by instituDE, 13 March 2023


Erdogan announces May 14 as election day in Turkey

Parliamentary and presidential elections in Turkey will take place on May 14, as reported by President Tayyip Erdogan in a televised speech after signing off the election decision on March 10.

Erdogan said that the elections were moved up from their original date of June 18 as it coincided with a weekend that includes university exams, summer vacation, and travel to the Hajj pilgrimage. 

Erdogan stated that he would not use any music in his campaign due to earthquakes that hit the country last month, and all-party parliamentary candidates will be required to contribute "generously" to the Disaster and Emergency Management Authority's (AFAD) earthquake fund.

A decree published in the Official Gazette said that survivors of the earthquakes would be eligible to vote in the cities where they currently reside if they had moved.

Ruling party wants to expand its alliance with new parties, visits Islamist party

Senior members of Turkey's ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), including AKP deputy chair Binali Yildirim, visited Fatih Erbakan of the New Welfare Party (YRP) on March 10 to broaden the People's Alliance.

The leader of the YRP, Erbakan, said that they would evaluate the request to be part of the government coalition and respond as soon as possible.

Opposition bloc reunites, announces main opposition leader as presidential candidate

Following a disagreement regarding a joint presidential candidate, Good Party leader Meral Aksener announced that her party would withdraw from the alliance last week.  

After a tense 72 hours, Aksener was persuaded to return to the bloc after a meeting with Ekrem Imamoglu and Mansur Yavas, the mayors of Istanbul and Ankara, and Kemal Kilicdaroglu, leader of the main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP) in Ankara to settle on the presidential candidate on March 6. Following the meeting, Good Party announced that Aksener would be attending the bloc's meeting to be held on the same day.

After the alliance's meeting at the Felicity Party headquarters, CHP leader Kemal Kilicdaroglu was declared the presidential candidate of the opposition bloc by Temel Karamollaoglu, leader of the Felicity Party.

If Kilicdaroglu is elected, the other five leaders and mayors of Istanbul and Ankara are expected to serve as vice presidents.

After the CHP leader was nominated as the joint presidential candidate, People's Democratic Party (HDP) Co-Chairperson Mithat Sancar invited Kilicdaroglu to visit HDP headquarters on late March 6 to discuss joint presidential candidacy. CHP Group Deputy Chairman Ozgur Ozel responded positively to HDP's call for the visit. 

Kilicdaroglu addressed the first parliamentary group meeting of his party on March 7 after being nominated as the joint candidate of the opposition alliance. 

CHP leader made a brief speech and bid farewell to the party tribune. In his remarks, Kilicdaroglu touched upon the crisis in the alliance over the joint presidential candidate last week and thanked all the leaders for their support.

In a widely circulated letter, Selahattin Demirtas, the jailed HDP's former co-chair, called out to Aksener, known to be against any cooperation with the HDP, that without the backing of Kurdish voters, she and her party would be unlikely to be part of any government. In a separate letter, Demirtas also claimed that Kilicdaroglu would become the joint candidate of the entire people if he meets with the political and social opposition and wins the support of everyone.

On March 9, Kilicdaroglu announced he would visit the largest pro-Kurdish bloc.

On the same day, the Supreme Election Board (YSK) rejected the Good Party's request to mark voters' fingers with indelible ink in the next general elections for election security. The Board ruled not to take any action as the party's request required a legal amendment.

HDP Co-Chairperson Sancar declared in a TV interview on March 10 that the party would decide whether or not to run a candidate in the presidential election following CHP leader Kilicdaroglu's visit to the party.

CHP Group Deputy Chairman Ozel said on March 10 that they received reports of assassination threats against Kilicdaroglu.

Top court unfreezes HDP bank accounts, postpones plea date for closure case

On March 9, Turkey's top court ruled by a majority of votes to unfreeze the bank accounts of the pro-Kurdish Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP), accused of links to terrorism. With the ruling, the HDP will receive financial assistance before the elections.

