Turkey's top court blocks HDP bank accounts before elections
Turkey's top court concluded on December4 to temporarily block Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP) bank accounts holdingTreasury funds. The Constitutional Court ruled with a majority of eight toseven court members.
The court continues to consider a case seeking the party's closuredue to alleged ties to the Kurdistan Workers Party as part of theindictment it accepted in June 2021.
The move against the HDP, the third-largest party in parliament,comes ahead of parliamentary and presidential elections scheduled to takeplace in June.
Erdogan: Elections could take place sooner than expected
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on January5 during a party meeting in Ankara that the elections generally set for Junecould be held earlier than the scheduled date by taking into account theseasonal conditions.
Numan Kurtulmuş, the deputy chair of the governing Justice andDevelopment Party (AKP), also signaled early elections last week.
The six-party opposition alliance declared after the 10throundtable meeting on January 5 that they would only accept snap elections ifthey are held before April 6, the date the new election law passed inApril 2022 will take effect. The alliance leaders also announced that they haveagreed to begin consultations on the alliance's presidential candidate.
HDP co-chair: Party to nominate its presidential candidate
The Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP) announced that it wouldset its own candidate for the presidential elections this year.
Pervin Buldan, the co-chair of the HDP, said that the party has noalliance with any party, and its presidential candidate will be announcedshortly.
Turkish President updates wage increase shortly after hisannouncement
Turkish President Erdogan updated the wage increase forall civil servants and pensioners from 25% to 30% on December 4 as the countryprepares for elections in mid-2023.
Erdogan previously said that wages would be increased by 25% forthe first six months of 2023. In 2023, the lowest pension for retired peoplewould be 5,500 lira.
Turkish finance minister offers cheaper mortgages for middleclass
Turkish Finance Minister Nureddin Nebati announced on December4 that the government would offer mortgages with lower interest rates andlonger maturities to middle-income citizens, a move before the elections to gettheir support.
Nebati said at a press conference that mortgage loans of up to 5million lira would have a duration of up to 15 years, and interest rates wouldbegin at 0.69%. Contractors that promise to build housing will also have accessto finance totaling 25 billion Turkish lira.
Turkey's trade deficit hits record whileaccount deficit expected to reach $48 billion in 2022
Trade Ministry said on January2 that Turkey's exports increased by 12.9% last year to $254.2billion, the highest level ever, while the country's trade deficit increased by138.4% from the previous year to $110.19 billion in 2022 as importsjumped 34.3% to $364.4 billion. While the ratio of exports to imports was83% in 2021, this ratio dropped to 70% in 2022.
According to a Reuters poll of 11economists, Turkey's current account deficit is expected to be $4.1 billion inNovember, rising to $48 billion in 2022 after skyrocketing energy priceshampered Ankara's efforts to close the gap.
The latest Turkish central bank mandate reveals capital control
On January 2, 2023, the Central Bank of the Republic of Turkeystarted requesting a document from local banks for SWIFT transactions of 50,000dollars or above. The banks are required to submit a document for EFT/MoneyTransfer transactions made to "non-residents" who have accounts of 10million Turkish lira or more in Turkish Banks. The banks also need to specifythe payment's nature and the transaction type in the document.
The Central Bank mandate emerged as a result of internalcorrespondence of a Turkish bank.
While economists say that the government resorted to such a methoddue to insufficient foreign exchange reserves and to suppress the Turkish lirabefore the elections, they criticize the government for actually exercisingcapital control, although the government does not call the restriction capitalcontrol.
Alibaba plans to invest 1 billion dollarsin Turkey
Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba plans a logistics hub at IstanbulAirport and a data centre near the Turkish capital Ankara, with a 1 billiondollar investment. Daily Sabah newspaper reported that Presidentof Alibaba Group J. Michael Evans said in an interview that the company isinterested in investing in Europe and the Middle East and sees Turkey as apowerful industrial base.
Turkey, Bulgaria agrees on long-term gas deal
BOTAS, Turkey's state-run gas company, signed a 13-yearagreement with Bulgargaz, the state-run gas company in Bulgaria, which allowsit access to Turkey's LNG terminals and gas network.
Turkish Energy and Natural Resources Minister Fatih Donmezsaid the agreement would allow transporting of roughly 1.5 billion cubicmeters (bcm) of gas to Bulgaria annually and improve supply security insoutheast Europe.
Top administrativecourt rules withdrawal from Istanbul Convention lawful
Turkey's highest administrative body,the Council of State, ruled on January 2 that President Erdogan's withdrawal from the IstanbulConvention in March 2021 is "lawful."
Women's organizations have argued thatthe presidential decree withdrawing the country from the Istanbul Conventionwas "unlawful" as all parties in parliament ratified the conventionin 2011, and the President does not have the authority to annul it under theConstitution.
The petitioners now have the right totake their case to the Constitutional Court (AYM).
While protests erupt in Syria against rapprochement, Erdogansignals to meet Assad
On January 3, demonstrators in Idlib, under the control of theSyrian opposition, organized a protestagainst Turkey's warming relations with the Syrian government. Protests havebeen held in many Syrian cities across the Aleppo and Idlib governorates.
