Turkey’s Erdogan, main rival stage final election rallies

Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan during an election rally of his ruling AKP, in Istanbul, on Saturday, June 23. (AP)
Updated 23 June 2018
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Turkey’s Erdogan, main rival stage final election rallies

  • The winner of Sunday’s presidential contest will acquire sweeping new executive powers
  • Erdogan and his ruling AK Party, are facing an unexpectedly strong challenge from a revitalized opposition

President Tayyip Erdogan and his main challenger, Muharrem Ince, made a final push for support at rival rallies in Istanbul on Saturday, a day before presidential and parliamentary elections widely viewed as the most crucial in Turkey for decades.

The winner of Sunday’s presidential contest will acquire sweeping new executive powers under a constitutional overhaul backed by Erdogan and endorsed last year by a narrow majority of Turks in a referendum.

Erdogan, who has dominated Turkish politics for 15 years, first as prime minister and since 2014 as president, praised the executive presidency that comes into force after the election.

“God willing, Turkey will start flying with this system... With this system, we will achieve what others cannot imagine,” he told tens of thousands of supporters at a rally in Istanbul’s Esenyurt district, the first of five planned for Saturday.

Erdogan, 64, also promised to deliver more of the big infrastructure projects that have characterized his time in power and helped make him the most popular — if also the most divisive — leader of modern Turkish history.

But with Turkey’s economic woes mounting, partly due to the lira currency’s sharp decline, Erdogan and his ruling AK Party, are facing an unexpectedly strong challenge from a revitalized opposition.

Opposition appeal

Ince, a former teacher and the presidential candidate of the main opposition party, the secularist Republican People’s Party (CHP), has proved highly effective on the campaign trail, drawing huge crowds, especially in the big cities.

On Saturday police said at least one million people had turned out in Istanbul’s Maltepe district to hear Ince promise to reverse — if he wins the presidency — what he sees as Turkey’s turn toward more authoritarian rule under Erdogan.

Ince also repeated his accusation — made by other opposition politicians too — of political bias by Turkey’s state media, which has given Erdogan and the AK Party heavy coverage while often neglecting to broadcast opposition rallies.

“There are 5 million people in Maltepe right now but none of the TV channels can show it,” he said. That figure could not be independently verified, though images circulating on social media showed vast crowds of people assembled to hear Ince speak. “Let this immorality be an example to the world,” said Ince, who said he had held 107 rallies around Turkey in the 51 days since his candidacy was announced.

Braving a summer thunderstorm, Ince’s supporters, in festive mood, sang anthems and waved red and white Turkish flags.

On the other side of the Bosphorus, the waterway bisecting Istanbul and separating Europe from Asia, Erdogan dismissed fears of any ballot-rigging on Sunday, saying the polls would be fair and safe.

“We have taken all security precautions,” said Erdogan.

Opposition parties and non-governmental organizations say they plan to deploy more than half a million monitors and volunteers at ballot boxes across Turkey on Sunday to prevent fraud.


Expanding ‘dead zone’ in Arabian Sea raises climate change fears

Updated 44 min 20 sec ago
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Expanding ‘dead zone’ in Arabian Sea raises climate change fears

  • Dead zones are areas of the sea where the lack of oxygen makes it difficult for fish to survive
  • The findings of the 2015 to 2016 study were released in April and showed the Arabian Sea dead zone had worsened in size and scope

ABU DHABI: In the waters of the Arabian Sea, a vast “dead zone” the size of Scotland is expanding and scientists say climate change may be to blame.
In his lab in Abu Dhabi, Zouhair Lachkar is laboring over a colorful computer model of the Gulf of Oman, showing changing temperatures, sea levels and oxygen concentrations.
His models and new research unveiled earlier this year show a worrying trend.
Dead zones are areas of the sea where the lack of oxygen makes it difficult for fish to survive and the one in the Arabian Sea is “is the most intense in the world,” says Lachkar, a senior scientist at NYU Abu Dhabi in the capital of the United Arab Emirates.
“It starts at about 100 meters and goes down to 1,500 meters, so almost the whole water column is completely depleted of oxygen,” he told AFP.
Dead zones are naturally occurring phenomena around the world, but this one appears to have mushroomed since it was last surveyed in the 1990s.
Lachkar and other researchers are worried that global warming is causing the zone to expand, raising concerns for local ecosystems and industries including fishing and tourism.
The discovery was made possible by the use of robotic divers, or “sea gliders,” deployed in areas researchers could not access — an undertaking by Britain’s University of East Anglia in collaboration with Oman’s Sultan Qaboos University.
The findings of the 2015 to 2016 study were released in April and showed the Arabian Sea dead zone had worsened in size and scope.
And unlike in the 1996 measurements, when the lowest levels were limited to the heart of the dead zone — midway between Yemen and India — now the dead zone extends across the sea.
“Now everywhere is the minimum, and it can’t go much lower,” the lead researcher Bastien Queste told AFP.
At NYU Abu Dhabi, Lachkar explains the Arabian Sea dead zone appears to be stuck in a cycle where warming seas are depleting the oxygen supply which in turn is reinforcing the warming.
This, he says, “can be very scary for climate.”
Ports from Mumbai to Muscat look out onto the Arabian Sea, making it a critical body of water.
These coastal hubs and the populations beyond them will be affected by further expansion of the dead zone.
Fish, a key source of sustenance in the region, may find their habitats compressed from deep underwater to just beneath the surface, putting them at risk of overfishing and extreme competition.
“When oxygen concentration drops below certain levels, fish cannot survive and you have massive death,” says Lachkar.
To carry out his data-heavy modelling, Lachkar relies on a sprawling supercomputer center which cost several million dollars to set up — a testament to local priorities to research climate change.
The UAE in 2016 renamed its Ministry of Environment and Water as the Ministry of Climate Change and Environment, further evidence of the regional desire to meet this global challenge head-on.
“I think it is an important topic for different reasons, not only scientific reasons, but also economic,” says Lachkar from his Center for Prototype and Climate Modelling.
“Fishing is an important source of revenue and it’s directly impacted by the oxygen,” he said.
Even coral reefs and, by extension, tourism could be affected.
Down the hall from his research facility is the complementary Center for Global Sea Level Change, where researchers like Diana Francis study the worldwide impact of the problem.
The issue was at the top of the global agenda in 2015, when the world hammered out a deal in Paris to cut carbon emissions.
But the landmark agreement received a blow last year, when President Donald Trump announced he would be pulling the United States out of the accord.
“It is very disappointing, because a major country is not putting effort in the same direction as the others,” says Francis of the decision.
“But our role is to stick to science, be pragmatic and try to advance our understanding of the climate,” she says.
“Politics change over time,” Francis tells AFP. “But science does not.”