will stop us,” he vowed.

“I believe the new Europe will be the Middle East and the region will be different in five years’ time,” he stated.

Crisis-Hit Turkey Cuts Investment Criteria for Citizenship

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

 

Crisis-Hit Turkey Cuts Investment Criteria for Citizenship

Thursday, 20 September, 2018 – 08:15
New skyscrapers, in the background, under construction are pictured in Istanbul, Turkey April 10, 2015. REUTERS/Murad Sezer
Ankara – Saeed Abdelrazek
Turkey on Wednesday cut the financial and investment criteria required for citizenship for foreigners in an attempt to confront its economic crisis.

Foreigners now need only to have $500,000 deposits in Turkish banks, down from $3 million before while fixed capital investment was reduced from $2 million to $500,000 dollars, a decree from President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s office, published in the Official Gazette, said.

Individuals can now obtain citizenship if they employ 50 people, down from the previous 100, while those who own property worth $250,000 can become Turkish citizens, compared to the previous value necessary of $1 million.

According to data from the Turkish Statistics Institute, Iraqis topped the list of foreign buyers of properties in Turkey in August, followed by Iranians, Saudis, Kuwaitis and Russians.

The Institute said that Iraqis bought 944 properties, Iranians 394, while Saudi nationals bought 275 properties, followed by Kuwaitis (271) and Russians (192).

A total of 3,866 properties were sold to foreigners with a 129.6 percent year-on-year increase, it said.

But House sales across Turkey declined 12.5 percent on a yearly basis in August with a more than 67 percent yearly decrease in mortgaged sales.

Meanwhile, the economic confidence index in Turkey dropped by nine percent in August compared to the previous month, reaching 83.9 points and hitting a record low in three years, data from the Institute showed.

In other economic news, Amazon.com Inc said it had launched activities in Turkey, offering products across 15 categories to customers across the country.

“We are committed to building our business in Turkey in the coming months by expanding our selection and delivery options,” Sam Nicols, country manager for Amazon.com.tr said in a written statement.

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U.S.-Turkey Relations Will Never Be the Same

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF BLOOMBERG NEWS)

 

U.S.-Turkey Relations Will Never Be the Same

Escalating tensions might simmer down, but we’re past the point of pretending these two governments’ values are compatible.

Hope you sold all your lira before this week.

Photographer: Chris McGrath/Getty Images

There are only two ways that the diplomatic rift between the U.S. and Turkey can end: a compromise that salvages the relationship as best possible, or a complete rupture with devastating consequences both for Turkey’s economy and America’s regional strategic interests. Either way, there is no going back to the way things were.

The arrest in Turkey of American pastor Andrew Brunson nearly two years ago has led to a diplomatic spat that threatens a full-blown economic meltdown in Turkey. Brunson, along with many foreign nationals that were detained in the wake of the failed 2016 coup attempt, has been accused of “supporting terrorism.” A deal for Brunson’s release seemed likely as Turkish officials traveled to Washington this week, but fell apart apparently over last-minute Turkish demands.

Meanwhile, tensions have ratcheted up. The Trump administration has imposed sanctions on Turkey’s interior and justice ministers. Erdogan threatened retaliation and got the support of most of the Turkish opposition. On Wednesday, Stars and Stripes reported that a group of pro-government lawyers in Turkey have filed charges against several U.S. officers at the Incirlik Air Base, accusing them too of ties to terrorist groups. They are demanding all flights leaving the base be temporarily suspended and a search warrant be executed.

The standoff is partly the accumulation of years of resentment, despite the pretenses of a faithful partnership. Turkey’s once-unassailable support among U.S. foreign policy leaders, and in Congress, has been weakened by years of authoritarian creep, a worsening human rights record and cooperation with Russia and Iran in Syria. Turkey’s plans for a $2 billion purchase of Russian-made S-400 surface-to-air missiles, which NATO has said are incompatible with allied systems and restrictions on American use of the Incirlik Air Base, haven’t gone down well.

The feeling is mutual. Erdogan has never quite recovered from his anger at the way his allies seemed to sit on the fence in the hours after an attempted coup was announced in July 2016.

The Turkish leader is also furious at American support for the Kurdish militia fighting Islamic State in northern Syria. Earlier this year, he threatened American troops with an “Ottoman slap” if the U.S. tried to block Turkey’s military incursion into northwest Syria.

One major source of contention has been the U.S. refusal to turn over the Pennsylvania-based cleric Fethullah Gulen, a one-time Erdogan ally and now an enemy, whom Erdogan alleges was behind the coup and other attempts to undermine him. Trump’s abandonment of the Iran nuclear deal is another sore point; nearly half of Turkey’s oil imports come from Iran, and the re-imposition of sanctions against Iran hurts Turkey’s economy.

The Brunson case made all of that impossible to ignore, as U.S. evangelicals took up the cause.

But “impossible to ignore” is not to say that the Trump administration has become a principled defender of human rights in Turkey. Far from it. Trump, whose name adorns luxury properties in Turkey, expressed only praise for Erdogan when they met in 2017. When Erdogan’s supporters and guards attacked protesters in Washington, the affair was handled quietly.

The administration has been silent on other arrests of U.S. and foreign nationals in Turkey. But it was ready to strike a deal for Brunson’s release. The U.S. had already asked Israel to release Ebru Ozkan, a Turkish national who was arrested there on suspicion of aiding Hamas (Israel deported herthe day after Trump called Israeli President Benjamin Netanyahu). The Trump administration was also reportedly ready to allow Hakan Atilla, a former top executive of state-owned Halkbank, convicted for violating Iran sanctions, to serve out the rest of his prison sentence in Turkey. The deal was scuppered, reportedly, when Turkey wanted relief on a multibillion-dollar fine against Halkbank and an assurance that any investigations be dropped.

