by instituDE, published on 8 April 2024


"Erdogan at Crossroads Once More" by Hasim Tekines, The Institute for Diplomacy and Economy

The AKP and its Islamist and nationalist allies have clearly lost votes, signaling discontent among Erdoğan's base. This new reality of Turkish politics leaves Erdoğan with two alternative paths: one that aims to save the economy and thus remove one of the root causes of discontent, or a more authoritarian one that seeks to curb dissent through more oppression. Both paths have their own risks and opportunities for Erdoğan.

By 2028, Imamoğlu will be an experienced politician who has governed Istanbul for a decade. In contrast to Erdoğan's advanced age and illness, Imamoğlu has a young, energetic, and modern image that promises to rejuvenate the country. This means that Erdoğan will face a much stronger opponent. 

In contrast to Erdogan's advanced age and sickness, the opposition has energetic leaders who can electrify the masses. As the people, bureaucracy and politicians see a power shift in the political landscape in favor of the opposition, Erdoğan will have less room to maneuver. He will also have fewer spoils to share with his allies as municipalities are the main source of income for the AKP to feed its cronies. They have lost many large municipalities, meaning these resources now belong to the opposition. In other words, it will be harder and more costly for Erdoğan to make allies and manipulate politics as the political actors will try to adapt to new realities.

Erdoğan has two challenging paths ahead. First, he can focus on improving the economy. The main resources that can save the Turkish economy still lie in the European and American markets. Of course, Western countries, realizing Erdogan's domestic predicament, will gain more leverage against Ankara. 

An alternative option is to borrow a new page from the dictator's playbook. Erdoğan can consolidate his power by brute force to compensate for his diminishing charisma and popular support. 

These two trajectories require different policies. But Erdoğan is unlikely to choose one of them. Instead, he will probably try a mix of the two. Depending on how the economy is doing, the degree of authoritarianism will vary. Erdoğan may wait until the economic downturn is weathered to return to his populist policies and more authoritarian steps. Or, if things go better than expected, tightening the screw a little more will be enough to secure the next elections.

[Erdoğan] has a major flaw: he is getting old and sick while his opponents are charismatic and energetic. PEven if he gets the economy back on track (a big 'if'), he will struggle to find new political allies and implement his more authoritarian policies to suppress dissent. If people, bureaucracy, and politicians sense a sign of weakness, it will push them into the winning coalition. And if he fails to solve his succession problem, his own ruling coalition may start to dissolve from peripheries to the inner circle. Thus, as time goes on, Erdoğan will face more and more difficulties in maintaining his fine walk between authoritarianism and democracy.

"Post-Erdogan Turkey Is Finally Here" by Steven A. Cook and Sinan Ciddi, Foreign Policy

It is a testament to the political fortitude of Turks and the continuing strength of Turkey's democratic practices—without the country actually qualifying as a democracy—that people still came out in droves last weekend to register their disapproval of Erdogan and the AKP. [He] now confronts the most serious rebuke of his political career. For the first time in many years, without stretching credulity, analysts can imagine what a post-AKP Turkey might look like.

This result was not, in fact, a race between Imamoglu and Kurum; it was a contest between Imamoglu and Erdogan. In his effort to support Kurum, Erdogan employed every strategy, including sending 17 cabinet ministers to campaign in the city, as well as making numerous appearances himself.  

Long gone on the stump is Erdogan's positive vision of Turkey's future. In its place are a bevy of threats bellowing to crowds that if they did not vote for the AKP, then he would suspend local government services. The bad candidates, the terrible economy, and Erdogan's bellicosity all came crashing down on Sunday.  

Going forward, there are not many good options for Erdogan. If he taps the court to ban Imamoglu, this could result in a massive public backlash, well beyond the boundaries of Istanbul. Similarly, removing Imamoglu does not alter the CHP-dominated electoral map of Turkey that has appeared. True, these were local elections and not necessarily determinative of a national race, but Erdogan would not risk an early presidential race now. Attempting to reset the AKP to its factory settings and returning to 2002 will not work. The entire AKP brand is tarnished by corruption, arrogance, and Erdogan's authoritarianism. Never count Erdogan out, but it does seem that Turkey is on the cusp of a new era. Erdogan will cling to office, but it seems clear that the future now lies with Imamoglu.

"Ekrem İmamoğlu, the Istanbul mayor facing down Erdoğan" by Adam Samson, Financial Times

The contrasting scenes underscore İmamoğlu's ability to morph between charismatic campaigner and softer, more pious man. This has won him support from beyond his Republican People's party (CHP), which was founded on Atatürk's staunchly secular ideology. His desk displays both the Nutuk, a key Atatürk speech, and the Koran. 

One leader of a big Istanbul-based business says that while İmamoğlu has proven himself to be a capable leader, he remains a "political bureaucrat [rather] than someone who wants to really drive change".

The cases, combined with Erdoğan's move to deploy ministers to campaign for Kurum in Istanbul, created the impression among voters that "the entire state is against İmamoğlu", says Özer Sencar at the Metropoll research group. He believes that probably gave him a boost.

