Ahead of Sunday’s big vote, the recap machine is running full team ahead.
This week, we not only produced infographics on voting trends in the quake zone, but also published a deep dive on Turkish nationalism and hosted a pre-vote livestream with Berk Esen.
On election day, we’ll be live-tweeting news from around the country, with extra posts for our members-only Slack channel. Get access by supporting us on Patreon or Substack.
And next week, we invite you all to a special post-vote Q+A panel with Sibel Oktay, Selim Koru and Merve Tahiroğlu on Wednesday 31 May at 1500 GMT. Hold on tight till then!
There is not a better way to describe the opposition’s current campaign then this new hand sign: a combination of Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu’s heart emoji and the ultranationalist grey wolf symbol.
Ahead of a tough run-off, large opposition posters with promises like “Syrians. Will. Go.” and “Terror. Will. Stop” appeared this week in İstanbul along with less hateful messages like “Poverty. Will. Stop.”
It’s all part of the fight for right-wing voters, as consultations between ultranationalist Sinan Oğan’s (now defunct) alliance and both presidential candidates continued over the weekend.
On Monday, Oğan endorsed Pres. Erdoğan, even though he questioned how a true nationalist could be allied with HÜDA PAR. People were quick to dig up a lot of old tweets to stress the change, of course.
Meanwhile, talks continued between KK and Zafer Party head Ümit Özdağ, who decided to make his own deal with the opposition, ultimately resulting in an endorsement for KK.
The two signed a protocol, which among other things, stated all asylum-seekers and fugitives, Syrians especially, will be sent back to their countries within one year without providing further details. As reported by Al-Monitor, these kinds of announcements tend to lump together different migrant groups, often exaggerating their numbers.
The protocol’s fourth article also raised eyebrows by hinting at a continuation of the ‘kayyum’ practice, or the state authority to appoint trustees, through which mostly Kurdish elected officials have been dismissed for alleged terrorism links.
The HDP, the party most affected by the practice, was not amused as the executive boards of the HDP and Yeşil Sol Party gathered Wednesday to state the article was "against universal democratic principles."
Today (Thursday), the pro-Kurdish parties still extended their support to KK’s candidacy despite the protocol controversy.
Still, KK’s harder anti-refugee and nationalist stances risk alienating not only Kurdish voters, but also more left-leaning and liberal voters in the second round. As voting abroad has ended, domestic turnout and ballot box safety will be key.
On the other side, Erdoğan promised the return of some 1 million Syrians in a voluntary new repatriation project. This involves building homes in Syria, where Interior Minister and now MP Süleyman Soylu attended a foundation laying ceremony Wednesday.
Going against the growing ‘send ‘em home’ fever, Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu said repatriating all Syrians would create employment problems in Turkey, stating: “People complain that they cannot find shepherds, for example, my father has sheep. There is a need for a workforce right now.”
“It's sad to see that a campaign that was based on love and inclusion has taken such a fearful turn,” said Şebnem Gümüşçü, associate professor of political science at Middlebury College.
With a fragile coalition, KK is looking for a common outsider to blame, she argues, highlighting how widespread anti-refugee sentiments can be among Turkish citizens.
“Irrespective of their education levels, irrespective of their political views, their social classes, and their ethnic or religious identities, they all have one thing in common. They do not want irregular migration,” Gümüşçü told Turkey recap.
She added, tensions on a social level would continue regardless of who wins “because people are bombarded with all these hate messages and hate speech day in and day out.”
“I think the entire campaign, perhaps from both sides, especially from Erdoğan’s side, really hurt the social fabric,” Gümüşçü continued, “[Erdoğan] basically manipulated his own people into supporting him with all these disinformation campaigns and [by] showing the opposition candidate as evil terrorists and whatnot.”
– Ingrid Woudwijk
Power of BaBaLa
“We will close the doors to hell” KK tweeted the same day a more than 4-hours-long YouTube video showed him sweating over a parade of stumper questions.
KK was a guest last week on the popular show Açık Mikrofon or ‘Open Mic’, which previously hosted politicians like Oğan and Muharrem İnce. In his appearance, KK reportedly talked to youth from various political backgrounds for more than seven hours.
The platform might be the opposition’s last-ditch effort to reach mass audiences before the vote as his presence in mainstream traditional media outlets remains severely limited.
Hours after the episode was posted Wednesday night, crowds could be seen watching the event on giant screens in public, with plenty of comments on that John Lennon cameo.
