by instituDE, published on 13 May 2024


"Erdogan’s reform challenge" by Ragip Soylu, Middle East Eye

Many heavyweights such as Efkan Ala and Hayati Yazici, both former ministers and long-time friends of Erdogan, have preached for liberal domestic politics where reforms are the main theme. 

Sources speaking to Middle East Eye indicate that the majority of the party is keen to embrace dove methods in a bid to alleviate domestic pressure. 

This group argues that the AKP has lost its centre-right appeal and has become too nationalistic and repressive when it comes to basic freedoms. They say the AKP need to rebrand itself and appeal to urban Turks. 

There are also signs that some AKP officials could try to cut a deal with the CHP to return to parliamentary system. This would allow the AKP to be part of any future government given its strong voter base. 

As Kavala’s lawyers prepared to file a request for retrial, Abdulkadir Selvi, a columnist with good sources within the government, started to float the idea that Kavala be released. 

Tugrul Turkes, an AKP member of parliament and the son of legendary MHP founder Alparslan Turkes, backed the idea in a tweet. 

Erdogan will have to make a choice soon. And unless he makes changes quickly it might not be enough to convince public that his party really embraced the criticism.

"Will Turkey Cut Ties with Israel?" by Soner Cagaptay, The Washington Institute

The Turkish public has overwhelmingly sided with the Palestinians and is eager for political actors who will demand tougher policies toward Israel. Given the economic stagnation and Erdogan’s lack of substantive action on Gaza, more of his voters are looking for a “new AKP” and seem likely to migrate to the YRP.

To prevent more voters from migrating to the YRP, Erdogan has been hardening Turkey’s policy against Israel since early April, and he will likely feel little pressure to alter this course given the end of his short-lived diplomatic romance with Biden and the growing Turkish perception that Netanyahu is here to stay.

Yet one important dynamic remains unchanged and may limit retaliatory steps against Israel—namely, Erdogan’s desire to play a role in Gaza “the day after.” In line with Turkey’s vision of being a regional power, Ankara is eager to participate in reconstructing the Strip, sorting out Palestinian politics, and mediating a long-term solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Yet a full rupture could unfold quickly if Israel vetoes a Turkish role in Gaza, or if Israeli-Saudi talks implode.

"How Washington and Ankara Can Recover From Their Latest Setback" by Alper Coskun, The Carnegie Endowment for International Peace

The visit, the first of its kind between the two countries during the Biden administration, was supposed to symbolize a turn for the better in relations—an expectation now rendered less conspicuous. If Turkey and the United States want to maintain momentum, they need to quickly recover from the negative fallout. The July NATO Summit in Washington provides the right opportunity to do so.

The stated reason for the postponement was scheduling difficulties, but that was more likely an attempt to conceal more serious differences, such as misaligned expectations and irreconcilable policy choices.

Although the prospect of a Biden-Erdoğan handshake at the White House before the November U.S. presidential elections seems next to impossible, Ankara and Washington should consider ways to arrest negative speculations and diminish the space for disruptive hard-liners on both sides to object to a realignment of the relationship.

The postponement of Erdoğan’s visit to Washington may be a missed opportunity, but at this point, treating the delay as a blessing in disguise is likely the smart move. Now, bilateral relations must be kept on track and opportunities for looking ahead should advance at lower levels before the NATO Summit. If these factors can culminate in a symbolic meeting in July in Washington, then a proper presidential bilateral visit could be planned later on, sometime in early 2025.


Main opposition leader meets with government’s far-right ally after seven years

CHP Chair Ozgur Ozel visited the government’s far-right ally, Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) leader Devlet Bahçeli, at his office in Parliament on May 7, marking the first time in seven years that leaders of these two parties have met. 

The meeting, which lasted nearly 50 minutes, was held behind closed doors as requested by the far-right nationalist leader Bahçeli. Both leaders refrained from making any public statements about the meeting or its coverage.

The primary agenda item for this meeting was expected to be around the ongoing negotiations concerning the formulation of a new constitution.

CHP Leader Ozel Steps Aside for 2028 Presidential Election

Ozgur Ozel, leader of the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP), addressed the ongoing debate within the party about the 2028 presidential election at the party’s group meeting on May 7. 

