Erdogan's challenger faces another case after December sentenceand political ban
Istanbul's mayor Ekrem Imamoglu is facing another prosecutionover alleged corruption for a public tender while he was mayor of Istanbul'sBeylikduzu district from 2014-2019.
The Turkish Interior Ministry has investigated allegations thatImamoglu awarded a public tender to an unqualified business. The case isscheduled for public hearing on June 15. Prosecutors seek a maximum seven-yearprison term and ban from politics for Imamoglu.
The opposition claims this is the latest in a series of courtcases aimed at ousting Imamoglu from his post.
HDP now says open to joint presidential candidate
Opposition Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP) parliamentary groupdeputy chair Saruhan Oluc said during a TVprogram that the party is open to suggestions for a joint presidentialcandidate. "The party would like to talk about the candidate if they arenot excluded from the talks of the six-party alliance," Oluc added.
Last week HDP co-chair Pervin Buldan announced that HDP would participatein the presidential elections with its candidate.
Justice minister says working on regulation to restrict prisoners'social media posts
In a press conference on January 11, commenting on a questionregarding social media posts of Selahattin Demirtas, the imprisonedex-chairperson of the opposition Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP), Bekir Bozdağ,the Ministry of Justice said that theministry was working to prevent his social media posts.
"Prisoners did not have access to social media. Lawyers orfamily members of the prisoners share outside on social media accounts whatthey take from them either during the lawyer visits or family visits. This isan important issue for us, and we are working on it," said ministerBozdag.
Demirtas responded to the justice minister's statement on Twitter, saying,"Put yourself in our shoes and make arrangements for prisons accordingly.After all, it's very soon before you come to our place."
"Ruling party's economic steps before elections reached 1.5trillion lira" Aytug Ozcolak, Diken
According to polls, economic problems that have become evident inTurkey in recent years have caused a decrease in the ruling party and PresidentErdogan's voting rates, who have been ruling the country for nearly two decades.The severe depreciation of the Turkish lira and sharp rise in inflation figuresforced the government to take various economic steps before the criticalpresidential elections this year.
The AKP has announced many social aid projects and low-interestloan packages to have an upper hand in the next elections. Therefore, it hastaken extraordinary and costly steps to the Treasury, such as enforcingcurrency-protected deposits, writing off student debts, new payments tounderpaid families, credit lines for businesses, tax reduction, pay rise forstate employees, easing retirement age requirements for 2,25 million citizens,and social-housing projects. The cost of these economic actions has reached 1.5trillion lira (80 billion US dollars) so far.
Supermarket chains fix prices after the government's warning
Six Turkish supermarket chains declared that they fixedprices for thousands of products during January. President Erdogan had citedsupermarket chains as the cause of rising inflation.
Turkish Trade Minister Mehmet Mus announced on December 26 that hemet with the managers of the four supermarket chains with the most branches inTurkey to warn them not to increase product prices in the wake of the minimumwage increase.
Trade ministry to investigate manipulative actions in automotivemarket
Trade Minister Mehmet Mus shared on Twitterthat he has assigned ministry inspectors to investigate suspected activitiesaimed at manipulating the market for new and used cars.
Demand for used cars in the automotive market has increased inrecent years as fewer new cars are supplied.
World Bank Global Economic Prospects 2023Report: Turkey
In Turkey, last year's growth exceeded expectations, with outputexpanding by an estimated 4.7 percent. A tripling of the minimum wage betweenDecember 2021 and January 2023 and a rebound in tourism helped support activityand offset drags from multidecade-high inflation, significant currencydepreciation, and swelling external liabilities amid rising net errors andomissions.
Growth in Turkey continues to face considerable headwinds andrisks, with high inflation and growing external vulnerabilities amid a sharpwidening of the current account deficit. Growth is projected to moderatesomewhat in 2023, to 2.7 percent, as increased government spending ahead of theJune 2023 elections counteracts slowing exports and domestic demand amidpersistent inflation and heightened policy uncertainty.
Turkish court frees top medical association head with a jailsentence
On January 11, a Turkish court sentenced the TurkishMedical Association (TTB) head, Şebnem KorurFincanci, to more than two years in prison for terrorism propagandaand ordered her immediate release.
