Erdogan postpones election rallies for a day due to his sickness
President Recep Tayyip Erdogan announced that he would cancel his planned campaign rallies and would have a rest on April 26 due to health concerns. Erdogan had interrupted a live interview the night before due to an upset stomach. Immediately following the incident, opposition presidential candidate Kemal Kilicdaroglu tweeted his best wishes to Erdogan.
Left-wing alliance announces support for Kilicdaroglu's candidacy
The Labor and Freedom Alliance, a coalition of Turkey's left-wing political groups, expressed its support for Kemal Kilicdaroglu, the main opposition Nation Alliance's presidential candidate, in the upcoming May 14 elections.
Mithat Sancar, the co-chair of the Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP), announced on late April 27 that the coalition would back Kilicdaroglu in the presidential election.
The alliance later stated in a written statement that the support was given to fulfil its historical duty to the past and future generations.
Opposition alliance's presidential candidate vows to ban house sales to foreigners if elected
Kemal Kilicdaroglu, presidential candidate of the main opposition bloc Nation Alliance and Republican People's Party (CHP) leader published a video titled "Rents" on social media on April 29 and highlighted his plans to address the country's escalating housing crisis.
Kilicdaroglu said that the alliance would prohibit the sale of houses to foreigners until they solve the housing problem of Turkish citizens.
He also claimed to send refugees to their home countries in 2 years to stabilize house prices and said he does not mind being labelled discriminatory or racist.
Kilicdaroglu also announced a social housing project to provide affordable housing for low-income citizens.
"Silvers in the House and some accounting maneuvers" by Economist Ugur Gurses
The difference between official and free market rates is now 6 per cent.
There is such a weird situation. Exporters sell 40 per cent of the foreign currency they earn to the Central Bank at a low rate of 6 per cent, while importers buy them at 6 per cent more expensive, and there is no winner in this exchange. That also applies to households. The importer's cost, who buys 6 percent more expensive, will eventually be reflected in the production and then on the table of the households as a raise.
The same practice is also applied to Currency Protected Deposits (KKM). Those who open a KKM account by depositing TL will have a dollar amount below the initial dollar value if it is due these days. Because by depositing TL, they will receive 5-6 per cent less foreign currency for their TL receivables indexed to the Central Bank's rate. By deceiving the citizens, they proved that KKM does not have "currency protection".
Turkish Central Bank starts selling gold due to falling dollar reserves
Trying to suppress the foreign exchange with sales through the 'back door', the Central Bank sold 43 tons ($2.3 billion) of gold between March 3 and April 14 to support its dollar reserves. The acceleration of the bank's intervention in the market in recent years has also eroded reserves.
Citing bankers, Reuters reported that the growing demand for foreign currency as the May elections approach caused the total gross reserves held by the Turkish central bank to drop by more than 5 billion dollars to nearly $116 billion last week.
Economist Ugur Gurses claimed that the MB has been selling gold since the beginning of March to support the dwindling reserves. Accordingly, the bank sold 43 tons of gold worth $2.8 billion between March 3 and April 14. Gurses also stated that a total of 5.5 billion dollars of assets had been converted into liquid foreign currency.
Turkish poverty line rises to 33,000 liras
According to figures from the Confederation of Turkish Trade Unions, the poverty threshold jumped to 33,015 liras in April 2023, roughly four times the minimum wage (8,506 liras).
The hunger threshold, or the amount required to prevent a four-person household from hunger for a whole month, increased to 10,135 liras in April, surpassing the minimum wage again.
Additionally, the monthly living expenses of a single employee in April were 13,167 liras.
Turkey inaugurates its first nuclear plant built by Russia
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin virtually attended the inauguration of Turkey's first nuclear power plant on April 27.
The Akkuyu nuclear power plant, located in the southern province of Mersin in Turkey, was constructed by the Russian state nuclear energy company Rosatom. The first nuclear fuel was loaded into the first power unit during the ceremony.
Putin referred to Akkuyu as "the largest nuclear construction project in the world", noting that it would reduce Turkey's reliance on Russian natural gas in the future.
