30,000 Syrians eligible to vote in Turkish elections

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan faces stiff opposition for presidential and legislative polls on June 24. AFP
Updated 20 June 2018
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30,000 Syrians eligible to vote in Turkish elections

  • Polls suggest Erdogan’s alliance could narrowly lose its parliamentary majority
  • If the party passes a 10 percent threshold needed to enter Parliament, it could win dozens of seats in Parliament

ANKARA: Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim is quoted as saying that 30,000 Syrians who acquired Turkish nationality are eligible to vote in Sunday’s presidential and parliamentary elections.
The Hurriyet newspaper and other media said Yildirim made the comments Tuesday in the city of Izmir.
Turkey, which is hosting 3.5 million Syrian refugees, announced in 2016 that it would begin granting citizenship to Syrians.

Another election?
In another development, the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) party leader said Turkey could stage another election if the alliance between President Tayyip Erdogan’s ruling AK Party and the MHP could not form a majority in Parliament after Sunday’s vote.
Polls suggest Erdogan’s alliance could narrowly lose its parliamentary majority, while the presidential vote may also go to a second round run-off.
MHP chairman Devlet Bahceli who backed Erdogan in the referendum, said another set of early elections could be on the agenda if the presidency and Parliament struggle to work together after Sunday’s vote.
Speaking in an interview on private news channel NTV late on Monday, Bahceli said that the referendum granted either the president or Parliament the authority to call for snap elections when there was a “blockage” — for example if Erdogan won the presidency but his party fell short of a parliamentary majority.
“When the presidency and Parliament come to the point where they can’t work in unison, there are ways out of this under the constitutional changes and they are carried out. For example, an ... early election could be considered,” he said.
Bahceli played a pivotal role in moving Sunday’s elections forward more than a year when he called on the government to declare snap elections in April. Erdogan set the election date for the June 24 votes after a meeting with Bahceli.
Under the constitutional changes, which will go into effect following the elections, the number of lawmakers in Parliament will increase to 600 from 550. Officials from the AK Party, which has enjoyed a parliamentary majority until now, have said they aim to receive at least 300 seats in the assembly.
Throughout his election campaign, Erdogan has stressed the importance of a “strong Parliament,” saying the decision to support him for the presidency but not the AK Party was a “disturbing attempt.”
The composition of the assembly could depend on Turkey’s pro-Kurdish opposition, which has significant backing in the country’s largely Kurdish southeast.
If the party passes a 10 percent threshold needed to enter Parliament, it could win dozens of seats in Parliament. If it fails, the seats will go to the second most popular party in the region, almost certainly guaranteeing a majority for the AKP.
Meanwhile, voting at Turkish diplomatic missions abroad for expatriate Turks ends Tuesday, with orange sealed bags carrying votes already arriving in Turkey. Voting at border gates and airports will continue until all polls close Sunday afternoon.
The country’s official Anadolu news agency said 41 percent of the more than 3 million registered expatriate voters have cast their ballots so far.


Turkish leader Recep Tayyip Erdogan faces new threat from former allies

Updated 20 July 2019
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Turkish leader Recep Tayyip Erdogan faces new threat from former allies

  • Former prime minister Ahmet Davutoglu and ex-economy minister Ali Babacan have both made statements this month criticizing Turkey’s current trajectory
  • Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has downplayed the threat

ANKARA: Following losses in key cities this year, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan now risks losing more voters as former allies stick their head above the parapet and appear to be on the verge of creating new parties.
Former prime minister Ahmet Davutoglu and ex-economy minister Ali Babacan have both made statements this month criticizing Turkey’s current trajectory under Erdogan.
Rumors have swirled in Ankara for months that Babacan and Davutoglu may establish their own political parties to challenge the Islamic-rooted AKP that has dominated Turkish politics this century.
On July 8, Babacan, who is credited with overseeing Turkey’s economic boom during the AKP’s first decade in power, dealt the first blow when he resigned from the party.
He claimed Turkey needed a “new vision” and cited “deep differences” over policy, hinting a new party — or “new effort” — was “inevitable.”
With double-digit inflation, slower growth and a weakened lira, many hope Babacan will be the answer to Turkey’s economic woes and an alternative to Erdogan.
Ten days after Babacan, Davutoglu gave an interview broadcast live online in which he appeared to suggest he would be ready to set up a new party.
Erdogan has downplayed the threat but also warned Babacan against splitting the “ummah” — using the Arabic word for the Muslim community.
Experts say the president will not quietly accept these challenges.
“Erdogan is likely to combat any threat he sees to his personalized rule,” said Lisel Hintz, assistant professor of international relations at Johns Hopkins University.
She pointed to the jailing of Kurdish leader Selahattin Demirtas who had vehemently opposed Erdogan, and the ongoing trials of civil society leaders and AKP opponents.
Turkey has been to the polls eight times in just five years, but now any new party will have potentially until the next elections in 2023 to create momentum and attract voters.
When he announced he was standing down as prime minister in 2016 after two years, Davutoglu vowed never to criticize Erdogan in public.
That promise lay in tatters this week as he spoke online for three hours, saying he would remain within the AKP for now, but that: “If there is no other option, a (new) party must be set up.”
For now, it appears unlikely that Davutoglu will join forces with other splitters from the AKP, having been a fairly divisive figure himself in the past.
However, there have been reports that former president and co-founder of the AKP, Abdullah Gul, could act as an “honorary chairman” to a party led by Babacan.
It had been mooted that Gul would run against Erdogan in last year’s presidential elections, but he never came forward.
Erdogan criticized Babacan after his resignation, saying they disagreed over many issues, including interest rates, which the president controversially believes must be kept low to reduce inflation.
When asked if he was disappointed by Babacan, Davutoglu and Gul, Erdogan responded with evident exasperation: “For the love of Allah, should this question be asked? If one is not disappointed with them, who would one be disappointed with?”
But he said previous MPs had left the party and been largely forgotten.
The AKP came to power after the Turkish economy suffered a severe financial crisis in 2001, and needed an International Monetary Fund loan to emerge from the embers.
Eighteen years later, Turkey is again in an economic slump.
Inflation is at 15.7 percent; the rate of unemployment is 13 percent while the economy contracted by 2.6 percent in the first quarter of 2019.
According to Hintz, the success of any party launched by Babacan will “likely depend on the extent to which it offers concrete plans for tackling Turkey’s economic problems and social divides.”
She added that Babacan had a “shot at galvanizing Turkey’s center-right, particularly given widespread disillusion surrounding the personal enrichment of AKP leaders while Turkey’s economy slides further toward crisis.”
Erdogan and the AKP, set up in 2001, have won every general election since coming to power in 2002.
But after 25 years of the AKP and its predecessors running Istanbul, the country’s economic powerhouse is now in the hands of the opposition, despite a controversial push by the ruling party to order a re-run of the vote.
Erdogan still commands widespread loyalty, particularly in the provinces, said Emre Erdogan, professor of political science at Istanbul Bilgi University, and no relation to the president.
But he said any new challenger could be “destructive” to Erdogan’s chances at the next election, given that presidential candidates must win over 50 percent of the vote.