In October, rights activist Fincanci was arrested on chargesof spreading terrorist organization propaganda. Fincanci said in an interviewthat claims that Turkey's military deployed chemical weapons against KurdistanWorkers' Party (PKK) in northern Iraq should be investigated.
Human Rights Watch World Report 2023: TurkeyTightened Control in Election Run-Up
Turkey's government has increased its censorship powers andtargeted perceived critics and opponents with bogus criminal proceedings andprison sentences in advance of the 2023 presidential and parliamentaryelections.
Allegations of torture and ill-treatment in police custody andprison over the past six years have rarely been subject to effectiveinvestigations or the prosecution of perpetrators. There are also regular reports of ill-treatment, including severe beatings and cruel,inhuman, and degrading treatment, and overcrowding in removal centers whereforeign nationals, including asylum seekers and migrants, are subject toadministrative detention pending deportation procedures.
Hundreds ofSyrian men and some boys were unlawfully deported to northern Syria, often bybeing detained and coerced into signing voluntary return forms. Afghans, manyof whom had fled Afghanistan after the August 2021 Taliban takeover, were oftenunable to register asylum applications and were deported. Pushbacks of Afghansat Turkey’s border with Iran were also reported.
Biden administration to ask Congress for F-16 sales to Turkey, topU.S. lawmaker objects
The Biden administaration is planning to seek congressional approval for a $20billion sale of 40 new F-16 fighter airplanes to Turkey. The Congress willalso review a separate sale of 30 next-generation F-35 fighter fighters toGreece. With this move, Washington aims to thwart Athens’sobjections to selling F-16s to Turkey. In a few days, the Biden administration willlikely submit official information to Congress regarding the sales.
But, Senator Bob Menendez, Democratic chairman of the SenateForeign Relations Committee, strongly opposes the salesof new F-16 to Turkey. "Erdogan is violating human rights and democraticprinciples and engaging in alarming and disruptive actions in Turkey andagainst neighboring NATO countries," Menendez said in his statement."Until Erdogan ceases his threats ... and begins to act as a trusted allyshould, I will not approve this sale," he added.
A senior U.S. source was doubtful that the Biden administrationwould be able to proceed unless Menendez lifted his objection.
As long as Turkey refuses to ratify Sweden and Finland's NATOmembership, Congress, which is still informally reviewing the sale,is unlikely to approve the proposal. If Turkey accepts the joining ofSweden and Finland to NATO, it will be able to purchase 40 F-16s from the USA,sources claimed.
Congress has the authority to formally block a sale byissuing a resolution of disapproval. But President Joe Biden can decide to move on regardlessof lawmakers' concerns. Even though Congress has previously passed similar resolutions,it has never managed to secure the two-thirds majority required in bothchambers to override a presidential veto.
U.N. extends humanitarian aid to Syria for another six months
The delivery of humanitarian assistance to around four millionpeople in northwest Syria for an additional six months was approved by the U.N.Security Council on January 9
Security Council has taken the decision unanimously as theSyrian government refused to support the humanitarian efforts, which have beenbringing food, medicine, and shelter to areas of Syria controlled by theopposition since 2014.
Libyan court suspends controversial energy agreement with Turkey
On January 9, a Libyan court suspended an oilexploration agreement agreed by the Tripoli government with Turkey last year.The agreement included oil and gas exploration provisions in waters claimed byAnkara and Tripoli. But the deal infuriated Egypt and Greece and promptedboth countries to reject the agreement.
The agreement also contributed to a political conflict inLibya between the western-based Government of National Unity (GNU) inTripoli and the eastern-based parliament, which rejects the GNU'slegitimacy.
Commenting on the court's ruling, Turkish foreign minister MevlutCavusoglu said on January12 that Libya's Government of National Unity (GNU) assured the government"not to take seriously" the ruling. "The court ruling is not thefinal verdict. The government continues to support the agreement,"Cavusoglu added.
Turkey's ambassador to Israel assumes post, Israeli Presidentinvites Erdogan
On January 11, Israeli President Isaac Herzog received thecredentials of Turkish Ambassador Sakir Ozkan Torunlar, who had previouslyserved as Turkey's consul general in Jerusalem. Herzog praised TurkishPresident Erdogan's determination to restore bilateral ties and invited him tovisit Israel soon.