The U.S. can afford to play a longer game. The June 24 election may have strengthened Erdogan’s power further, but he didn’t win by a Putin-sized margin. (Erdogan cleared just over 52 percent, and that’s if we all agree to ignore the voting irregularities that presumably bolstered his numbers.) Turkey is divided politically, and the longer Erdogan rules by coercion, the more vulnerable he may become, especially if Turkey’s economy continues to suffer. As the main barometer of confidence in the country, the lira’s decline speaks volumes.

Even so, a diplomatic solution is clearly preferable to continued escalation. Erdogan is sacrificing the Turkish economy in order to keep Brunson as a bargaining chit. A fractured relationship with the U.S. will also put a strain on Turkey’s EU relationships and will give investors, already spooked, even more pause.

American support for Turkey doesn’t crumble in a day. The relationship is baked into ties on multiple levels, both inside and outside government, and for good reason. As Asli Aydintasbas and Kemal Kirisci argue in an April 2017 Brookings paper, however bad it looks, Turkey is crucial:

Without Turkey, it is difficult to see how a rule-based U.S.-led world order could be sustained in this region, and how a successful policy on containing chaos in the Middle East could be envisioned. Similarly, there are arguably no Muslim-majority nations apart from Turkey that can serve as a bridge with the Western world or achieve the democratic standards, to which Turks have grown accustomed and, inadvertently or not, still expect.

And yet, it has definitely changed, thanks not so much to national interests, but to failings in leadership. The U.S. will have to settle for something less loyal, less an alliance and more a transactional relationship. But then that seems to define these times pretty aptly.

This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the editorial board or Bloomberg LP and its owners.

To contact the author of this story:
Therese Raphael at [email protected]

To contact the editor responsible for this story:
Philip Gray at [email protected]

Turkey Hints at Reopening its Consulates in Mosul, Basra

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

 

Turkey Hints at Reopening its Consulates in Mosul, Basra

Saturday, 30 June, 2018 – 09:30
Ankara – Saeed Abdelrazek
Turkey’s Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu announced Friday that Ankara began taking measures to reopen its consulates in Mosul and Basra that have remained shut for years due to security threats.

Turkey closed its consulate in Mosul in 2014, shortly after ISIS advanced on the city and stormed the mission on June 11 of that year, kidnapping 48 people including the Turkish consul.

Among the captives were also employees at the consulate and their family members, including three children, as well as members from the Turkish special operations force.

The captives were released after three months.

Later, the former Turkish consul accused Ankara of handing him over, along with the consulate staff, to ISIS.

As for the Turkish consulate in Basra, the Iraqi foreign ministry announced on January 21 that it had struck an agreement with Turkey to reopen it following its closure in 2014 due to security threats.

In April, Turkey’s ambassador to Baghdad Fatih Yıldız said that the Basra consulate will reopen soon. In remarks to Turkish media, he said that Turkey is a huge country and can’t be restricted to specific parts of Iraq.

Turkey has a border with southern Iraq, and has sent humanitarian aid to provinces in central Iraq, he said.

He added that the Turkish consulate building in Basra is still there and that talks must be held with local figures and tribal leaders before reactivating the diplomatic mission.

‘Jordan, Palestine and Saudi Arabia warn Israel against Turkey’

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE HAARETZ NEWSPAPER AND AL JAZEERA NEWS AGENCY)

 

‘Jordan, Palestine and Saudi Arabia warn Israel against Turkey’

Israeli daily Haaretz alleges the three Arab states have warned Israel of creeping Turkish influence in East Jerusalem.

The report notes that senior officials from the three Arab countries told Israel that Turkey was "extending its influence in Arab neighbourhoods of Jerusalem." [EPA-EFE]
The report notes that senior officials from the three Arab countries told Israel that Turkey was “extending its influence in Arab neighbourhoods of Jerusalem.” [EPA-EFE]

Saudi ArabiaJordan and Palestine have warned Israel on separate occasions about Turkey’s creeping influence in East Jerusalem, according to a reportby Israeli newspaper Haaretz.

The report notes that senior officials from the three Arab countries told Israel that Turkey was “extending its influence in Arab neighbourhoods of Jerusalem” which they said was “part of an attempt by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to “claim ownership over the Jerusalem issue.”

Israeli sources claimed to have been aware of Turkey’s expanding influence and say they have been monitoring Ankara’s efforts for more than a year.

According to the report, Jordanian officials are said to have been upset with Israel‘s slow response which they described as “sleeping at the wheel”, especially since the signing of a 2016 reconciliation agreement which Israel is adamant to maintain.

Officials from the Palestinian Authority also expressed concern at Turkey’s drive to further its influence in East Jerusalem which comes in the form of donations to Islamic organisations in Arab neighbourhoods or through organised tours by Turkish Muslim groups with close ties to the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP).

Israeli defence officials told the Israeli daily that the phenomenon had reached its peak in 2017 with hundreds of Turkish nationals establishing “a regular presence in and around the city” and increasingly clashing with police forces during Friday prayers at Jerusalem’s al-Aqsa mosque.

“They’re trying to buy real estate and strengthen their political standing,” an unnamed police source is quoted as saying.

“It’s also a source of concern for the PA, which doesn’t want to have another country claiming responsibility for East Jerusalem.”

Jordan’s concerns stem from the fact that Turkey’s efforts to widen its influence risk compromising the Hashemite Kingdom’s position as the custodian of Islam’s third holiest site.

Saudi Arabia for its part is worried that Erdogan’s ambitions in Jerusalem may help boost his image in the Arab and wider Muslim world which would, in effect, present him “as the only leader truly standing up to Israel and the Trump administration”.

SOURCE: AL JAZEERA AND NEWS AGENCIES

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.

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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.