During the show, many of the young Turkish citizens who posed questions to KK defined themselves as resentful voters (küskün seçmen), blaming him and the CHP for previous malpractices and shortcomings in the opposition.
One looming and repeated topic was KK’s nomination as the joint opposition candidate despite clear signs he might not defeat Erdoğan. “Are you covertly an AKP supporter?” one man asked him.
Other questions focused on the sudden shift from heart-shaped fingers to finger pointing.
“It is harder to manage CHP than it is to manage Turkey,” KK said at one point, admitting past mistakes, including the party’s communication strategy the night of the first round vote, though he argued the opposition was now on the track to victory, saying, “We will win in the second round” in his last response.
Another recurring criticism towards KK was the opposition party did not resonate with ordinary citizens and that it lacked the capability to speak their language over the years.
Acknowledging the statement, KK said his party was shifting and now prioritizes “hugging and listening to the problems of all.” KK specifically asked forgiveness for the party’s stance on the 90’s headscarf ban and his previous statements on veils after complaints from two young women in the audience.
Surprisingly, questions on his populist pledge to repatriate Syrian refugees did not come until the second hour of the broadcast. Reiterating his promise, he also threatened to withdraw from the Turkey-EU readmission agreement and to let refugees flow into Europe should the union fail to fund reconstruction in Syrian.
That, of course, is a critical statement considering KK also eyes EU visa liberalization for Turkish nationals.
“Our people deserve first-class democracy. Let’s bring whichever democratic rules apply for instance in Germany, the Netherlands and Japan. But we will not kneel down against Europe. We strive for a Turkey that challenges the world with its knowledge and technology,” he added.
He went on to list some plans, including closing of the Council of Higher Education. KK’s central argument throughout the broadcast was to bring justice and independent bureaucracy back to the country and to reconstruct state institutions accordingly.
“This can’t be done with a single party but with the eye of the general public,” he said.
On his alleged terror links, KK responded by showing footage of Erdoğan speaking favorably of Fethullah Gülen. As for PKK ties, he said Erdoğan was “holding the key to İmralı.”
Quake zone voting prep
Ahead of the second round, cities in the quake region are covered with the campaign posters. “Continue with the right man” is Erdoğan’s slogan, and “The Syrians will go” is KK’s slogan.
"If we win, the nation will win," Erdoğan said during a Maraş visit Saturday, where he got the highest percentage of support in the first round of the elections. "I believe that your support for me will be even higher [in the second round] ... We will write the saga of Turkey's century together."
The opposition candidate was in Hatay Tuesday, where he reiterated a promise to rebuild survivors’ homes and workplaces without charge. "We already found international loans for it," KK said. "Nobody should worry. If I promise it, I will definitely do it."
Yet according to Ahmet Gülyıldızoğlu, a Hatay resident who spoke to AFP, it’s the People’s alliance that keeps promises, while KK "does not fill a person with hope."
In the same report, academic Berk Esen said the opposition was not offering credible messaging to counter Erdoğan’s rhetoric. However, Seren Selvin Korkmaz, IstanPol executive director, told the Washington Post people in the earthquake region couldn't hear the opposition's proposals due to the state’s control of most mass media venues.
"The main strategy of Erdoğan was to manage the perceptions, rather than providing solutions to the issues," Korkmaz said, adding the president maintains loyal supporters despite a prolonged economic crisis and the post-quake rebuilding challenges to come.
Meanwhile, people from the region are busy finding the means to return to their cities once again to vote Sunday. Despite some organizational efforts by AFAD and political parties, logistical issues remain for many due to the lack of centralized planning.
"My brother paid for our last trip," one Hatay resident currently living in Ankara told Turkey recap. "I don't want to ask him again. I'm tired of calling people for my needs. I just wanted to feel normal when I went to the ballot box last time – a citizen deciding on his future. But now I see that I even need help to do that. It's depressing."
The steady (invisible) hand
For the third month in a row and as expected, Turkey’s Central Bank kept the benchmark interest rate steady at 8.5 percent today (Thursday), citing a global recession and financial instability risks as the main factors for the decision.
For some time now, experts have warned keeping interest rates low would have negative consequences despite the short-term benefits. Writing for Yetkin Report, economist Selva Demiralp argued that lowering the policy rate would not stimulate the economy and with inflation taken into account, the current course will yield much higher costs like a depreciated currency.
