Turkey’s ruling party taunts opposition over early election

Members of Turkish Parliament pose during a vote on snap elections in the Turkish Parliament in Ankara, on April 20, 2018. (AFP / ADEM ALTAN)
Updated 21 April 2018
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Turkey’s ruling party taunts opposition over early election

  • By bringing the vote forward by more than a year, Erdogan hopes to capitalize on nationalist support for the military advances by Turkish troops in north Syria
  • Since AK Party first won a parliamentary election in November 2002, Erdogan has dominated Turkish politics, first as prime minister and then as president

ANKARA: Turkey’s ruling AK Party taunted the main opposition party on Thursday to name a candidate to challenge Recep Tayyip Erdogan for June elections which are expected to tighten the president’s 15-year hold on power.

Government spokesman Bekir Bozdag said the secularist opposition People’s Republican Party (CHP) was reluctant to put its leader, Kemal Kilicdaroglu, forward for the June 24 vote “because they do not believe he can compete with our president.”

Erdogan called the snap election on Wednesday, bringing the vote forward by more than a year so that Turkey can switch to the powerful new executive presidency that was narrowly approved in a divisive referendum last year.

While many people expected the presidential and parliamentary elections to be held early, the new date leaves barely two months for campaigning and may have wrong-footed Erdogan’s opponents.

“Our chief has donned his wrestling outfit, so if Mr.Kilicdaroglu says ‘I’m a soldier,’ then he should put on his wrestler’s tights and come out,” Bozdag said. The CHP says it will decide on a candidate in the next 10 days, and the pro-Kurdish HDP said it would convene on Sunday to discuss its plans. The nationalist MHP party has said it is backing Erdogan.

Only former Interior Minister Meral Aksener, who broke away from the MHP last year to form the Good Party, has announced her plans to stand for the presidency.

“A politician does not run from elections,” Bozdag said, adding he believed Erdogan would win in the first round. “We as the AK Party are ready for elections.”

Since AK Party first won a parliamentary election in November 2002, Erdogan has dominated Turkish politics, first as prime minister and then as president, transforming his poor, sprawling country on the eastern fringes of Europe into a major emerging market.

But Turkey’s rapid growth has been accompanied by increased authoritarianism, which critics at home and in Europe say has left the country lurching toward one-man rule.

Since an abortive military coup in July 2016, authorities have detained more than 160,000 people, the UN says. Nearly two years after the coup attempt Turkey is still ruled under a state of emergency, and the crackdown continues.

The US voiced concern on Thursday about the timing. “During a state of emergency, it would be difficult to hold a completely free, fair and transparent election in a manner that is consistent with ... Turkish law,” State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert told a briefing.

Defense Minister Nurettin Canikli said on Wednesday authorities had identified 3,000 armed forces personnel believed to be linked to the US-based cleric Ankara blames for the failed coup. He said they would be dismissed in the coming days.

Media outlets have also been shut down and scores of journalists have been jailed.

 

Early advantage

By calling the vote nearly a year and half early, Erdogan can capitalize on nationalist support for the military advances by Turkish troops in north Syria, where they drove out Kurdish YPG forces, said Goldman Sachs senior economist Erik Meyersson.

The tight schedule “also gives less time for the opposition to organize and choose presidential candidates,” Meyersson wrote in a research note.

The head of a Turkish polling company seen as close to the AK Party said a poll conducted this week had put the AKP on 41.5 percent, with 6 percent for its ally, the MHP.

Mehmet Ali Kulat, chairman of MAK Danismanlik, said that in a presidential election support for Erdogan could outstrip support for his party.

Erdogan’s announcement helped the lira, which has plumbed record lows this month on widening concern about double-digit inflation and the outlook for monetary policy. The currency surged 2.2 percent on Wednesday, its biggest one-day advance in a year. Turkish stocks also rose more than 2 percent.

Economists said the lira rally reflected a belief that the quick timeline for the election reduced the prospect of extra stimulus to maintain economic growth ahead of the vote.

The economy expanded 7.4 percent last year, fueled by stimulus measures including tax changes and an increase in government credit support for small businesses. The government forecasts 5.5 percent growth in 2018 though economists polled by Reuters expect more modest growth of 4.1 percent.


At least 7 killed by car bomb in Benghazi, Libya

A historic building that was destroyed during a three-year conflict is seen in Benghazi, Libya, on February 28, 2018. A car bomb explodsion on a busy street in the center of Benghazi on Thursday night killed at least seven people. (REUTERS/Esam Omran Al-Fetori/File Photo)
Updated 25 May 2018
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At least 7 killed by car bomb in Benghazi, Libya

  • The bomb exploded behind the Tibesti hotel, the city’s biggest, overlooking the Mediterranean Sea, on a street where people were taking a stroll after a day of fasting until sunset in the holy Muslim month of Ramadan.
  • Benghazi, Libya’s second-largest city, is controlled by the Libyan National Army (LNA), the dominant force in eastern Libya led by commander Khalifa Haftar.

BENGHAZI, Libya: At least seven people were killed and 10 wounded when a car bomb exploded on a busy street in the center of the eastern Libyan city of Benghazi on Thursday night, a hospital medic said.
The bomb exploded behind the Tibesti hotel, the city’s biggest, overlooking the Mediterranean Sea, on a street where people were taking a stroll after a day of fasting until sunset in the holy Muslim month of Ramadan.
No more details on the bombing were immediately available. Eight cars parked on the street lined with shops were destroyed.
Benghazi, Libya’s second-largest city, is controlled by the Libyan National Army (LNA), the dominant force in eastern Libya led by commander Khalifa Haftar.
The LNA was battling Islamists, including some linked to Islamic State and Al-Qaeda, as well as other opponents until late last year in the Mediterranean port city.
Security has improved since then, but two mosque bombings earlier this year killed at least 35 people.
Haftar launched his military campaign in Benghazi in May 2014 in response to bombings and assassinations blamed on Islamist militants, part of anarchy that ensued after a NATO-backed uprising ended Muammar Qaddafi’s rule in 2011.
In the past few months, there have been occasional, smaller- scale bombings apparently targeting LNA allies or supporters, but attacks in the city center are rare (Reporting by Ayman Al-Warfalli)