Refusing to insist on his candidacy, Ozel emphasized the need to prioritize the party's collective goal of unseating President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. 

This decision follows discussions initiated by party members Ali Mahir Başarır and Mustafa Sarıgül, who suggested Ozel as a potential candidate. Concerns about potential divisions within the party arose, particularly in light of İstanbul Mayor Ekrem Imamoglu's growing prominence as Erdoğan's strongest rival. 

Ozel affirmed his commitment to not repeating the mistake of imposing his candidacy, thereby risking the party's chance to capitalize on Erdoğan's weakening position.

Former Good Party Member Joins Main Opposition Party

Bahadır Erdem, formerly a member of the Good Party, officially joined the CHP on May 7. At the CHP group meeting, party leader Ozgur Ozel welcomed Bahadır Erdem into the party by pinning a badge on him. 

In his speech, Erdem pledged to strive for justice and the rule of law in Turkey, promote secular education for youth, enhance women's rights, and put an end to the one-man rule that has left the nation dissatisfied with democracy. 

Erdem resigned from the Good Party on November 10, 2023, criticizing the party's strategy of nominating candidates from all 81 provinces in the local elections.


Turkey Set to Unveil Fiscal Measures to Combat High Inflation

Turkish officials are preparing to unveil a set of fiscal measures on May 13 aimed at curbing public spending to tackle high inflation, according to sources familiar with the situation, as reported by Bloomberg.

Treasury and Finance Minister Mehmet Simsek informed investors in Istanbul on May 9 that the government will introduce new fiscal measures and accelerate structural reforms to reinforce the economic program, said the sources, who preferred to remain anonymous due to the confidential nature of the discussions.

The proposed savings measures include slowing down certain early-stage infrastructure projects and halting new ones unless they are deemed essential for the next three years, according to a document seen by Bloomberg. This measure could affect major initiatives such as Canal Istanbul, a project proposed by Erdogan to construct a new waterway connecting the Black Sea to the Marmara Sea.

Other measures involve suspending the procurement and leasing of vehicles and properties used by the government, reducing public sector hiring and curtailing social events for foreign delegations.

Additionally, Bloomberg journalist Firat Kozok shared some details on his social media account about the upcoming savings measures to be announced on May 13, including slowing down projects with less than 75% physical progress and transferring excess salaries of employees to the state budget.

Turkey's Central Bank Raises 2024 Inflation Forecast to 38%

On May 9, the Central Bank announced a two-point increase in Turkey's inflation forecast for the end of 2024. 

Governor Fatih Karahan presented the second inflation report of the year, revising the forecast from 36 percent in the previous report to 38. The bank maintained its year-end inflation forecasts for 2025 at 14 percent and for 2026 at nine percent. 

Karahan also mentioned that inflation is expected to peak in May, followed by a period of disinflation for the remainder of the year.

Central Bank Boosts Foreign Exchange Reserves with $11 Billion Purchases in a Week

Based on preliminary estimates from the Turkish Central Bank's analytical balance sheet data, the Central Bank made significant foreign exchange purchases of $4 billion on April 30 and $11 billion for the entire week. 

Bankers' calculations indicate that the bank's net reserves, excluding swaps, increased by $9.8 billion last week, with a $7 billion increase specifically last week. The improvement in net reserves, excluding swaps, approached $30 billion over the last 5 weeks, according to the economist Ugur Gurses.

Turkey Pays Billions Due to Unmet Passenger Guarantees in Airport Projects

The State Airports Authority (DHMI) announced in its '2023 Activity Report' that the passenger guarantees promised to Build-Operate-Transfer Projects (BOT) were not realized. As a result, the government paid approximately 6 billion 940 million lira to operating companies by the end of 2023.

According to the report, the private sector paid 544.8 million euros to the DHMI under the passenger guarantees for BOT Projects. However, the government had to pay 199.7 million euros to the private sector due to the under-guaranteed realizations.

FATF Holds Meetings with Turkish Authorities Ahead of Report Release

Last week, a team from the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) met with Turkish authorities to evaluate the country's progress in addressing money laundering and terrorist financing concerns, two sources told Reuters. 