Erdogan attended the ceremony by video link due to his poor health conditions. During his speech, he said they would take action to start the construction of a second and third nuclear power plant in Turkey.
The physical launch of the plant is expected to be completed next year, and producing electricity on a steady basis will likely start in 2025.
"Turkish Border Guards Torture, Kill Syrians", Human Rights Watch
Turkish border guards are indiscriminately shooting at Syrian civilians on the border with Syria and torturing and using excessive force against asylum seekers and migrants trying to cross into Turkey.
"Turkish gendarmes and armed forces in charge of border control routinely abuse and indiscriminately shoot at Syrians along the Syrian-Turkish border, with hundreds of deaths and injuries recorded in recent years," said Hugh Williamson, Europe and Central Asia director at Human Rights Watch.
Since the beginning of 2023, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights has recorded 11 deaths and 20 injuries along the Syrian/Turkish border caused by Turkish border guards. Human Rights Watch independently documented and verified two such incidents.
The Turkish government should investigate and hold accountable border guards responsible for these grave human rights violations, including unlawful killings, and end the longstanding impunity for these abuses.
Turkish police arrest 110 people over alleged links with PKK ahead of election
On April 25, Turkish police detained 128 people over alleged links to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK). The operation was centered on Diyarbakir, the largest city in Turkey's predominantly Kurdish southeast, and targeted more than 200 people in 21 provinces.
Tens of politicians, including high-ranking members of the People's Democratic Party (HDP), journalists, artists, and lawyers, according to HDP MP Tayip Temel, were detained in Diyarbakir. Temel claimed that the ruling party resorts to detention operations again for fear of losing power.
Mithat Sancar, the co-chair of the HDP, described the raid on Kurdish activists, journalists, and attorneys as a "ballot-box coup attempt" by the ruling AKP-MHP alliance. Meanwhile, former Diyarbakir Bar Association head Mehmet Emin Aktar claimed that the "accusation" section of the detention warrant documents was missing.
The operation was "clearly an abuse of powers and an intimidation tactic before the election, as access to the investigation file was restricted," said Emma Sinclair-Webb, associate director of Human Rights Watch Europe and Central Asia.
Thirty-three bar associations issued a joint statement demanding the restrictions on access to legal counsel be lifted and that the lawyers detained be released. Protests against the detentions have occurred in several places, including Izmir, Van, Antep, and Urfa provinces.
Turkey, Syria defense and intel chiefs meet in Russia to restore relations
On April 25, the defense ministers and intelligence chiefs of Iran, Russia, Syria, and Turkey met to discuss rebuilding Turkey-Syria ties after years of animosity during the Syrian war. Moscow and Ankara both described the meeting as productive.
The statement said the four countries reiterated their willingness to protect Syria's territorial integrity and the necessity of stepping up efforts to hasten the repatriation of Syrian refugees to their homes.
The opening of the vital M4 highway, which paves the way for a resurgence of trade between Syria and its neighbours, was also discussed in the talks, according to the Syrian defense ministry. The sides also discussed strengthening the security situation in Syria.
Mevlut Cavusoglu, the foreign minister of Turkey, announced on April 28 that a meeting between the foreign ministers of Iran, Russia, Syria, and Turkey may take place in Moscow in May.
Turks fleeing Sudan arrive in Istanbul, Turkish plane comes under fire
On April 26, the first group of Turkish civilians, more than 100 people, who had been evacuated from Sudan, returned to Istanbul, Turkey, via the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa.
Even though the warring parties declared a ceasefire, fighting resumed in Sudan on April 25 as more people fled Khartoum.
On April 28, the Turkish Defence Ministry said that a Turkish military plane on a mission to rescue Turkish residents from conflict-torn Sudan was fired at. A Turkish C-130 evacuation plane on its way to Wadi Seidna Air Base for the evacuation came under small arms fire but landed safely, and no casualties were recorded, the ministry added.
Sudan's military accused the Rapid Support Forces (RSF) of shooting, but RSF denied the claim.
As of April 28, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu reported that Turkey had evacuated 1,834 people, including 349 foreign citizens.
