by instituDE, published on 6 May 2024


"Turkey's President Erdogan faces a new challenge from Islamists", The Economist

For two decades Mr. Erdogan and AK Party have enjoyed a near-monopoly over Turkey's Islamist vote. New Welfare's success has ended that. The party, headed by Fatih Erbakan, the son of Mr. Erdogan's late mentor, had joined the president's governing coalition in 2023, but went its own way in the local elections after accusing AK Party of ignoring its demands. These include lowering interest rates, outlawing adultery and scrapping rules on gender equality.

The war in Gaza was another reason for the split, and for New Welfare's strong showing. "People expected more from a government and a president who had done so much for Palestine," says Mehmet Fatih Oztek, a member of New Welfare's executive committee. "And this had serious costs for AK Party at the polls."

Tempted as he might be to get even tougher on Israel, Mr. Erdogan can go only so far without sabotaging Turkey's improving relations with America. 

But there are signs Mr. Erdogan may be willing to pay that price. In late April, officials in Ankara revealed that Turkey's president had postponed a trip to the White House scheduled for May 9th, which would have been his first since Joe Biden took office. Mr. Erdogan may have decided that a bit of friction with America is what he needs to placate Islamists at home.

"Turkey's Democracy Is Down but Not Out" by Kate Johnston and Gibbs McKinley, Foreign Policy

The CHP's victory is a hopeful signal of the resilience of Turkish democracy and its electoral system. After the CHP's disappointing results in last year's presidential election, where it only managed a little over 47 percent of the vote, its share of the national vote came as a shock to many experts. 

Moving forward with a new constitution after these election results could risk strong public rebuke, and Erdogan may now feel far less confident in a referendum victory.

A single, if surprising, election doesn't mean Turkey's democracy is thriving, or even on the mend. It may be difficult for the opposition to sustain its current approach for the next four years. Erdogan may turn to more authoritarian tactics to hold onto power, and how he chooses to respond politically could impact the future of Turkish democracy. If he doubles down on restricting the political space, including by following up on the outstanding court cases against opposition candidates - it will be for the worse.

Turkey has a long way to go before it can be considered a liberal democratic country. Its democracy has declined precipitously in the past 15 years; but this election signals that there are pockets of resilience. That's worth paying attention to. A more resilient Turkish democracy merits encouragement and hope -not least because, as a global swing state, the choices that Turkey makes may have an impact beyond its borders.

"In rare visit, Erdogan pushes for stronger Turkish stake in Iraq" by Mehmet Alaca, Amwaj.media

Despite the fanfare surrounding Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's tour of Baghdad and Erbil—his first in 13 years—ambiguities remain over longstanding grievances. 

The visit's most concrete success was the signing of a preliminary agreement to cooperate on the' Development Road' project between Iraq and Turkey alongside Qatar and the United Arab Emirates (UAE). While the four-way accord is a step forward, the success of the project will likely demand further regional diplomacy given its proximity to Iran's geostrategic interests.

The route of the 'Development Road'—passing by southern Iran from the Emirati port of Sharjah, and again by Faw—has put it on Iran's radar due to the project's capacity to influence the regional geopolitical landscape. As such, Tehran and Iran-backed armed groups in Iraq could undermine the project if they see it as challenging their interests.

Ultimately, the Turkish president's visit signals Erdogan's clear commitment to advance trade relations with Iraq, and adopt a stronger position for Turkey in the region's broader dynamic. While the rare trip has been hailed as a success by both Ankara and Baghdad, it remains to be seen how the agreements and MOUs signed will weather the often tumultuous political climate of the region.


Turkish Parliament Speaker Begins Talks on New Constitution with Opposition Leader

On April 30, Turkish Parliament Speaker Numan Kurtulmus started discussions with political parties about drafting a new constitution by visiting the main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP) leader Ozgur Ozel. 

Kurtulmus visited the CHP headquarters to kick off consultations on a potential new constitution. During the 50-minute meeting, Kurtulmus and CHP Chairman Ozel talked about the procedural aspects of constitutional reform without delving into the details of constitutional content. 

Kurtulmus stressed the importance of reaching a consensus and hoped for over 400 parliamentary votes out of 600 seats to support the new constitution. 

In response, Ozel highlighted critical issues like poverty and unemployment, questioning the timing and necessity of a new constitution amidst such pressing social needs. He also emphasized the importance of adhering to the current constitution before considering a new one and pointed out existing problems in adhering to the constitution. 