The on-site visit, which was not publicly announced, will be followed by the FATF's upcoming report on Turkey next month. The source added that the report will influence the FATF's decision at a plenary session scheduled for June 28.

Turkey Fines Meta Platforms 1.2 billion Lira for Data-Sharing Violations

Turkey's competition board fined Meta Platforms 1.2 billion lira for data-sharing violations involving its Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp, and Threads platforms. The investigations had focused on linking Threads and Instagram, resulting in an interim measure to halt data sharing. Meta previously complied with this order by temporarily shutting down Threads in Turkey. 

The board announced its decision on May 8 and imposed fines totalling 898 million lira for compliance issues and investigations into Facebook, Instagram, and WhatsApp, and an additional 336 million lira for a separate Threads investigation.

Turkey Signs Long-Term LNG Trade Deal with ExxonMobil

Turkey's Energy Minister, Alparslan Bayraktar, announced on May 8 that the state gas grid operator BOTAS has signed a long-term LNG trade deal with ExxonMobil. The agreement, aimed at diversifying resources, was signed in Washington, the minister said on social media platform X.

Turkey Surpasses Global Average in Renewable Energy Generation: Ember Report

Ember, a London-based think tank, released its 'Global Electricity Outlook Report' covering 80 countries, which represent 92 percent of global electricity demand. The report indicates that Turkey surpassed the global average by generating 42 percent of its electricity from solar, water, and wind energy in 2023.

Solar energy contributed 6 percent, wind energy 10 percent, and hydroelectricity remained the largest renewable source at 20 percent. Fossil fuels accounted for 58 percent of electricity generation last year.

According to the report, the country aims to achieve 47 percent of its electricity from renewable sources by 2030.


Turkey Tops European Countries in Prison Population and Inmates per Capita

According to Eurostat data, Turkey surpassed all European countries in both total prison population and inmates per capita as of 2022, indicating a notable rise in incarceration rates over the last decade. 

Turkey currently has 341,294 prisoners, placing it at the top of the list. The second-ranking country, France, has significantly fewer inmates, with 72,173. 

In terms of inmates per 100,000 people, Turkey has 403, which is more than double the rate of Hungary, the second highest at 199.7 inmates per 100,000. The European Union average stands at 108 inmates per 100,000 people.

Turkey Plans Criminal Penalties for 'Agents of Influence' in New Judicial Package

The government plans to introduce criminal penalties for "agents of influence" in a new judicial package aimed at combatting "black propaganda" against the country, the daily Evrensel reported, citing pro-government newspaper Yeni Safak. The package, proposed by the ruling AKP party, includes amendments to the penal code and is expected to go before parliament soon. 

According to the reports, people accused of spreading false information against Turkey or undermining its interests will be defined as “agents of influence” and could face imprisonment under the new legislation. 

The recent move has raised concerns about freedom of speech and the government's control over social media and independent journalists. 

Justice Minister Yilmaz Tunc previously hinted at the need for such measures following recent police operations targeting alleged Israeli spy networks in Turkey.

Over 65,000 Students Receive Education in Turkish Prisons, Justice Minister Reveals

Minister of Justice Yılmaz Tunç revealed in a meeting of the Grand National Assembly of Turkey Equal Opportunities for Women and Men Commission on May 8 that 65,986 students are receiving education in prisons. 

Among them, 9,389 are in secondary school, 43,184 are in high school, and 6,914 are in associate and undergraduate programs through open education. Additionally, 1,164 students pursue associate degrees and 1,269 pursue undergraduate degrees through formal education.

Police Arrest 29 in Crackdown on Gulen Movement Including Students and Mothers  

Security forces in Istanbul arrested 29 people, including high school and university students, as well as mothers, in a crackdown on the Gülen movement on May 7. Among those arrested were a mother with Parkinson's disease and her university student daughter. 

The police conducted raids on the homes of 40 people and detained around 50 individuals, including children. Fifteen 15-year-old girls who were initially taken into custody were later released. However, housewife Aysu Bayram and her 19-year-old daughter, a law student, were among those arrested. Bayram, recently diagnosed with Parkinson's, was reported to have received a liver transplant from her son two years ago.