İmamoğlu still declines to say whether he will make a national run in 2028, which some believe could pit him against Erdoğan despite the president having reached his term limits. A race between them, or with Erdoğan's successor, would be a significant test of the Istanbul mayor's appeal across Turkey's Anatolian heartland where the AKP party is popular with voters who back the president's Islamist-rooted politics.


CHP Claims Discovery of Deceased Voters in Hatay Local Elections

The main opposition party in Turkey, the Republican People's Party (CHP), announced on April 7 that they found 3,389 votes from deceased people during a recount of ballots in the southeastern Hatay province. 

The party contested the ruling party's victory at the Supreme Electoral Board (YSK) in Ankara. Despite ongoing disputes by the CHP, the Municipal Electoral Board declared the ruling party's candidate as the mayor on April 6. 

The CHP urged the YSK to act transparently and requested re-election after uncovering the deceased voters, who were victims of the Feb. 6 earthquakes in the province. It presented an 86-page report detailing its findings to the YSK. 

The YSK is expected to provide an opinion on the CHP's application on April 8.

Allegations of Corruption Arise in Municipalities After Local Elections

Following the recent local elections in Turkey, allegations of corruption and misuse of public funds have emerged in municipalities transitioning from the ruling AKP to the opposition CHP, Turkish Minute reported

In Manisa, former AKP officials are accused of emptying city coffers through questionable transactions. Similar accusations arise in İstanbul's Üsküdar and Tuzla districts, where outgoing AKP administrations approved last-minute contracts for non-essential items. Reports from Beyoğlu and Beykoz claim attempts to remove municipal property and erase digital records. 

Besides corruption allegations, dissatisfaction arises from the suspension of public services. In Üsküdar, a long-standing Ramadan tradition of providing free iftar meals was abruptly discontinued before the transition to CHP leadership, leaving residents without meals, and garbage collection issues in districts transitioning from AKP to CHP mayors are also reported.

Turkish Opposition Leader Criticizes Erdogan Over Boron Shipment to Israel

Fatih Erbakan, leader of the Islamist New Welfare Party (YRP), criticized Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan for a boron shipment from Turkey to Israel. Erbakan highlighted a document shared by investigative journalist Metin Cihan revealing that a company owned by the Turkey Wealth Fund (TWF), managed by the president, exported 21 tons of boron to Israel shortly before the elections. In a tweet, Erbakan called on authorities to address the issue immediately. 

Journalist Cihan published the bill, indicating that Eti Maden, a TWF-owned company, sold boron to a large Israeli chemical firm known for supplying the military.

Cihan's findings suggest that trade with Israel involves not only private companies but also entities directly controlled by Erdogan through the TWF.

Cihan also revealed that Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) lawmaker Hilmi Durgun reportedly owns Agrosel, the Turkish arm of Israel's agricultural company Haifa. 

Cihan highlighted that while the government promoted foreign seeds over domestic ones, Durgun's alleged ownership raises questions about conflicts of interest. Despite being tagged in the post, Durgun has yet to respond to the allegations.

Turkey Reinstates Kurdish Politician as Mayor Amid Controversy and Protests

The election authority in Turkey decided to reinstate a Kurdish politician as the mayor of Van province after initially denying him the mandate. Following this decision, the Board of Judges and Prosecutors has launched an inquiry into the court that reinstated the politician's political rights before the local elections held on March 31.

The court under investigation is the Diyarbakır 5th High Criminal Court, which last year reinstated the political rights of Abdullah Zeydan, the candidate from the pro-Kurdish Peoples' Equality and Democracy Party (DEM Party) who won the election in Van.

However, the provincial election authority in Van had granted the mayorship to the runner-up, Abdullah Arvas, from the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), citing the same court's decision that revoked Zeydan's right to run for election two days before the March 31 local polls.

In response to this decision, protests erupted across Turkey. Consequently, Turkish courts arrested 23 people among hundreds detained over these protests.

Following violent protests against the ouster of Zeydan, Turkey's Supreme Election Council approved an appeal made by the DEM Party on April 3, leading to the reinstatement of Zeydan as the mayor of Van province.


Turkey's Inflation Accelerates in March, Reaching 68.5%

On April 3, the Turkish Statistical Institute (TurkStat) announced that inflation in Turkey surged to 68.5% year-on-year in March. Education, health, transport, and food costs experienced the most significant increases last month. However, ENAG, a group of independent economists, reported a higher figure of nearly 125% for the same period. 

Finance Minister Mehmet Şimşek noted a slowdown in month-on-month inflation in official data, decreasing to 3.16% compared to February's 4.53%. Şimşek expressed optimism, stating that these developments would help anchor inflation expectations and support the disinflation process.

The Domestic Producer Price Index (D-PPI) also increased by 51.47% annually and by 3.29% monthly.

Turkish Deputy Minister Discusses Energy Cooperation with Iranian Officials in Tehran

Turkish Deputy Minister of Energy and Natural Resources, Alparslan Bayraktar, held meetings with Iranian officials in Tehran on April 4 to discuss deepening energy cooperation between the two countries.