On December 27, Erdogan received the credentials of Israel's newambassador to Turkey, Irit Lillian, who served as charge d'affaires at theAnkara embassy.
Turkish and Syrian foreign ministers could meet in earlyFebruary
On January 12, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said he couldmeet Syrian Foreign Minister Faisal Mekdad in early February. Cavusoglu saidthere was no set date for the meeting, but it would take place as soon aspossible.
On the other side, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad stated that theaim of talks with Turkey should be to terminate the occupation of Syrianterritory and to stop supporting rebels and opposition forces in northernSyria.
While Washington opposes countries re-establishing ties withAssad, Moscow supports reconciliation between Damascus and Ankara.
Turkey summons Swedish ambassador for anti-Erdogan protest inStockholm
The Turkish foreign ministry summoned StaffanHerrstrom, Sweden's ambassador to Turkey, on January 12 to convey Ankara'sreaction to a demonstration held in Stockholm where a puppet of PresidentErdogan was hung from its feet.
On January 12, footage posted by pro-government Turkish mediaclaimed that a puppet of Erdogan was allegedly hanging outside the Stockholmcity hall as part of a PKK demonstration.
"The government protects an open debate about politicalchoices but strongly distances itself from threats and hatred against politicalrepresentatives. The portrayal of an executed elected President isdeplorable," said TobiasBillstrom, the foreign minister of Sweden, on Twitter.
"Is Turkey a Crucial or Corrosive NATO Ally?" by EmmaAshford and Matthew Kroenig, Foreign Policy
I suspect that Erdogan will relent at some point in thefuture—perhaps after the Turkish elections in June or as part of his reelectioncampaign—and agree to ratify Finland and Sweden's entry in exchange for Westernconcessions.
Erdogan will eventually approve this, but I increasingly wonder ifit's worth keeping Turkey inside the tent when the country adds such limitedvalue. You have to balance the geostrategic benefits the country brings to thealliance against the fact that Turkey picks and chooses when it wants to bealigned with NATO.
I do worry about the decline in democracy under Erdogan, but I amnot sure that will last—I am told there is a decent chance he could lose theelection in June and step down.
"The World's Most Important Election in 2023 Will Be inTurkey" by Bobby Ghosh, Bloomberg
The most important [elections] will unquestionably take place onJune 18, when President Recep Tayyip Erdogan seeks to stretch his rule overTurkey into a third decade. The outcome will shape geopolitical and economiccalculations in Washington and Moscow and capitals across Europe, the MiddleEast, Central Asia and Africa.
Ankara's influence in world affairs attests to Erdogan'sachievements over his long stint at the helm. Even so, at home and abroad, hiselectoral prospects evoke mixed feelings. And those who wish him gone on June19 cannot be sanguine about who or what will come next.
Erdogan's still-strong numbers suggest he could hold off any challenger,especially if the economy shows signs of recovery in the spring. The Presidentis counting on investments and bank deposits from the United Arab Emirates andSaudi Arabia and on Putin's promises of making Turkey a hub for Russian naturalgas exports to lift the gloom. Erdogan has also been talking up Turkey's ownnatural gas finds in the Black Sea, encouraging speculation of a revenuewindfall.
These tactics have helped Erdogan win elections before. They mightagain. Until the Turks cast their votes, Western leaders will remain ontenterhooks.
"Turkey Is Sending Cold War-Era Cluster Bombs toUkraine" by Jack Detsch and Robbie Gramer, Foreign Policy
Turkey began sending Ukraine a form of U.S.-designed,artillery-fired cluster bomb in late 2022 after months of Kyiv pleading withthe Biden administration for the munitions, giving Kyiv a powerful - butcontroversial-weapon to destroy Russian tanks and kill troops on thebattlefield. The weapons can linger on the battlefield for years if they do notimmediately explode.
The move, which Turkey has sought to keep quiet for months, alsohighlights the high-wire act that Ankara has played throughout the conflict. Itwas not immediately clear if the Turkish surface-to-surface weapons had beenused in combat. But Turkey's delivery of DPICMs showcases how Ankara has playedan outsized role in supplying weapons to Ukraine to break Russia's full-scaleinvasion at critical moments in the war.
But the move still is a reversal of sorts for Turkey, after itmade pledges to the international disarmament community that it would not usecluster munitions.