by instituDE, published on 8 May 2023


Good Party leader claims ruling party sent a bureaucrat to Imrali for jailed PKK leader

Meral Aksener, the leader of the opposition Good Party, claimed that Abdullah Ocalan, the jailed leader of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), was visited by a government official from the judiciary on Imrali Island. She also said that while she knew who it was, she would not reveal the name as that person was not a politician.

Bekir Bozdag, Minister of Justice, responded that technical teams occasionally visit Imrali Island to fix technical problems, and these visits had nothing to do with Ocalan. 

Galip Ensarioglu, the Justice and Development Party's Diyarbakir deputy during the 24th and 26th parliamentary periods and the party's candidate in the May 14 elections, announced that the government is always talking to the PKK leader to find a peaceful solution to the armed conflict.

Jailed former Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP) co-chair Selahattin Demirtas and journalist Murat Agirel also previously said that the alleged meeting took place between the parties, but the ruling party did not get any results. 

State-run broadcaster gives Erdogan 32 hours of coverage, ignores his top rival

Ilhan Tasci and Tuncay Keser, representatives of the main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP) at the Turkish Radio and Television Supreme Council (RTUK), released the statistics on May 2 after reviewing live coverage of party leaders during election rallies on the state-run Turkish Radio and Television (TRT).

Between April 1 and May 1, TRT broadcasted 32 hours of live speeches by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, while it aired only 32 minute-speech by Kemal Kilicdaroglu, the presidential candidate of the opposition Nation Alliance, during the same period.

Devlet Bahceli, an ally of President Erdogan and the leader of the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), was featured on TRT for 25 hours, while Meral Aksener, the chair of the Good Party, appeared only for a total of 10 minutes.

Ruling party's far-right ally threatens opposition bloc with death

On May 6, Devlet Bahceli, the leader of the far-right Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), threatened the leaders of the Nation Alliance with death.

While speaking at an electoral rally in the province of Yalova, Bahceli said, "Kemal Kilicdaroglu's alliance partners agreed to abolish the Directorate of Religious Affairs. These traitors will receive aggravated life sentences or have bullets inserted into their bodies." 

Kemal Kilicdaroglu, the main opposition Nation Alliance presidential candidate, repeatedly declared that the Directorate would not be closed.

Election bus of opposition bloc's vice-presidential candidate attacked in Erzurum

On May 7, while Ekrem Imamoglu, vice presidential candidate for the main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP), was speaking to the public at a rally in the eastern province of Erzurum, a group of individuals threw stones at his campaign bus.

Imamoglu urged people to remain calm in the face of the assault while speaking from the top of the bus. Imamoglu harshly denounced the security personnel and officials for failing to stop the attack and said he would file a criminal complaint against the governor and mayor of the province of Erzurum. 

Before the attack, the Erzurum Metropolitan Municipality, governed by the governing Justice and Development Party (AKP), brought public buses together in the square to prevent Imamoglu from holding his planned election rally.


Turkey's trade deficit widens by 43.9% annually

The Trade Ministry reported on May 2 that Turkey's trade deficit increased by 43.9% on a yearly basis to 8.85 billion dollars in April, despite a slowdown in imports of oil and gold. The ministry said that exports decreased by 17.2% to 19.315 billion dollars in April, while imports dropped by 4.5% to 28.162 billion dollars.

Russia agrees to postpone Turkey's gas payment before elections

Turkish Energy Minister Fatih Donmez said Russia has agreed to postpone a fraction of Turkey's natural gas payments. The move comes 10 days before the general election on May 14. 

Donmez said that Ankara had asked Russian energy giant Gazprom to postpone some payments for natural gas imports last year and that a deal was reached with Gazprom. However, the energy minister did not specify the amount Gazprom agreed to postpone.

Turkish central bank does not change inflation forecast for 2023

The governor of Turkey's central bank, Sahap Kavcioglu, stated on May 4 that the bank would maintain its 2023 inflation forecast at 22.3%. This figure is less than half of market estimates, and inflation has declined more slowly than initially expected.

According to Kavcioglu, indicators show a noticeable decrease in price increases, and cost pressures on inflation have largely disappeared.

However, the latest Reuters poll revealed that the median forecast for annual inflation in Turkey at the end of 2023 is 46.5%, with an increase expected in the year's second half.

"Digital coins lure inflation-weary Argentines and Turks" by Medha Singh, Reuters

Can inherently volatile cryptocurrencies become safe-havens? Apparently, they can in some parts of the world, such as Argentina and Turkey, where soaring prices and tumbling local currencies have forced people to seek refuge in digital coins.