On May 2, Kurtulmuş visited the DEM Party, Felicity Party, and Good Party. After meeting with the DEM Party, Kurtulmuş emphasized the importance of democratic cooperation. The DEM Party Co-Chairman stressed the need for a democratic constitution-making process and highlighted the importance of implementing ECHR decisions. 

Then, Kurtulmuş met with the Felicity Party, discussing constitutional studies and expressing optimism about starting discussions around October. The Saadet Party Group Deputy Chairman emphasized the importance of building a healthy foundation for discussion. 

Finally, after visiting the Good Party, Kurtulmuş thanked all parties for their open-minded approach. The Good Party Chairman Musavat Dervisoglu reiterated their stance on the parliamentary democratic system and highlighted the need to address Turkey's priority issues, especially the economic challenges.

Turkish President Erdoğan and Opposition Leader Meet After Eight Years

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan met with Ozgur Ozel, leader of the main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP), on May 2. It was a rare event bringing together the leaders of Turkey's two largest parties face-to-face for the first time in eight years. 

The hour-and-a-half-long meeting took place at the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) headquarters. AKP Deputy Chairman Mustafa Elitaş and CHP lawmaker Namık Tan also attended. 

The meeting room layout, including an empty chair next to Erdoğan, attracted attention, though AKP representatives clarified it had no special significance. No new decisions or agreements were announced, and both leaders left without speaking to the press.

On May 3, after Friday prayers, Erdoğan addressed reporters, stressing the importance of a more peaceful political atmosphere in the country. "With this step, politics has entered a period of calm. I informed Mr. Ozel that I'll visit him at the first opportunity," he said.

Islamist Opposition Leader Steps Down for Health Reasons

In a live television interview on May 3, Temel Karamollaoglu, leader of Turkey's Islamist opposition Felicity Party (SP), announced that he plans to step down due to health reasons. Karamollaoglu, facing increasing medical issues, expressed that his condition hinders him from fulfilling his duties effectively. 

Although the party congress was initially planned for October, Karamollaoglu suggested an earlier date, possibly June 30, considering his health conditions. He also clarified that although he is stepping down as party leader, he will remain active in politics and support his successor.


Islamic Development Bank Allocates $6.3 Billion for Turkey's Development Projects

Turkish Finance Minister Mehmet Şimşek announced at the Islamic Development Bank Group's annual meeting in Riyadh on April 29 that the bank will provide $6.3 billion for projects in Turkey over the next two years. The funds will be used in various sectors such as education, health, transportation, finance, agriculture, industry, energy, and infrastructure, Simsek said. 

Şimşek highlighted that this financing will support Turkey's development priorities, aligned with its 12th Development Plan and medium-term program. He also noted that the economic program implemented by the government has led to a strong flow of external resources into the country.

Turkey's Annual Inflation Hits 69.8%, Despite Interest Rate Hikes

Official data released on May 3 revealed that Turkey's annual inflation rate increased to 69.8 percent in April, despite the Central Bank's interest rate hikes aimed at controlling rising consumer prices. In March, inflation had reached 68.5 percent. 

According to the Turkish Statistical Institute, the largest annual consumer price hike was in education, with prices rising by 103.86 percent, followed by restaurants and hotels at 95.82 percent. 

However, ENAG, a group of independent economists, reported their calculations, showing the year-on-year figure to be nearly 125 percent. 

The domestic producer price index also showed a 3.60 percent month-on-month increase in April, with an annual rise of 55.66 percent.

Finance Minister Mehmet Simsek commented on the official figures, stating that April's month-on-month inflation, at 3.18 percent, was as expected. He also mentioned on social media platform X that annual inflation is predicted to decline sharply after reaching its peak in May.

During the 8th Turkish-German Economy Day in Düsseldorf, Germany, Minister Simsek stated that the inflation rate would surpass 70 percent in May. However, he expressed confidence that inflation would decrease rapidly with the implemented program and return to single-digit inflation levels by 2026.

S&P Global Upgrades Turkey's Sovereign Rating to B+ with Positive Outlook

S&P Global Ratings upgraded Turkey's long-term sovereign rating from B to B+ with a positive outlook, according to a statement released on May 3. 

