Margin Of Terror
The clock is ticking, so join us for our pre-election livestream, The Final Countdown: Election Q+A with Michael Sercan Daventry aka the journalist behind James In Turkey. Our broadcast begins May 10 at 1600 GMT and we’ll start taking questions now!
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In the meantime, check our latest coverage from the earthquake zone with Gonca Tokyol’s report on Hatay’s rural exodus and Paul Benjamin Osterlund’s dispatch from Antakya. And don’t miss Metin Kaan Kurtuluş’ essential guide to Turkish pollsters.
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Pres. Erdoğan got back on the campaign trail Saturday after canceling election events for three days straight, and while his virtual appearances were okay, they were no match for this new virtual reality initiative, where first-time voters get to practice their democratic rights in the Metaverse.
After the IRL appearance at Teknofest, Erdoğan picked up the pace, holding rallies in İzmir, Ankara, Antalya and Konya, where he used dehumanizing language to talk about opposition candidate Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu’s faith, almost-kinda referring to Alevis as a species or type of … human? It’s not clear.
Erdoğan then visited the Black Sea region Wednesday. In Rize, his memleket, the crowd yelled and booed along with a speech full of the culture war rhetoric we’ve been hearing in almost all rallies.
The TLDR version: the opposition = LGBT. HDP/Kurds = terrorists, which means the opposition also = terrorists. And look at all the roads, tunnels, airports, and defense gear we made.
In response, the opposition has tried to shift discussions to the economy as Bloomberg reports inflation and young voters concerned about their future pose the biggest threats to Erdoğan, concluding: “Older, conservative voters were more likely to stick to Erdoğan, while poorer people are losing faith. Younger voters are the most frustrated.”
Addressing those sentiments in a new kitchen video, Kılıçdaroğlu and DEVA chair Ali Babacan outlined their future economic policies, with Kılıçdaroğlu separately releasing his shortest clip yet Wednesday evening, stating: “Today, if you are poorer than yesterday, the only reason is Erdoğan."
This comes amid the continuous detentions of Yeşil Sol Party members and election security volunteers. Notably, jailed former HDP co-chair Selahattin Demirtaş, who holds sway over YSP voters, issued a call to vote for Kılıçdaroğlu after the HDP made a similar statement Friday, nudging about 10 percent of the electorate to support the Nation Alliance.
Meanwhile, concerns are growing regarding the prospects for political violence and the acceptance of election results following a number of statements by AKP officials.
Interior Min. Süleyman “bi’tanem” Soylu Friday said the elections are “a political coup attempt by the West”, which was repeated by Erdoğan’s advisor Mehmet Uçum.
Monday Erdoğan walked a similar path when he said: “My nation will not hand the country to those who get support from Qandil” (read: the PKK, which he equates with HDP/YSP, which is supporting Kılıçdaroğlu).
Selim Koru, a Turkey analyst and author of the Kültürkampf newsletter, argues this language is primarily aimed at the AKP’s own supporters and bureaucratic class:
“They suggest that an opposition win would be unacceptable, but fall just shy of saying that they wouldn’t let it happen,” he told Turkey recap.
“If you’re thinking about defecting in some way and you hear a statement like that, you might think that a transition of power is less likely,” Koru continued.
“Even if you haven’t been thinking about defecting, it’ll help you be more confident of victory, so you invest more into the campaign. It reinforces the aura of invincibility around the palace.”
Whether AKP officials actually back up their threats remains to be seen, but Koru said it would be “foolish” for opposition members not to take the possibility into account.
Still, in an interview with Time magazine, Kılıçdaroğlu made the impression such worries were unnecessary. “Erdoğan will lose, and he will go. Society will condemn him to go,” he was quoted as saying.
– Ingrid Woudwijk
"Earthquake survivors are so full of heart ... Because they were left to their fate," said an Antakya resident in a recent BBC Türkçe video when asked about voting preferences in the quake zone. The sentiment remains widely felt throughout Hatay, as Turkey recap observed this week.
Access to clean water remains problematic in the city, and rising temperatures are adding to the current troubles.
"It's not possible to stay in the tents or containers during the day because of the heat," Nuray Kılıç, from Hatay's Yeşilpınar village, told Turkey recap. "Mosquitos and snakes are everywhere. And it's only the beginning of the hot days. I don't know how we are going to survive the summer."
