Presidential candidate Ince says not to withdraw from race after meeting with rival Kilicdaroglu
Homeland Party chair Muharrem Ince and opposition Nation Alliance's candidate and Republican People's Party (CHP) leader Kemal Kilicdaroglu held a meeting at the Homeland Party's headquarters in the capital Ankara on March 29. Following the one-hour meeting, Kilicdaroglu said that he and Ince discussed Turkey's problems and possible solutions to overcome them during the meeting, emphasizing he is trying to expand the opposition alliance.
Criticizing the ruling government harshly, Ince declared that he would not withdraw his presidential candidacy.
Nationalist party to compete in People's Alliance, but to field MP candidates in a separate list
Devlet Bahceli, the leader of the Nationalist Movement Party, announced on March 29 that the party would run in the elections under the party's emblem and field its deputy candidates on a separate list. Bahceli also denied claims that the party would compete in the People's Alliance under a joint list but reiterated that the party's presidential candidate is incumbent President Erdogan.
The Supreme Election Board (YSK) released the final verdict on presidential candidates on March 31 in the Official Gazette. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, main opposition leader Kemal Kilicdaroglu, Homeland Party leader Muharrem Ince, and Sinan Ogan, candidate of far-right Ancestral Alliance, will run in the presidential elections. Ince and Ogan collected over 100,000 voter signatures to become candidates last week.
The YSK disregarded the claims that Erdogan could not run in the elections due to the constitutional limit of two terms of presidency and his alleged lack of a university degree.
Two bullets fired at opposition Good Party's building in Istanbul
Two bullets hit the Good Party's building in Istanbul on March 31.
In her speech after the shooting, party leader Meral Aksener indicated that this was an attempt to intimidate party members ahead of next month's significant presidential and parliamentary elections.
According to a later report from the state-owned Anadolu news agency, the authorities claimed that the guard at the construction site had accidentally hit the party building while pursuing thieves.
Main opposition leader Kemal Kilicdaroglu visited Good Party and condemned the attack.
Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu announced that the person who carried out the armed attack was detained, but the suspect was later released.
Erdogan announces new hike in minimum wage, second time in a year
Following the AKP parliamentary group meeting on March 29, Turkish President Erdogan announced that the minimum wage would be increased for the second time this year in July.
Erdogan also said that electricity prices for all users would be reduced by 15% and gas prices by 20% for industrial consumption in April.
The moves came ahead of Parliamentary and Presidential elections to be held on May 14.
S&P downgrades Turkey's outlook to negative
On March 31, S&P Global Ratings changed Turkey's outlook from "stable" to "negative," noting Turkey's vulnerabilities due to its low policy rates, directed lending, and regulatory control over its foreign exchange positions and interest rates. However, the rating service kept the sovereign credit rating at "B".
"The outlook for the exchange rate remains uncertain given Turkey's high current account deficits, limited usable reserves, high inflation, and reliance on irregular capital inflows," S&P said in the statement.
Turkey scores 33 out of 100 in Freedom House's Election Vulnerability Index
According to Freedom House's Election Vulnerability Index, Turkey's presidential and parliamentary elections on May 14 are considered among the most vulnerable in the world, ranking below countries like Pakistan, Zimbabwe, and Bangladesh.
Turkey scored 33 out of 100, with low marks in all three report areas. The nation received 9 points out of a possible 32 in the digital sphere category, 13 out of a possible 32 in the electoral system and political participation category, and 11 out of 36 in the human rights category.
The score reflects an election system designed to concentrate government power, strict laws criminalizing online expression, and extralegal attempts to stifle independent journalism and silence dissent.
The Freedom House also rated Turkey Not Free in the "Freedom in the World 2023 report", with a score of 32 out of 100 with respect to its political rights and civil liberties, and Not Free in the "Freedom on the Net 2022 report", with an internet freedom score of 32 out of 100.
"Police beating of 14-year-old Kurd highlights claims of impunity in Turkey" by Andrew Wilks, Al-Monitor
Five police officers are being investigated following the kidnapping and beating of a 14-year-old Kurdish boy in Diyarbakir, in Turkey's southeast, during Nowruz celebrations last week, local officials said.
The incident again raises the issue of police brutality and impunity in Turkey, particularly in the Kurdish-majority southeast.
The officers were arrested for "deprivation of liberty and deliberate injury" after YD identified at least three of them.
The New York-based Human Rights Watch, in a 2022 report, said abductions and enforced disappearances were not investigated properly in Turkey.
"There was little evidence to suggest prosecutors made progress in investigating the rising allegations of torture and ill-treatment in police custody and prison reported over the past five years," the report continued. "Few such allegations result in prosecution of the security forces and a pervasive culture of impunity persists."
Justice Ministry 2022 statistics: Number of child sexual abuse cases increases by 33 percent
Statistics from the Justice Ministry show that cases of child sexual abuse in Turkey increased significantly in 2022.
According to the 2022 Statistics, the number of child sexual abuse cases reported in Turkey increased by 33% in 2022 compared to 2021.
Women in shelters avoid voting for fear of being exposed
Thousands of women living in shelter homes due to men's violence may be unable to cast votes this year due to fears that their addresses will be revealed on the Supreme Election Council's website (YSK).