The rating agency cited improved coordination among monetary, fiscal, and income policies following local elections in Turkey. S&P Global expects policymakers to continue efforts to reduce high inflation through monetary tightening, controlled wage settlements, and gradual fiscal consolidation. 

On May 4, Treasury and Finance Minister Mehmet Simsek stated on X that the success of the economic program has been evident in the decisions of credit rating agencies. He added that the positive outlooks from S&P, Fitch, and Moody's indicate upcoming rating upgrades. Although their assessments are positive about the country, its rating remains several notches below investment grade.

Refugee Aid to Turkey Falls Short of Expected Impact, EU Report Reveals

Although the European Union allocated €6 billion for refugee aid in Turkey, the latest findings from the European Court of Auditors (ECA) reveal that these funds didn't have the expected impact and sustainability. 

The report highlights significant delays and inefficiencies in implementing projects to support over 4 million registered refugees, including 3.2 million Syrians. The audit found that a substantial portion of the expenditures didn't achieve the intended results, with around €2.44 billion (40.8%) spent on humanitarian aid and €3.54 billion (59.1%) on development aid. 

The Court of Auditors criticized the overall management and monitoring of these projects, citing significant implementation delays and a lack of systematic assessment of costs. Additionally, the report noted that the Turkish Ministry of Education refused to reimburse expenses deemed inappropriate. 

Furthermore, the audit pointed out that the EU Commission failed to effectively measure the impact of the projects, especially in the socio-economic area.

Turkish Airlines in Talks with Airbus and Boeing for 235 Aircraft Purchase

At an event with Airbus and Rolls-Royce on April 29 in Istanbul, Turkish Airlines Chairman Ahmet Bolat revealed that the airline is negotiating with both Airbus and Boeing to purchase 235 aircraft as part of its expansion strategy. 

Bolat stated that Turkish Airlines has always maintained a balanced approach between Airbus and Boeing. He also said that the airline was monitoring the issues faced by Boeing and was not rushing to make a decision. Boeing had slowed production of its popular jet following a mid-air cabin panel blowout in January. 

Turkish Airlines aims to grow its fleet by nearly 600 planes over the next decade, as outlined in its fleet plan unveiled last year. In December, the airline finalized a deal with Airbus for 355 firm and optional orders for A321 narrow-body and A350 wide-body aircraft.


RSF ranks Turkey 158th in new press freedom index 

Turkey was ranked 158th out of 180 countries in the 2024 World Press Freedom Index by Reporters Without Borders (RSF), while the organization reported the number of imprisoned journalists in the country at seven, far below what local and international rights groups report.

Turkey's 2024 ranking on the RSF index is up from 165th last year; however, according to RSF, the minor change for the better is not a result of the improvement of freedom of the press in the country but rather due to regression elsewhere.

According to a census from the Expression Interrupted Platform, there are currently 32 journalists in prison in Turkey, mainly comprising Kurdish journalists and those who worked for media outlets affiliated with the Gülen movement.

The RSF index for 2024 ranks Turkey 158th out of 180 countries with an overall score of 31.6, which is a deterioration compared to the 2023 score (33.97), remaining in the "very serious" category.

217 Detained in Istanbul May Day Demonstrations 

During the May Day demonstrations in Istanbul on May 1, 217 people were detained, with 182 released from police custody and 35 referred to court. The Interior Ministry and the Istanbul Governor's Office had announced before May Day that no demonstrations would be permitted in Taksim due to security concerns. 

Despite this, KESK, DİSK, and the CHP gathered in Saraçhane, near the Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality, planning to march to Taksim. CHP leader Ozgur Ozel, along with Ekrem İmamoğlu, stated in a press release that the blockade was a violation of constitutional rights.

After a police blockade prevented their planned march to Taksim Square, the CHP and labour unions decided to cancel their March. However, this decision drew criticism from various political parties and activists. 

The Left (SOL) Party and the Communist Party of Turkey (TKP) strongly condemned the decision made by the May Day Committee, accusing them of abandoning the workers. TKP General Secretary Kemal Okuyan criticized the leadership of DİSK and KESK for not taking responsibility for the thousands who had gathered, labelling the incident as a serious act of irresponsibility.

Security forces later detained 30 more suspects identified as involved in the demonstrations through camera recordings and facial recognition systems. Out of the total 65 suspects, 38 were arrested on charges including "opposition to the Law on Meetings and Demonstrations," "propagandizing for a terrorist organization," and "resisting a public official".