Finding proper summer clothes is another problem. The first round of donations came during cold winter days, and with decreasing aid flows, many people in the city remain without adequate shoes and clothing for the fast-arriving summer heat.
"At first, they left us alone to perish in the cold. Now, no one has an idea about how we'll survive the summer. We didn't die, but they put us in graves already. They don't even let us use our constitutional rights," Merih Kara, a biology teacher from Defne, told Turkey recap in reference to upcoming elections.
Speaking of, with just 10 days to go, there appears to be no central planning for transporting people back to Hatay so they can cast ballots in their registered districts on voting day. Political parties like CHP, YSP and TİP are organizing some transportation campaigns, but many people involved in the process fear chaos will be unavoidable next weekend.
In addition, Hakan Güneş, TİP's election director for the earthquake zone, told Turkey recap that bringing voters to their cities of residence was only the first step.
"We need mobile kitchens to feed people who will come to vote, we need additional tents and toilets," Güneş said.
"But we already used most of our resources in post-quake relief. We need help to do [facilitate voting] since it seems like the state and the government don’t have any plans for that day.”
“Without proper help, people who return to their cities to vote will experience a crisis similar to the first days of the disaster,” he added, citing potentially massive traffic jams and other logistical challenges.
Freedom of repression
Wednesday, May 3, marked World Press Freedom Day and we might have finally understood the meaning of the expression: “Freedom isn’t free.”
Just over the last week, 5 journalists were jailed in Turkey, a 13-year old was investigated for “insulting the president”, a Kurdish street musician was killed for refusing to sing the nationalist anthem, Ölürüm Türkiyem, and famous pop singer Gülşen was sentenced to jail for a joke about religious schools.
Mesopotamia News Agency editor Sedat Yılmaz and Dicle Müftüoğlu from Dicle Fırat Journalists Association were arrested Wednesday among others as a part of a criminal investigation by Ankara Chief Public Prosecutor's Office, with reported violent and inhumane treatment during their time of custody. Several reporters covering the Labor Day protests were also blocked, detained and battered.
We’re not done. Another reporter was attacked by Interior Min. Soylu’s security officials after asking a question about the minister’s election coup remarks. Gerçek Gündem’s journalist Filiz Gazi’s ID and phone were then seized by bodyguards and police officers. And six female journalists were violently taken into custody, elsewhere, while trying to protest their colleagues’ detentions.
According to a recent Journalists’ Union of Turkey (TGS) report, 47 journalists are currently in Turkish prisons. Over the last year, 96 journalists were physically attacked, while 4,148 news articles and 46 news sites were blocked, the report also notes.
Underlining the above trends, Turkey plunged to 165th place among 180 countries in RSF’s Press Freedom Index, down 16 places from the previous report.
Those are the conditions under which journalists in Turkey operate. Add a salary that doesn’t keep pace with inflation and you get the AFP İstanbul bureau strike. #JournalismIsNotAPastime.
In foreign affairs, Turkish forces killed suspected IS leader Abu al-Hussein al-Husseini al-Qurashi in Syria, Erdoğan said during a televised interview Sunday. US officials did not immediately confirm the claim, and IS has yet to release confirmation as well, but Reuters reported Tuesday the alleged leader died by detonating a suicide vest.
Meanwhile, negotiations continue for the extension of the Black Sea grain deal, which expires May 18. Foreign ministers from Turkey, Syria, Iran and Russia will also meet in Moscow May 10 to continue the Ankara-Damascus rapprochement process.
But the picture is less rosy for Ankara-Yerevan ties after Turkey closed its airspace to Armenian flights this week as a new monument spaked a fresh rift between the neighbors. Throughout all the above, the luxury yachts of Russian oligarchs remain anchored in Bodrum, taking up prime parking spots ahead of the summer season.
All that glitters is not sold
On the economic front, the government will consider a rise in the minimum wage this July, Labor and Social Security Min. Vedat Bilgin announced earlier this week. This comes as prices are still rising despite a decrease in the official inflation rate, which dropped below 50 percent according to latest TurkStat data released Wednesday.
Consumer prices rose by 2.39 percent in April on a monthly basis and the annual rate eased to 43.68 percent, again according to official data, the lowest recorded in 16 months. The slow down was more than economists anticipated, which could still revert to an upward trend after the elections.