Trends In World Military Expenditure, 2022, SIPRI
Total global military expenditure increased by 3.7 per cent in real terms in 2022 to reach a new high of $2240 billion.
In 2022 Turkey's military spending fell for the third year in a row, reaching $10.6 billion—a decrease of 26 per cent from 2021. Although Turkey's spending increased by 28 per cent in nominal terms, soaring inflation resulted in the biggest annual real-terms decrease in Turkish military expenditure ever recorded in SIPRI data.
"Turkey's Crucial Election Could Mean The End Of Erdogan Era" by Mike O'Sullivan, Forbes
Erdogan will become a central figure in the news in coming weeks. While there are no major elections in G7 countries this year, the Turkish presidential election (first round is on the 14th May) is important internationally for a range of reasons.
Erdogan is a test case in the 'autocratic-recession' thesis – populists like Bolsonaro, Boris and Donald Trump have been derailed, and a change of guard in Turkey would mean that one of the longest standing populists has been rejected, and that Turkey's democracy might again breathe.
Erdogan's latest rick is to 'pull a sickie' and cancel campaign events in a move that some insiders say is an attempt at a sympathy vote. My sense is that should the first round of the election be close then Erdogan will go into full populist mode and enact the Trump play card – claiming a conspiracy by the army, outside forces and potentially, a rigged vote.
"What Happens If Turkey's Recep Tayyip Erdogan Dies?" by Michael Rubin, 19FortyFive
If Erdogan Dies, It Will be Too Soon to Celebrate: Earlier today, during a televised interview, a sudden medical emergency incapacitated Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Erdogan's office dismissed the incident as the result of a stomach bug, but rumors swirl inside Turkey that the president has had a heart attack and that his condition worsened while in the hospital.
If Erdogan does die or if he uses his health crisis to pass his candidacy to a relative or pawn, neither the United States nor Europe should celebrate. After 20 years of Erdoganism, there is no easy return to the status quo ante.
Certainly, both the United States and Europe should work with a post-Erdogan Turkey to move in the right direction. It is in everyone's interest to have a Turkey at peace with itself and its neighbors. Turkey should be a force for stability and a democracy rather than kleptocracy. It will take time.
"In The Shadow Of Mistrust: Turkey-Syria Normalization" by Guney Yildiz, Forbes
Two days ago, defense ministers and intelligence chiefs from Russia, Turkey, Syria, and Iran convened in Moscow for a crucial four-way meeting. A shift from the original tripartite meeting which included Russia, Turkey, and Syria, this quadripartite format showcases recognition of the significance of Iran's potential to undermine agreements if sidelined. The inclusion of Iran in the talks has added an additional layer of complexity to the negotiations.
There are also several challenges and obstacles to the rapprochement. The first major sticking point is the issue of trust. Both sides harbor deep mistrust towards each other, with Assad's mistrust of Erdogan being particularly pronounced.
Today, the format of the meeting is to Turkey's disadvantage. In the four-way meetings, Turkey speaks with one voice, but Syria potentially speaks with three voices through their own, Iran's, and Russia's. In comparison to Tehran, Moscow is more open to accommodating Turkish demands.
"Erdogan is bound to lose even if he wins" by Omer Taspinar, Asia Times
In the absence of a strong margin of victory for the opposition, Erdogan may refuse to concede and take the result to the courts or worse – to the streets. Given the stakes, the whole country is on edge. A large part of the population is ready for change. But the same societal segment is anxious and incredulous about the prospect of Erdogan losing power.
Like many observers in the West who lack confidence in Turkey's democratic maturity, many in Turkey find it hard to believe that Erdogan will quietly disappear after losing an election. This brings us to a critically important yet often misunderstood dimension of the drama about to unfold in Turkey: Erdogan's biggest advantage is his aura of political invincibility. There seems to be a fatalistic resignation that Erdogan will find a way to stay in power and that a peaceful transition will prove elusive.
Erdogan is not as strong as he seems and Turkey is not an autocracy like Russia or China where polls are cosmetic. If Erdogan wins on May 14, it will not be because of his capacity to govern or his populist policies raising the minimum wage or lowering the retirement age. It will be because too many Turks still believe he is invincible.