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Fantastic Beasts And Where To Find Muharrem
This newsletter is brought to you by Twitter. The content, that is, which points to broader issues. But for our purposes, the Turkish Twittersphere began noticing a rise in copycat accounts with identical names in recent weeks.
Like AI-generated pics of the pope (and the Erdoğan version), the current lapse in online verification might be cause for EU concern. Then again, someone using these loopholes impersonated the Şanlıurfa governor to cancel school Monday. Score: Humans 1 – Bots 0.
Don’t miss İnanç Yıldız’ report on which way Kurdish voters in Diyarbakır are leaning after the HDP decided not to run a presidential candidate. Thanks to our supporters and mug sales, we have the budget for more freelance stories. Pitch us: firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Supreme Electoral Council (YSK) confirmed Monday that four presidential candidates would compete in the May 14 elections: Pres. Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, Muharrem İnce and Sinan Oğan. The latter two joined after collecting 100,000 signatures before Monday, a requirement for non-parliamentary group candidates
Turkey’s Final Four bracket comes after New Welfare Party head Fatih Erbakan withdrew his candidacy Friday to side with Erdoğan just days after reising a fuss about doing exactly that. Other hopefuls didn’t make the list, like 2018 presidential candidate Doğu Perinçek, who gathered only 27,000 signatures – stunning considering the air time he gets.
The ATA Alliance, composed of four right-wing nationalist parties including the anti-immigrant Victory Party made it into the ballots with Oğan, a former MHP politician who was expelled from the party, twice.
The final candidate list will be revealed tomorrow after the council reviews appeals, including those contesting the legality of Erdoğan’s third-term candidacy. In recent days, through separate applications to YSK, several opposition parties argued another Erdoğan presidency ran counter to the Constitution.
While the Constitution clearly dictates leaders can serve at most two times, the ruling party claims Erdoğan took office twice but under two different political systems and that elections prior to Turkey’s switch to an executive presidency shouldn’t be taken into account due to the legal ambiguity in question.
The YSK is expected to eventually green light Erdoğan’s candidacy, but elections will remain a knife-edge competition for Turkey’s leader as the main opposition candidate, Kılıçdaroğlu unleashed his first election ads this week, with the slogan: “Spring will come again.”
While Kılıçdaroğlu drew tacit support from the pro-Kurdish HDP, he has yet to convince former CHP member İnce to withdraw his candidacy following a number of encounters, and the latest meeting Wednesday. İnce appears determined to stay in the race, which could split anti-Erdoğan votes, especially among young voters.
While recent polls suggest Kılıçdaroğlu has a slight lead on Erdoğan, more players in the race could add challenges for the main opposition, TEAM Research Center general-director Ulaş Tol told Turkey recap.
“Those voting for İnce will reduce the difference [in votes] between Kılıçdaroğlu and Erdoğan,” Tol said.
“There are voters who are distant from the ruling government but who also react [negatively] to the opposition,” he added. “This group is keen to find an opportunity to express their discontent, and I think İnce enables them to do so.”
Battle lines drawn
Regarding the parliamentary lineup, prospective MP lists are in the making for all blocs where, among others, a former deputy imam, a football player, a journalist, a paşa torunu and a singer will take try out for career shifts.
The AKP-allied MHP will compete with its own candidates, party head Devlet Bahçeli announced this week, dismissing rumors of joint candidates. Notably, according to the new electoral law, for a party to enter parliament, only its alliance must surpass the 7 percent threshold, as economist Can Selçuki explains here.
However, this isn’t the case for non-allied parties like İnce’s Memleket Party, which has to pass the parliamentary threshold on its own. Selçuki comments in another tweet that if Memleket can’t breach the barrier, it would result in a significant loss for the total number of opposition seats in parliament.
Meanwhile, the ruling bloc is trying to find a balance between the radical Islamist Hüda Par, who recently pledged support to Erdoğan’s party and drew ire for its controversial party politics. Although not officially part of the People’s Alliance, the party will run in parliamentary elections under the AKP’s deputy list. Regardless of the discomfort caused to Erdoğan’s base, Tol believes Turkey’s leader needs this merger.