On the same day, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusogluattended a meeting with Syrian opposition leaders to calm the public outrage.
On the other side, Turkish President Erdogan announced on January 5that he might meet Syrian President Bashar al-Assad after the foreignminister's meeting. As part of a new peace process, the defence ministers ofTurkey, Syria, and Russia met in Moscow last week for the highest-leveltalks between the two countries since the start of the Syrian war in2011.
Erdogan said in a speech in Ankara that the next step after thehistoric defence ministerial meetings in Moscow would be a trilateral gatheringof the foreign ministers of Turkey, Russia, and Syria to improve relations.
On January 6, in reaction to the opposition's objections againstthe new Ankara-Damascus rapprochement, the Turkish defence minister warned the Syrianarmed groups backed by Turkey against "provocations." Minister HulusiAkar said that Turkey would not "say yes to any decision or a meeting thatwould be against the Syrian opposition.
Sweden's prime minister complains ofTurkey's extreme requests over NATO application
"Turkey demands things that we cannot or do not want to givethem, and we cannot also meet all the criteria Ankara has set for itssupport," Sweden's Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson said on January8 at a defence think-tank conference in Sweden concerning its applicationto join NATO.
Kristersson also said that Sweden had done everything it pledgedto do, and they were confident that Turkey would approve itsapplication.
"Top Turkish Court Upholds Spurious Conviction of ErdoganCritic" by Sinan Ciddi, Foundation for Defense ofDemocracies
Ankara has long counted on tepid responses from Washington to itscontinued human rights violations. The Biden administration has done little toaddress the issue over the past year because of its desire to keep Turkey onits side in the ongoing conflict in Ukraine.
Yet with the latest decision to uphold the conviction of Kavalaand the possible incarceration of Imamoglu could do irreparable damage to whatis left of Turkish democracy. Joe Biden should personally communicate toErdogan the need for free and fair elections in Turkey, including assurancesthat civil society organizations can monitor the upcoming presidential andparliamentary votes. Biden can back up his concern by withholding key defencesales to Turkey, such as the F-16 jets Ankara desires until Erdogan releaseswrongfully imprisoned individuals and stops threatening potential challengers,especially Imamoglu.
Preserving democracy in Turkey, a major NATO ally, has far greaterstrategic value than anything to be gained by turning a blind eye to Erdogan'sabuses.
"Turkey airs rare public criticism of China's treatment ofUyghurs" by Al-Monitor Staff
The ties between Turkey and China have gone sour in a rare publicdisplay recently, with the top Turkish diplomat openly saying the progress inthe bilateral relations has "slowed down" over Beijing's treatment ofits Uyghur minority.
Cavusoglu lamented Beijing for what he described as impeding theTurkish ambassador's request to visit the country's northwestern Xinjiangregion by trying to dictate terms.
His remarks came amid alleged tensions between Huawei and itsTurkish partner telecom operator Turkcell over a defence tender. The Chinesetech giant allegedly threatened its Turkish partner with freezing itscontracted operations when the latter refused to bow to pull down the bid inthe tender, citing cost-effectiveness concerns.
"Erdogan plots war, crackdown to save his skin" by PaulTaylor, Politico
Erdogan will want to project Turkey's restored clout in amultipolar world where medium-sized powers can wield more influence, as theU.S. and Russia are less willing or able to act as global policemen. But afterinterventions in Libya and in support for Azerbaijan against Armenia, he maywell stop short of a ground assault in Syria, if the major powers continue towarn him.
The European Union, sadly, is likely to be a bystander rather thana force for moderation or change. The bloc is Turkey's biggest trade partner,but it has lost influence in Ankara, as the country's long-stalled E.U.accession process is moribund, and Brussels has to regularly buy Turkey offwith assistance to keep nearly 4 million Syrian refugees on its soil ratherthan letting them flood into Greece.
The West would undoubtedly be relieved to see the back of Erdogan.But governments are hedging their bets, keeping lines of communication open tothe strongman on the Bosphorus, and offering depressingly little public help tothe opposition, even as they quietly pray for a more moderate, pro-WesternTurkey come June.
"Turkey-Syria meeting: No deals made at the first high-leveltalks in 11 years" by Ragip Soylu, Middle East Eye
The first high-level meeting between Turkish and Syrian officialsin Moscow last week was cordial but no deals have been made, multiple sourcestold Middle East Eye.
On [December 30], Syrian newspaper al-Watan, which is known to beclose to the government, reported that Turkey agreed to withdraw its troopsfrom northern Syria in the Moscow meeting.
Cavusoglu said last week that Turkey would hand over the areas ofnorthern Syria it controls once there is no terror threat from the country, andthere is political stability and peace.
While outreach to Damascus may appeal to some sections of theTurkish public weary of the war next door and its impacts, the Syriangovernment remains a pariah in the international community. Turkey's overtureshave already provoked a U.S. condemnation.