Turkey Inaugurates Kariye Mosque, Greek PM Holds Firm on Ankara Visit

On May 6, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan remotely inaugurated the Kariye Mosque in İstanbul's Fatih neighbourhood for worship, following four years of restoration. The ceremony took place at the presidential palace in Ankara. 

In 2020, Erdoğan issued an order to convert the building, formerly known as the Chora Church, into a Muslim place of worship, a month after a similarly controversial decision regarding the UNESCO-protected Hagia Sophia.

Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis dismissed calls to postpone his upcoming visit to Ankara on May 13 in light of the opening of the Kariye Mosque in Istanbul, according to Greek media. He emphasized the importance of maintaining open communication channels with Turkey. 

Mitsotakis stated that during his meeting with Erdoğan, he would express his strong dissatisfaction, reflecting the sentiments of all Greeks, regarding the conversion of the historic Monastery of Chora into a mosque.

US Urges Turkey and Israel to Resolve Differences Amid Trade Freeze

On May 6, the United States called Turkey and Israel to resolve their differences after Ankara announced plans to halt trade as a means to push for a Gaza ceasefire. State Department spokesman Matthew Miller stated, "They are both our allies, and we encourage them to resolve their differences," declining to provide further comment.

Turkey and Kuwait Sign Six Cooperation Deals During Emir's Visit to Turkey

Turkey and Kuwait strengthened their relations by signing six cooperation deals, including in defense and diplomacy. 

Turkish President Erdogan hosted Kuwaiti Emir Sheikh Meshal al-Ahmad al-Sabah in Ankara on May 7, marking Sheikh Meshal's first foreign visit to a non-Arab country since taking office in December. Erdogan welcomed him with a state ceremony. 

After discussions between the two leaders and their delegations, they oversaw signing six agreements to enhance collaboration in the diplomatic, defence, and trade sectors.

Istanbul Mayor Criticizes Europe's Refugee Policy and Response to Gaza Conflict During Europe Day Celebration

Istanbul Mayor Ekrem Imamoğlu slammed Europe's refugee policy and its response to the Israeli conflict during a Europe Day celebration on May 7. Imamoğlu, a member of the CHP, hosted the event at Istanbul's Haliç Congress Center. Business and political figures and representatives of many EU countries attended the event, including Ambassador Nikolaus Meyer-Landrut, head of the European Union Delegation to Turkey.

He criticized European governments for not taking enough action to stop the Israeli war on Gaza, saying it undermines Europe's humanitarian values. Imamoğlu also condemned Europe's policy of keeping migrants in bordering countries like Turkey, warning it fuels populist and xenophobic politics.

Turkey Stands Firm on Trade Ban with Israel Despite Claims of Withdrawal

Israeli Foreign Minister Israel Katz claimed in a tweet on May 9 that Turkish President Erdoğan had lifted many of the trade restrictions imposed on Israel.  

Turkish Trade Minister Omer Bolat dismissed Katz's statements as "absolutely fictional and disconnected from reality." Bolat affirmed that Turkey stands by its decision to ban trade with Israel.

According to a document obtained by Reuters, the Turkish Trade Ministry provided a three-month grace period for companies with existing export contracts to Israel. Companies have three months to fulfil these contracts through third-party countries. However, the Trade Ministry source stated that easing Turkey's export ban to Israel is not being considered.

Greek Court Sentences Two Men to Prison for Spying on Behalf of Turkey 

A Greek appeals court on May 10 sentenced a man with Greek nationality, employed at a Turkish consulate on Rhodes and arrested in 2020, to five years in prison for espionage charges. 

Another Greek national, working as a cook on a passenger ship between Rhodes and Kastelorizo and arrested at the same time, was sentenced to three years in prison. 

Reuters reported that the two were under surveillance for months before their arrest and were accused of photographing the movements of Greek armed forces in the Aegean Sea.

Turkey Continues Operations Against PKK in Northern Iraq and Syria

Turkey conducted airstrikes on northern Iraq on May 6 and claimed to have killed 16 members of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) who were hiding there. The Turkish defence ministry stated that the PKK militants were "neutralized" in the Hakurk, Metina, and Gara regions of northern Iraq.

On May 10, the Ministry also announced that it neutralized 10 PKK terrorists in northern Iraq and 7 PKK/YPG terrorists in northern Syria.