“The AKP is experiencing isolation syndrome,” Tol explained. “There’s a secession among the conservative population due to moral debates and criticism towards the party administration. This pushes the AKP to defend itself and new involvements are giving them reassurances, but MHP voters are uneasy with this.”
– Verda Uyar
Over the weekend, Erdoğan visited the quake zone and followed the classic Reis checklist: attending ceremonies for infrastructure projects and throwing things out of his bus (this time toys instead of the usual tea packages).
Later, reports indicated the foundation laid for a new hospital – during one of Erdoğan’s groundbreaking ceremonies – was removed only one day after.
Many people in the region continue to lack adequate shelter and other basic needs, while facing ongoing risks posed by infectious diseases. At the same time, more than 658,000 workers lost their jobs, the ILO reported Tuesday.
In a speech Friday, Erdoğan said a total of 650,000 homes would need to be built, of which the construction of 22,467 houses in Hatay had begun. He added: “We will rebuild everything that has been destroyed, in a better, more beautiful and safer way.”
“If you have human resources and you spend a lot of money, of course you can build a lot of houses. But can you build a city? That is our concern,” he told Turkey recap.
The further TOKİ-nization of Turkey is one potential outcome, Atlar said, adding: “Okay, the houses are maybe strong enough for an earthquake, but do you have your city back? Or do you just have thousands of new housings without culture, without heritage, without people?”
The tied piper
The news comes after the Paris-based International Chamber of Commerce ruled KRG authorities shouldn’t sell oil through the Ceyhan pipeline according to a 1973 agreement between Ankara and Baghdad, the latter of which has long complained about the export arrangement.
Experts estimate Turkey’s Ceyhan port was exporting about 400,000 barrels of Iraqi oil a day, or about half a percent of the global oil supply.
For Turkey, Iraqi oil flows represent 27 percent of the nation’s petrol imports, which remain blocked, just like Baghdad-KRG negotiations to resolve the matter. As a result, economist Enver Erkan told the FT the ruling “would make Turkey ‘more dependent on Russia’ and add to the country’s energy import bill.”
Turkish parliament is expected to vote on Finland’s NATO bid today (Thursday) after the body’s Foreign Affairs Commission approved Helsinki’s accession Friday and the AKP’s Yılmaz Tunç told Bloomberg yesterday the measure would reach the general assembly, again, today.
One can never be too sure after, well, the whole last year of the NATO expansion drama, which now has its own spin-off series developing in Hungary.
Finland seems to have pleased NATO’s Statler and Waldorf, with Finnish police confiscating an Erdoğan doll from demonstrators in Helsinki Saturday for good measure, but Sweden’s bid is now progressing slower than assembly on an PAX wardrobe, the K2 of IKEA furniture.
While Ankara’s prerequisites remain the same ‘concrete steps’ as last week, Budapest has introduced rather vague objections, accusing Stockholm of ''moral superiority'' and ''disrespect'' for criticizing Hungarian legislation.
The rhetoric from Budapest prompted Le Chou to bluntly summarize Erdoğan’s meeting with his Hungarian counterpart Katalin Novák Wednesday.
Towing and throwing
With less than 45 days until elections, Erdoğan is speeding up his econ game. The incumbent announced discounts for electricity and gas bills and also promised another hike for the minimum wage Wednesday. Just two days later, parliament accepted a draft law including a raise in the minimum monthly pension payments.
Meanwhile, the opposition’s econ team has been working on a relief plan in the case of an electoral victory. "We will be inheriting the wreckage of the century," said Bilge Yılmaz, the head of economic policy at İYİ Party and potentially Turkey’s next finance minister. He pledged a return to a “reasonable, scientific monetary policy” and “budget discipline."