Ownership of digital currencies in Turkey was the highest in the world at 27.1% followed by Argentina at 23.5% -- well above global crypto ownership rate estimated at 11.9% -- according to data from research firm GWI.

What's common to Turkey and Argentina besides their pole positions in crypto adoption is high inflation, which has led to crumbling currencies and capital controls to deter local residents from taking money out. 


Erdogan announces ISIS leader killed by Turkish intelligence services

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan announced on a TV broadcast that Turkish intelligence forces killed Islamic State leader Abu Hussein al-Qurashi in Syria, whom they had been pursuing for a long time.

According to Syrian local and security sources, the raid took place in the northern Syrian town of Jandaris, which rebel forces backed by Turkey control.

Citing a senior Turkish official, Reuters claimed that ISIS leader Qurashi detonated a suicide vest after refusing to surrender during the raid. A source also said that the US assisted in transferring intelligence collected by advanced systems that could intercept ISIS communications in Syria. 

After the previous IS leader was killed in an operation in southern Syria, al-Qurashi was elected as its leader in November 2022. The United States and Western countries did not confirm Qurashi's death yet.

US, Turkey cooperate in blacklisting financial links of terrorist groups in Syria 

The US Treasury Department sanctioned two people on May 2 in collaboration with the Turkish government for allegedly acting as money intermediaries for terrorist organizations, Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) and Katibat al-Tawhid wal-Jihad (KTJ), in the opposition-held northwest of Syria.

Omar Alsheak, whom the Treasury Department stated has held several leadership positions in HTS and is presently a member of the Shura Council, the emir of the HTS Aleppo army, and the supervisor of its international economic portfolio has been added to the US sanctions list.

Kubilay Sari, based in Istanbul, was also blacklisted on May 2. US Treasury Department claimed that Sari collected money in Turkey from contributors on behalf of KTJ fundraising to buy weapons such as firearms and mortars. The Idlib region in northwest Syria is the main operating area of the al-Qaeda-affiliated jihadist organization KTJ, which mainly involves Uzbeks.

On the same day, Alsheak and Sari's assets were frozen by the Turkish government.

Turkey closes its airspace to Armenian flights 

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu announced on May 3 that Turkey had restricted its airspace access to Armenian flights bound for a third destination following the inauguration of a controversial monument in Yerevan last week. Cavusoglu further stated that Turkey would consider taking additional actions if the monument is not removed.

In his briefing, US Department of State spokesman Vedant Patel said that the US is disappointed with Turkey's suspension decision.

The Nemesis Monument honors people involved in an assassination attempt against Ottoman Turkish authorities during World War One. Armenia holds Turkey responsible for mass killings of ethnic Armenians since the war, but Turkey denies the claims.


"Kilicdaroglu Should Have a Strategy for Election Denialism" by Hasim Tekines, Institute for Diplomacy and Economy

Most polls show Kilicdaroglu ahead of Erdogan for months. But the question of election security still waits for an answer. Rather than expecting Erdogan to concede defeat, the opposition would be well advised to formulate a strategy for addressing the potential scenario in which Erdogan declines to do so. 

Kilicdaroglu should reveal at least the outlines of his strategy in case of election fraud or denial. First, the opposition, as a united front, should declare that they will not be part of the Parliament and not recognize the legitimacy of rigged election results. Thus, Erdogan will not enjoy the façade of democracy and legitimacy that the somewhat diverse structure of Turkish politics provides.

Another step that Kilicdaroglu can take is civil disobedience or peaceful demonstrations, which can mobilize millions of his supporters. Although its success rate has been decreasing in recent years (thanks to improving surveillance capacity of the states), it has been successful in many previous cases, like in colored revolutions.

If Kilicdaroglu shows his resoluteness to defend election results, this might increase the chance of international diplomatic and economic pressures on Erdogan. Kilicdaroglu's willpower can encourage desperate voters and bureaucrats too.

"The Killing of the ISIS Leader and Manipulation of Islamic Traditions" by Mustafa Enes Esen, Institute for Diplomacy and Economy

ISIS leader Abu Hussein al-Quraishi was killed by Turkish National Intelligence Organization (MIT) in northern Syria on April 29, according to President Erdoğan. Although ISIS or other Western governments did not confirm this yet, it would not be surprising to hear of an ISIS leader being killed in a region within the Turkish sphere of influence in Syria.

ISIS persists as a grave danger, and the demise of its leaders does not guarantee the withering of the group's capability to carry out terrorist attacks. Therefore, governments and international organizations must stay alert and adopt effective strategies to counter terrorism and forestall the radicalization of individuals who may be vulnerable to extremist propaganda.