Turkish Authorities Conduct Nationwide Operations Against Gulen Movement Members

On May 2, Minister of Internal Affairs Ali Yerlikaya announced on social media that security forces conducted nationwide operations against members of the Gulen Movement. These operations targeted 36 people in various provinces, including Denizli, Manisa, Kocaeli, Osmaniye, Bursa, and Ordu. Yerlikaya stated that those targeted were allegedly part of the Gulen Movement's secret structure, used the communication program ByLock, and maintained contact with organization leaders. Additionally, significant amounts of foreign currency, Turkish lira, digital materials, and documents were seized during the operations.

On May 3, the Izmir Republic Chief Prosecutor's Office issued arrest warrants for 32 suspects allegedly linked to the Gulen movement. These suspects are believed to be part of the movement's so-called secret police clandestine structure, used ByLock, and were mentioned in related communications.

Reportedly, 30 suspects have been detained in various districts, including Bergama, Dikili, Kemalpaşa, and Menemen, while 2 suspects are still being sought.

European Court Notifies Turkey of 1,000 New Gulen Movement Applications

The European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) informed Ankara about the second batch of 1,000 applications concerning convictions for terrorism offences based on the use of ByLock messaging application. This notification follows a significant ruling in September, where the court determined that using the app does not constitute credible evidence or a criminal offence. 

The court also stated that rulings on these cases would be made at a later stage. 


Turkey Backs Mark Rutte for NATO Secretary-General

Turkey informed NATO members that it will back outgoing Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte as the new NATO secretary-general. Anadolu news agency reported that Turkey notified NATO member countries of its support for Rutte's candidacy on April 29. 

This decision was made shortly after Rutte visited Turkey to seek its support. Rutte met with President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan in Istanbul on April 26, where Erdoğan emphasized Turkey's expectation for the next NATO secretary-general to address its terrorism-related concerns. Rutte also described his discussions with Erdoğan as extremely positive.

NATO selects its secretary-general by consensus, requiring the support of all 32 allies, and the position holds a four-year term, which can be extended.

Turkey Halts Trade with Israel Until Gaza Ceasefire Secured 

The Turkish government announced that it would not resume trade with Israel, amounting to $6.8 billion annually, until a permanent ceasefire and humanitarian aid are ensured in Gaza. 

Trade Minister Omer Bolat said Ankara halted all exports and imports due to Israel's "uncompromising attitude" and the deteriorating situation in Gaza's Rafah region. Bolat added that Turkey is discussing alternative arrangements with Palestinian partners to mitigate the impact of this decision on them. 

Erdogan commented on the move and said Turkey could not stand idly by amidst the Israeli bombardment of Palestinians. He also assured Turkish business people that Ankara would manage the consequences of this decision through coordination and dialogue with the business community, hoping it would set an example for other countries uncomfortable with the current situation. 

Israeli Foreign Minister Israel Katz criticized Erdogan's move, labelling it as a breach of international trade agreements and likening it to the behaviour of a dictator. 

The ban covers all remaining trade, including $5.2 billion in Turkish exports and $1.6 billion in imports from Israel last year.

Surprised by the decision, Turkish exporters are now exploring options to deliver their goods to Israel through third-party countries after bilateral trade was halted. Four export company owners informed Reuters that they were caught off guard by the sudden decision.

On May 3, the Israel Foreign Ministry announced several steps in response to Ankara's actions. These include limiting all trade between Turkey and the Palestinian Authority, with Turkish products constituting 18 percent of PA imports. Additionally, Israel plans to petition international financial forums for sanctions against Turkey for violating trade deals.

Turkey to Join South Africa's Case Against Israel at ICJ 

On May 1, Turkish Foreign Minister Hakan Fidan announced that Turkey would participate in South Africa's genocide case against Israel at the International Court of Justice (ICJ). 

During a press conference in Ankara with Indonesian Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi, Fidan said Turkey will submit the official intervention declaration once the legal text is finalized.

Turkish Military Kills 32 PKK Members in Northern Iraq

The Defense Ministry of Turkey announced on May 3 that the Turkish military has "neutralized" 32 members of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) in different regions of northern Iraq. 

The militants were discovered in the Haftanin, Gara, and Hakurk areas of northern Iraq, as well as in a region where Turkey frequently conducts cross-border raids as part of its "Claw-Lock Operation.", the ministry said.