As pressure builds and lira slipped once more to record lows against the US dollar last week, the CB urged banks earlier this week to buy dollar bonds in an effort to keep borrowing costs stable.
This comes as Turkey’s international reserves also dropped to 21-year lows to $2.33 billion USD due to increased FX demand before elections. According to FT calculations, a similar sharp slump also occurred in the country’s gold holdings, which appear to have fallen by 15 percent since the end of March.
For the country’s finance chief Nureddin Nebati, it is again the opposition to blame. Despite the economic turmoil and high inflation, Erdoğan may be re-elected and keep his unorthodox economic policies in place, disregarding his own bureaucrats.
If that’s the case, KK claimed that one US dollar will hit 30 liras while economist Atilla Yeşilada forecasts “an economic crisis that will be equally as bad as the 2001 one.”
And this week’s anti-migrant pangs and Ülkücü pains made it a tough week for internet humor, but where there’s a will, there’s a bey:
Here’s some things Mustafa Sarıgül slapped, punched or threw.
A pro-gov channel gave Kılıçdaroğlu the same treatment Yeniden Refah gives women candidates.
This list of Turkey’s 10 least popular parties will instantly improve your self-esteem.
The Midnight Express remake is in the works after someone got caught with 1.5 kgs of opium in a box of Turkish delights at İstanbul airport
Likening the Marmara Sea to a hipster’s gut microbes, academics discovered the solution to sea snot is probiotics.
One can always dream: Here’s an amazing thread on what İstanbul’s main streets would look like without cars.
2023 Turkish Elections Results By District: 5 Maps Ahead of Erdoğan-Kılıçdaroğlu Run-Off (Journo)
Erdoğan hails ‘special relationship’ with Putin ahead of crucial Turkey runoff vote (CNN)
Turkey lashes out at US over warship anchored in Cyprus (Al-Monitor)
Diyanet dismisses imam after asking congregation to 'prepare their weapons' on election night (Duvar)
13-year-old faces trial for insulting Turkish President Erdoğan (GN)
German prosecutors charge four over violating trade act to sell spyware to Turkey (AP)
Germany rejects Turkey's accusations of lack of freedom for the press (Reuters)
Assailant who attacked Turkish House in New York identified (AA)
İstanbul police detain four youth after brawl over dancing halay to Kurdish music (Duvar)
A Flawed Vote, Not a Horse Race
Democracy Reporting International’s Michael Meyer-Resende argues authoritarian governments shouldn’t be allowed to claim legitimacy from flawed elections and highlights dilemmas for political oppositions which are “set up to fail” in competitive authoritarian regimes. (Verfassungsblog)
Turkey’s politics on the cusp of generational change
Arguing Turkey is set for generational shifts in the years to come, analyst Galip Dalay, among other points, writes pressure on the PKK will strengthen the civilian side of Kurdish politics, whose future “lies in the metropolitan cities of the western Turkey.” (Chatham House)
Erdoğan’s Imperial Project Has Paid Off at the Ballot Box
In a pre-election Q+A, analyst Selim Koru breaks down the May 14 results and looks at Turkey’s political future, writing: “Erdoğan has accomplished many of his goals” but ultimately wants to position Turkey so it “can once again compete with the West across all spheres of life.” (Fondazione Oasis)
A Pirouette, Not a Pivot
Analyst Aaron Stein argues no one should expect major changes in Turkish foreign policy if Erdoğan is reelected, writing: “Ankara will be mercantilist, inward-looking, and beholden to the political whims of a nationalist elite hostile to the United States.” (WOTR)
May 26 The Washington Institute hosts a webinar titled "Turkey's Presidential Runoff: What to Expect May 28 and After" at 16:30 GMT
May 28 Second round of the substantially massive elections
May 28 10-year anniversary of the Gezi protests
May 29 570-year anniversary of the İstanbul conquest
May 30 TAPSA hosts a webinar titled "Making Sense of Turkey's 2023 Runoff Elections" at 1500 GMT
May 31 Turkey recap hosts a live Post-Election Q+A panel with Sibel Oktay, Selim Koru and Merve Tahiroğlu at 1500 GMT
May 31 Trial of journalist Burhan Ekinci resumes in İstanbul
May 31 Trial of journalists Mehmet Baransu, Ahmet Altan, Yasemin Çongar, Yıldıray Oğur and Tuncay Opçin resumes in İstanbul
Jun 1 Trial of Eren Keskin, a human rights lawyer and co-chair of the Human Rights Association (İHD), resumes in İzmir
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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