After meeting with Iranian oil minister Javad Owji, Bayraktar stated on his social media account that he intends to bolster energy collaboration, particularly through new agreements on natural gas. Additionally, Bayraktar met with his Iranian counterpart, Ali Akbar Mehrabian, to explore opportunities for increasing electricity trade and collaboration in renewable energy.

The visit comes as Turkey endeavors to secure new gas contracts with Iran, which remains its second-largest natural gas supplier, meeting 16% of Turkey's natural gas demands in 2023.

Since 2017, Turkey has been training Somali troops to combat the Islamist insurgency. Additionally, Turkey hosts one of the largest Turkish military bases abroad, and a recent deal signed in February ensures that the Turkish military will also assist with Somalia's maritime security.


Top Court Limits Interior Minister's Power Over Civil Society Organizations

Turkey's Constitutional Court canceled certain provisions of a 2020 law that granted the interior minister authority to suspend board members and employees of civil society organizations, appoint trustees, or dissolve them. The law, known as Law No. 7262 on the Prevention of the Financing of Weapons of Mass Destruction and aimed at preventing the financing of weapons of mass destruction, was criticized for lacking judicial safeguards.

In a decision published on April 3, the Constitutional Court cited the provisions as violating the freedom of association. The unanimous decision, prompted by a lawsuit from 132 members of parliament, will take effect nine months after its publication in the Official Gazette.

Retrial of Teacher Begins in Turkey Amid Tightened Security

The retrial of Yüksel Yalçınkaya, a teacher whose previous conviction on terrorism charges was deemed a violation of his fundamental rights by the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR), has restarted in central Turkey with heightened security measures.

The first hearing, held behind closed doors at the Kayseri 2nd High Criminal Court, was attended by Yalçınkaya. However, representatives from the Kayseri and Ankara bar associations were not permitted to attend, and riot police had placed steel barriers before the trial.

After a 30-minute session, the court adjourned the trial until September 12 and extended Yalçınkaya's travel ban.


Turkish Diplomat Says Erdogan's Anti-Israel Rhetoric Linked to Local Politics

According to The Jerusalem Post, a Turkish diplomat informed an Israeli counterpart that President Erdogan's strong language against Israel during the Gaza conflict was influenced by local political considerations. 

The Israeli Maariv newspaper reported that a Turkish deputy ambassador, whose identity remained undisclosed, conveyed to Jacob Blitstein, the director general of the Israeli Foreign Ministry, that Erdogan's rhetoric was tied to Turkey's local elections. 

This conversation occurred last week when Israeli Foreign Minister Israel Katz summoned the Turkish deputy ambassador following the uproar caused by Erdogan's comments about Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu.

Turkish Aid Worker Killed in Mogadishu Landmine Explosion

On April 4, a landmine explosion in Mogadishu, Somalia, resulted in the deaths of two people, including a Turkish national aid worker. The Islamist insurgency group Al-Shabab claimed responsibility for the attack, stating that seven people were killed, including two Turkish nationals. The Ankara-based relief organization Verenel confirmed that the victims were their aid workers, and one of them was Abdurrahim Yoruk, Verenel's representative in Somalia.

Turkey Suspends Europe Arms Treaty, Joining Others

Turkey suspended the implementation of the 'European Conventional Armed Forces Treaty,' signed in 1990 to ensure mutual arms control between Russia and Europe after the Cold War, following similar moves by NATO allies like the US, UK, and Germany. On April 5, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan signed a decree to suspend the treaty from April 8.

In November 2023, Russia announced its withdrawal from this agreement, which was signed during the Cold War to control armaments in Europe and ensure military balance between NATO and Warsaw Pact countries. Subsequently, NATO, the USA, and European countries announced a gradual suspension of the agreement.

Turkey Suspends Visa Exemption for Tajikistan Citizens after Terrorist Attacks

Two of the Moscow attackers from Tajikistan were found to have flown to Russia via Turkey. Two of them were also found to have entered and left Turkey for short periods to extend their expired residency periods. 

Meanwhile, ISIS had attacked the Santa Maria Church in Sarıyer, Istanbul, on January 28. One of the two attackers was also from Tajikistan. 

In response to these developments, Turkey lifted the visa exemption granted to Tajikistan citizens with a decision published in the Official Gazette on April 5.

Erdogan Appoints Ambassadors to US and UN

Turkish President Erdogan appointed 10 ambassadors to several countries, including the United States and the United Nations. The appointments were officially announced and published in the Official Gazette on April 5. 

Among the appointments, Sedat Önal, a veteran diplomat with 35 years of experience, was named ambassador to Washington. Deputy Foreign Minister Ahmet Yıldız was appointed Turkey's permanent representative to the United Nations. These appointments, which were initially announced in February, have now been formalized by the president.

48 ISIS Members Detained in Connection with Istanbul Church Attack

Interior Minister Ali Yerlikaya said that 48 ISIS members were detained on April 6 in connection with the Santa Maria Church attack in Istanbul. Yerlikaya announced on his social media account that operations targeted ISIS members, particularly those linked to the church attackers. The arrests took place during operations conducted in Istanbul and Ankara.