Foreign investors seem to be preparing for change, too. Like most of us, they’re trying to figure out who will win, according to Reuters, with one investor saying: "If there will be a star among emerging markets this year, it will be Turkey."
Others were not so hopeful. Polina Kurdyavko from BlueBay Asset Management warned the economic challenges would be tough for whoever wins on May 14.
Spawn of the debt
And the Culture Ministry spent 2.6 million liras printing and promoting First Lady Emine Erdoğan’s new book. Still nothing compared to recent expenses at the Directorate for Communications. We don’t talk about Diyanet.
In stranger news, the Zombie mushroom from ‘The Last of Us’ grows naturally in the Samandıra Forest on İstanbul’s Asian side, which is too far from Beyoğlu to explain tourist behavior on İstiklal avenue.
Determined to see fair vote after earthquakes, Turks mobilize for May election (Reuters)
Turkey’s Erdoğan blames rate hikes for market turbulence in west (Bloomberg)
Turkey calls French envoy, protests hosting of Syria Kurds (AP)
Moscow to host Syria, Turkey, Iran, Russia meeting - official sources (Reuters)
Turkey-Armenia border will be opened to third-country citizens before summer (Bianet)
Egypt's Sisi unlikely to reconcile with Erdoğan before Turkey's election (Al-Monitor)
About 60,000 refugees returned to Syria after Turkey quakes, says minister (Bianet)
'Police beating' of 14-year-old Kurd highlights claims of impunity in Turkey (Al-Monitor)
Turkey: Sixteen journalists indicted nine months after being imprisoned (GN)
Turkey left off guest list for Biden’s 2nd democracy summit (Al-Monitor)
Can the Turkish Opposition Win Without Promising Social Change?
Journalist Barış Soydan argues the opposition maintains the same unhealthy relations with businesses as the AKP, writing while the earthquakes “revealed the collusion between political power and business interests” it is unlikely “the system itself will be overhauled, regardless of who wins the upcoming … elections.” (Turkey Analyst)
Don't be fooled by election polls. Erdoğan won't go down without a fight
Countering news that the opposition is far ahead in polls, journalist Hamdi Fırat Büyük lists the many tools at Erdoğan’s disposal, concluding: “After all, two decades later, he will be hardly ready to give up on power without playing all of his remaining cards — and he still has plenty of those up his sleeve.” (Euronews)
Turkey’s Xenophobic Turn Targets Stateless Syrians
Among other points, researcher Joshua Levkowitz highlights the residency options granted to displaced Venezuelans in Latin America to make the argument that “after 12 years under temporary protection, Syrians should finally be made eligible to apply for medium- to long-term residency” and the “process should start with Syrian children born in Turkey who are de facto stateless.” (FP)
Dersimli Kemal for President?
Detailing historical violence and more recent discrimination faced by Turkey’s Alevi minority, along with Kılıçdaroğlu’s roots in Dersim, analyst Ekrem Eddy Güzeldere opines: “After years of political and societal polarization, Kılıçdaroğlu’s candidature … could help bridge differences and bring society closer together.” (ELIAMEP)
Mar 31 The “child bride trial” of Yusuf Ziya Gümüşel and Kadir İstekli resumes in İstanbul (background)
Apr 3 TurkStat publishes inflation statistics for March 2023
Apr 3 Columbia University's Sakip Sabanci Center hosts an in-person and livestream lecture titled "Turkish Empire, Ottoman Republic, Muslim Nation: History in 2023’s Turkey" at 2000 GMT
Apr 4 Trial of journalist Hazal Ocak resumes in İstanbul (background)
Apr 5 Closure trial against the We Will Stop Femicide platform continues in İstanbul (background)
Apr 6 Trial of talk show host Rüstem Batum resumes in İstanbul (background)
Diego Cupolo, co-founder + editor @diegocupolo
Gonca Tokyol, freelance journalist @goncatokyol
Ingrid Woudwijk, freelance journalist @deingrid
Verda Uyar, freelance journalist @verdauyar
Gökalp Badak, editorial intern @gklpbdk