The Constitutional Court earlier ordered that Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP) bank accounts regarding state aid funds be frozen.

On the same day, at the party's request, the court postponed the plea date in the HDP closure case to April 11. The day was initially declared as March 14.

On March 11, Devlet Bahceli, the leader of the far-right and government ally Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), targeted the top court over its ruling and claimed that it is the backyard of the terrorist organization.


Ruling party proposes a gas reform bill for establishing a trading hub

On March 8, the ruling AK Party presented a draft law to parliament to create a competitive natural gas market as the country strives to become a gas trading hub connecting suppliers and customers.

According to the draft bill, the proposed amendments will boost Turkish customers' secure and affordable access to energy through supply diversity and the inclusion of new market players.

After explosions damaged Russia's Nord Stream gas pipelines under the Baltic Sea, President Vladimir Putin proposed establishing a gas hub in Turkey last year.

Turkey blocks transit of sanctioned Russian goods 

Citing a senior Turkish official, Bloomberg claimed that Turkey has barred the shipment of sanctioned products via its borders to Russia beginning on March 1 to comply with Western sanctions.

The United States and European Union have increased their pressure on Turkey for a while. In February, the White House sent a Treasury delegation to Turkey and the UAE to urge them not to violate the US sanctions imposed on Russia after the Ukraine war.

Donors' Conference for Turkey and Syria to be held on March 20

A donors' conference will be held on March 20 by the European Commission and the Swedish Council Presidency to raise funds and coordinate relief efforts in earthquake-hit areas in Turkey and Syria.

The conference was initially scheduled for March 16 in Brussels but was postponed at the request of the Turkish government due to the Summit of Turkic States to be held in Ankara on the same day.


A bill to halt execution for convicted mothers with seriously ill children to be submitted to parliament

According to the draft proposal of the Ministry of Justice, the execution of the sentences of convicted mothers whose children have serious diseases such as cancer could be halted.

If a female convict who has been sentenced to a total of 10 years or less in prison has a child under the age of 18 with a disability or severe illness in need of care, the execution of the sentence may be postponed for up to one year by the Office of the Chief Public Prosecutor. The postponement period can be extended up to 4 times, not exceeding six months each time, and the statute of limitations would not apply during the postponement period.

Statutory decree victim and family affected by quakes not allowed to settle in state dormitory

The government has made the university dorms available to the earthquake victims whose houses have suffered significant damage. However, after a criminal record check, staff at a state-run dormitory in Nigde province refused to accept a citizen and his family affected by the earthquake in Kahramanmaras as he had previously been dismissed from the government service by statutory decree.

In a parliamentary question, Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP) lawmaker Omer Faruk Gergerliolu asked why the family was not permitted to stay in the dormitory.

"Anti-Kurdish racism stains soccer pitch in western Turkey" by Amberin Zaman, Al-Monitor

Members of a second division local soccer team were greeted like heroes by thousands of fans in Diyarbakir, the unofficial capital of Turkey's predominantly Kurdish southeast region, after enduring racist attacks during a match on Sunday in the western city of Bursa in which one player was injured and several fans were viciously beaten.

Images of the rival Bursaspor fans hurling sharp objects, empty bullet casings and bottles at Amedspor players while shouting racist slogans sent shockwaves across the country as it reels from the effects of last month's massive earthquakes.

Amedspor has long been targeted by far-right nationalist vigilantes. But Sunday's violence marked a new and chilling level of hate. Giant banners emblazoned with images of a notorious killer who carried out extrajudicial murders of Kurdish dissidents throughout the 1990s at the height of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) insurgency were unfurled. Others depicting a white Renault Taurus model car were also on display. Shadowy counterterrorism operatives would cruise around in them, abducting hundreds of Kurdish dissidents who were never heard from again. "PKK's bastards," the home team roared as Amedspor players filed onto the field.