But in a parallel universe (not sure which one is the simulation anymore), Turkey’s annual inflation for the same reporting period remains as high as 105.19 percent, according to the Inflation Research Group (ENAG). The independent group states the highest price hike in the past month were seen in clothing expenses.
In other credible-or-not-data from this week, Turkey’s official trade deficit increased last month by 44 percent to 8.85 billion dollars. Both exports and imports slumped in April compared to the previous month which as per the government were impacted by the Ramadan holiday.
We say the holy suspension of gold imports in February played a part as well. Gold imports have significantly dropped since then and total reserves are also in decline as the CB sells off existing reserves to meet local demand.
May the farce be with you
And apart from Kılıçdaroğlu’s space port plans for Atatürk Airport and the resulting spat with drone-maker Baykar, what else did the Turkey-verse bring this week?
A shareable Erdoğan vote pic in case your family or employer demands one.
This thread of Taylor Swift in Kılıçdaroğlu poses, which is done all too well.
We love you, Mimari Facialar, but this is art.
Women can run for office with Yeniden Refah party, but can’t be displayed.
Also taking issue with women, Soylu now contests victory signs and cream ads.
And having lost Gen Z, the AKP is already recruiting the next voter horde, but only if they color inside the lines.
Russia agrees to deferred gas payments, Turkish energy minister says (Reuters)
State-run network TRT gives Erdoğan 32 hours of coverage, Kılıçdaroğlu mere 32 minutes in one month (Duvar)
Court Justice Muammer Topal: Gender equality is a modern myth (GN)
Former Halkbank executive Hakan Atilla detained at airport (Bianet)
Erdoğan unveils Turkey’s first astronaut on election trail (AP)
Iraq Says No Deal Yet With Turkey on Resuming Ceyhan Oil Flows (Bloomberg)
Swedes tighten terror laws, likely to help NATO membership (AP)
İstanbul grapples with housing crisis while thousands of homes remain vacant (Bianet)
Dog diplomacy: Turkey sends Mexico puppy after search dog's death (BBC)
Turkey’s Elections Won’t Be Free or Fair
Detailing various electoral challenges for the opposition, Freedom House’s Nate Schenkkan and Aykut Garipoğlu write: “One danger is that the opposition will pull ahead on election night—but narrowly—and that Erdoğan will lean on the YSK and other institutions to make up the polling difference.” (FP)
Turkey’s Elections and Foreign Policy Options
Academics Onur İşçi and Samuel J. Hirst argue Turkey’s post-election diplomacy will be directed by economics, not geopolitics, writing: “The economic realities mean that whoever wins on May 14 will be forced to maintain relations with both Western purchasers of Turkish exports and Russian and Chinese providers of key imports.” (WOTR)
The Political Aftershock of Turkey’s Devastating Earthquake
In a personal account, writer Kaya Genç reflects on covering Turkey over the last decade as well as the recent earthquake, concluding: “With the corruption so vividly exposed, and with a unified opposition, there is a good chance that Turkey’s anger will turn into an electoral victory for the opposition later this month.” (The Nation)
What should the European Union do in case of an opposition victory in Turkey?
In this policy brief, analyst İlke Toygur writes an opposition victory might provide an opportunity to ‘re-rail’ Turkey-EU relations, arguing both sides have historical responsibility to start rebuilding bilateral confidence and ramp up political and institutional contacts. (SUITS)
May 8 Al-Monitor hosts a webinar titled "What to expect in Turkey's elections: Live Q&A webinar" at 15:30 GMT
May 9 The trial of 36 suspects charged with November's İstiklal bombing begins in İstanbul (background)
May 9 The trial of journalists Canan Coşkun, Barış Pehlivan resumes in İstanbul (background)
May 9 Freedom House and Article 19 host a Twitter Space titled "History in the Making – Twitter space talk ahead of the Turkish elections" at 1400 GMT
May 10 Turkish, Syrian, Iranian and Russian FMs to meet in Moscow (AA)
May 10 Turkey recap hosts a livestream titled “The Final Countdown: Election Q+A with Michael Sercan Daventry” at 1600 GMT
May 11 MEI hosts a webinar titled "Anticipating Turkey's Elections" at 1400 GMT
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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