On March 19, the YSK decided that specific measures would be implemented if domestic violence victims living in women's shelters informed the district election board of their situation and the officials deemed it "appropriate."
According to experts, YSK's decision ignores the women who do not have a restraining order against their abusers but live in shelter homes.
About 30,000 women didn't cast a ballot in the March 31, 2019, elections due to such security concerns.
Peru confiscates at least $20 million worth of cocaine destined for Turkey
Peruvian officials reported on March 27 that they seized 2.3 tonnes of cocaine concealed as ceramic tiles in a warehouse at Peru's largest harbour, El Callao, headed for Turkey via a growing maritime drug trade route.
According to police, the cocaine seized was worth at least 20 million dollars.
Erdogan: Putin may visit Turkey in April for inauguration ceremony of power plant
On March 29, Turkish President Erdogan announced that his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin may visit Turkey on April 27 to attend the inauguration of Rosatom, Turkey's first nuclear power plant.
On April 27, Turkey will formally designate the Akkuyu nuclear power plant as a nuclear facility after loading the first nuclear fuel into the plant's first power unit.
The International Criminal Court (ICC) issued an arrest warrant for Putin earlier this month concerning alleged war crimes in Ukraine. However, Turkey is not a signatory to the Rome Statute, which established the ICC.
Turkish parliament ratifies Finland's NATO membership
On March 30, the Turkish parliament passed a bill allowing Finland to join NATO.
After Hungary's parliament ratified a similar bill earlier this week, the Turkish parliament became the last of the alliance's 30 members to ratify Finland's accession.
Turkey summons Danish ambassador over burning of Koran
The Turkish Foreign Ministry announced on March 31 that the Danish envoy in Ankara had been summoned to convey Turkey's strong protest and condemnation of recent attacks on the Koran and the Turkish flag.
A copy of the Koran and a Turkish flag were burned last week in front of the Turkish embassy in Copenhagen by Patrioterne Gar Live, a far-right Danish organization.
Greek Defence Minister to visit earthquake-hit zones in southeast Turkey
Greek Defence Minister Nikos Panagiotopoulos will visit the earthquake-affected areas in southeast Turkey and meet with his counterpart Hulusi Akar on April 4. It would be the second visit by Greece after Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias's solidarity visit to the earthquake-stricken areas in February.
"The Impact of Saudi Arabia on Turkey's Normalization Processes with Syria and Egypt" by Mustafa Enes Esen, Institute for Diplomacy and Economy
Turkey's recent normalization processes with Syria and Egypt should not be evaluated only in terms of bilateral relations. The relations of Saudi Arabia with these countries directly affect regional policies.
Significant developments have recently occurred in Saudi Arabia's relationships with Egypt and Syria. On one hand, the improved relations between Riyadh and Damascus provide Syria with maneuverability in its relations with other countries. On the other hand, the strained relations between the Saudis and Egypt have contributed to the improvement of Ankara-Cairo relations.
Egypt, unable to receive the same level of aid from Saudi Arabia as before, is seeking to improve its relations with Turkey to attract foreign investment while maintaining its reservations about the problems in Eastern Mediterranean. Meanwhile, Syria has improved its relationships with Arab countries and started to put an end to its isolation. As a result, it is not in a hurry to improve its relationship with Turkey and is waiting for the results of the May elections.
"What is the Iraq-Turkey oil pipeline dispute and who's on the hook?" by Rowena Edwards and Ahmed Rasheed, Reuters
Iraq filed for arbitration in 2014 with the Paris-based International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) over Turkey's role in facilitating oil exports from Kurdistan without the consent of the federal government in Baghdad.
Iraq said that by transporting and storing oil from Kurdistan and loading it on tankers in Ceyhan without Baghdad's approval, Ankara and Turkish state energy company BOTAS violated provisions of an Iraq-Turkey pipeline agreement signed in 1973.
After the final hearing in Paris in July, the ICC ruled on March 23 in Iraq's favour for the right to control loading at Ceyhan and to have access to see what was being loaded, a source familiar with the case has told Reuters.
Based on all the rulings, the net amount Turkey owes Iraq was about $1.5 billion before interest. The arbitration case covers the period 2014-2018. A second arbitration case, which could take about two years, would cover the period from 2018 onwards.
"Top election authority undermines itself and Turkish Democracy" by Mehmet Gun, Yetkin Report
In my opinion, the 2023 elections will be an even more critical turning point in Türkiye's democratic history than those in 1950. The YSK will have a massively decisive impact on Türkiye's trajectory at this critical juncture, determining whether the Republic will progress towards becoming a better democracy or plunge further into the morass of the current electoral autocracy.
The fact that the YSK makes the final decision on presidential candidacy applications, and that its decisions are not subject to any form of judicial review, justifies the wide-ranging public concern regarding these matters. This is especially true when it comes to their acceptance of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's candidacy for a third term.
Indeed, Kemal Kilicdaroglu, the leader of the Republican People's Party (CHP), expressed his distrust in the YSK's members and decisions saying that they would decide as Erdogan wishes. Undeterred, he also expressed his desire to beat Erdogan at the polls, an electoral victory being a stronger hand than a procedural one.
It is right to conclude that the members of the Supreme Elections Council are undermining its legitimacy and Turkish democracy. Such decision-making authorities must be decentralized. Procedures must be established to ensure accountability of vital decision makers in an efficient manner.