On the other hand, the death of the latest ISIS leader needs to be confirmed with methods such as a DNA test since there are reports indicating that ISIS is faking the death of some of its senior officers to shield them from getting targeted. This is why one needs more than a picture of a dead body or intelligence reports to ensure the identity.

"A shadow of growing despotism lurks over Turkey's elections" by Editorial Board, The Washington Post

His sagging popularity ahead of Turkey's May 14 elections attests to many Turks' disillusionment with the highly personalized autocracy Mr. Erdogan has constructed, built on repression, the subjugation of dissenting views and once-independent institutions, and a deepening contempt for human rights and democratic norms.

Mr. Erdogan's standing has been further damaged by the slow response to the devastating earthquake that crippled southern and central Turkey in February, killing at least 45,000 people and injuring twice as many. That failure, and the death toll exacerbated by the collapse of buildings that did not meet construction standards, was emblematic of the corruption and mismanagement that many Turks regard as characteristic of his rule.

If Mr. Erdogan does not prevail in the May 14 vote, or in a possible runoff two weeks later, there are concerns he and his supporters might challenge the outcome. In a country where democracy has had a relatively firm foothold, those worries are a measure of how deeply the Turkish strongman has subverted norms — and the dangers posed by extending his autocratic rule.

"Turkey's Resilient Autocrat" by Soner Cagaptay, Foreign Affairs

Using his broad influence over Turkish media, Erdogan has effectively limited public debate of the earthquake, shifting the domestic discussion to Turkey's industrial and military achievements under him. As unexpected as it appears, Erdogan's comeback is characteristic of a politician who has repeatedly shown his skill at using state resources to his advantage and at dividing or neutralizing his opponents. Erdogan's resilience shows how difficult it can be to unseat an illiberal leader in an electoral contest, even one who enjoys little support.

The Turkish presidential contest may be the most consequential election this year. Either Erdogan will lose, giving Turkey a chance of restoring full democracy, or he will win and likely remain in power for the rest of his life.

For now, free elections in Turkey still matter, and this month's election will likely be free and peaceful. If Erdogan is defeated, it will mark a significant shift in the status of nativist populism globally. Less certain is what future elections in Turkey will look like if Erdogan wins.

"Turkey's Elections Won't Be Free or Fair" by Nate Schenkkan and Aykut Garipoglu, Foreign Policy

Although Erdogan has steered Turkey toward autocracy, the country's political field remains competitive and pluralistic. With under two weeks to go, and with the country reeling from an economic crisis and the massive February earthquakes, the opposition is leading in several polls. Turkey's election won't be free or fair, but it could still spell the end of Erdogan's political career.

One danger is that the opposition will pull ahead on election night—but narrowly—and that Erdogan will lean on the YSK and other institutions to make up the polling difference. Another danger is that the opposition will win but that Erdogan will refuse to concede, setting up an unprecedented confrontation between the two camps. The risks will rise if the election goes to a second round because no candidate wins more than 50 percent of the vote. With only two weeks between rounds, the atmosphere in the country—already tense in advance of a historic vote—could reach a fever pitch.

That means the international community must deploy substantial resources for monitoring and documenting electoral violations on the ground—from forms of interference that take place long before election day to those that take place on or after it. Observers must also be prepared to publicly denounce violations as soon as they occur, and to make clear to Erdogan and the AKP the tangible consequences—in terms of changes to foreign relations and sanctions on officials involved in election violations—of meddling with the results or violently suppressing protests in the case of a contested outcome.

"If Turkey sacks its strongman, democrats everywhere should take heart", The Economist

By showing off the warship, which is making a campaign tour of the coast, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan hopes to fire up patriotic voters. But his charisma, grand gestures and giveaways may not be enough. The man who has ruled Turkey since 2003, in an increasingly autocratic style, could face defeat.

The election is on a knife-edge. Most polls show Mr Erdogan trailing by a small margin. In an era when strongman rule is on the rise, from Hungary to India, the peaceful ejection of Mr Erdogan would show democrats everywhere that strongmen can be beaten.

If Mr Erdogan loses, it will show that the erosion of democracy can be reversed—and suggest how. Democratic opposition parties need to recognise the danger and unite before it is too late. 

Mr Kilicdaroglu may be a little dull, but he is a dogged creator of consensus and charmingly humble; the opposite of his adversary. If he were to win, it would be a huge moment for Turkey, Europe and the global struggle for genuine democracy. We warmly endorse Kemal Kilicdaroglu as the next president of Turkey.