Iran's foreign minister visits Turkey for solidarity, tripartite meeting with Syria next week in Moscow

Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian paid a solidarity visit to Turkey on March 8 due to the February 6 earthquakes and met with his Turkish counterpart Mevlut Cavusoglu.

Iranian minister Abdollahian said he and Cavusoglu discussed bilateral issues during the meeting, including economic cooperation, energy and transportation. Regarding the recently rising tensions between Baku and Tehran in the southern Caucasus region, Abdollahian said his country is ready to hold tripartite negotiations between Tehran, Baku, and Ankara.

The Turkish foreign minister said that Ankara and Damascus would hold low-level talks in Russia next week to continue the political dialogue between the Turkish and Syrian governments and that Iran would also participate in the negotiations. "A meeting at the level of foreign ministers could be arranged later, at a time convenient for all of us," Cavusoglu added.

NATO talks with Turkey resume for Sweden, Finland's admission

On March 9, representatives from Turkey, Sweden, and Finland met in Brussels to discuss the Nordic countries' applications for NATO membership.

The negotiations that began in June 2022 following a trilateral pact came to a standstill after the Quran-burning protests in Sweden in January.

In his opening remarks, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg noted that Finland and Sweden had taken "remarkable steps" to address Turkey's legitimate security concerns.

Presidential Spokesperson Ibrahim Kalin stated that Finland and Sweden's steps in some areas are satisfying, but the process is not yet concluded.

On the other hand, the anti-terrorism law scheduled to be submitted to the Swedish parliament on March 9 has been postponed to May 3. The Swedish government originally scheduled the bill to take effect on June 1.

The new counterterrorism bill is expected to focus on funding, supporting, and propagating terrorist organizations. If the law comes into force, it will be unlawful to go abroad to support or join a terrorist organization.


"Dictators are manipulating Turkey's elections – the West must step up" by Borzou Daragahi, Independent

On 6 March, the same day Turkey's opposition announced its candidate against Erdogan, Saudi Arabia deposited $5bn (£4bn) in Turkey's Central Bank, helping to stabilize the country's currency.

Saudi Arabia is not alone. A coalition of autocratic countries appear to be rallying around Turkey's president ahead of the vote. Russia has propped up Turkey's economy with huge inflows of capital over the last year. The United Arab Emirates on 3 March signed a $40bn five-year trade deal with Erdogan's Turkey.

It is not hard to understand why Russia, Saudi Arabia and the UAE would opt to support Erdogan. They are pursuing their interests. For one thing, authoritarian leaders around the world tend to stick together and back each other on the global stage against democratic powers.

Western democracies have an interest in seeing a more like-minded government come to power in Ankara. But, blatant Western interference in Turkey's elections could backfire. Erdogan his media allies quickly accuse any opposition figures who appear alongside a Western official of being a foreign dupe.

Western powers have a major stake in Turkey's upcoming elections. While it could be risky to use their economic and diplomatic power to benefit the opposition, they can and should act to prevent other nations from meddling.

"Turkey's 'Gandhi' sets his sights on strongman Erdogan" by Gonul Tol, Politico

In a country where strong leaders are revered for their ability to mobilize followers with their energetic and emotional political style, many are skeptical about Kilicdaroglu's prospects. His bookish and often sedate manner is considered by some a liability against a populist firebrand known for his histrionics like Erdogan - but Kilicdaroglu remains confident.

While today Erdogan enjoys his 1,000-room palace in Ankara, Kilicdaroglu still lives in a modest apartment full of timeworn appliances and outdated furniture. Social media users have likened his kitchen, where he records videos for his supporters, to that of their grandmothers'.

Erdogan's sluggish and badly coordinated response to the devastating earthquake, which struck southern Turkey a month ago, does seem to have damaged his strongman image. In the country where this charismatic populist who came to power promising to get things done has made a mess by eroding the pillars of governance, voters may finally be ready for an uncharismatic man who promises to put things in order.