Crackdown on Turkish opposition accelerates: Sign of a snap election?

Enis Berberoglu, a member of the parliament from Turkey's main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP), speaks during a news conference in Ankara, Turkey, June 4, 2020. (REUTERS)
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Updated 06 June 2020

Crackdown on Turkish opposition accelerates: Sign of a snap election?

  • Opposition leaders chant slogans calling the ruling government fascist and ‘putschist’

ISTANBUL: Three opposition MPs in Turkey were expelled from office on Thursday night and detained on espionage and terrorism charges in a move many see as being designed to weaken opposition parties ahead of a likely snap election.

Enis Berberoglu, from the main opposition Republican People’s party (CHP), and Leyla Guven and Musa Farisiogullari from the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) were all expelled, thus losing their parliamentary immunity. Berberoglu was arrested at his home in Istanbul during the night, while the two HDP MPs were arrested in the southeastern city of Diyarbakir.

Opposition MPs reportedly chanted slogans calling the ruling government fascist, “putschist,” and “the enemy of democracy.”

“This is yet another sign that the Islamist-nationalist coalition ruling President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s presidency will harden its authoritarianism as it continues to lose democratic legitimacy,” Murat Somer, a political scientist from Koc University in Istanbul, told Arab News. “It tries to kill three birds with one stone.”

CHP MP Berberoglu, a journalist, was sentenced to five years and 10 months in prison in 2018 for providing another journalist with footage that appeared to show that the National Intelligence Agency was providing arms to Syrian rebels in 2014. His sentence was on hold because of his parliamentary immunity.

The HDP parliamentarians have been charged with “membership of a terrorist organization” because of their alleged links to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK). Earlier this week, the HDP asked for an official probe into the cost of Turkey’s involvement in the Libyan conflict and urged the government to focus on dealing with domestic issues.

The government’s increasing crackdown on opposition parties is a result of its waning power domestically — where it faces an unprecedented economic crisis and rising unemployment — Somer and others suggest.

FASTFACT

Enis Berberoglu, from the main opposition Republican People’s party (CHP), and Leyla Guven and Musa Farisogullari from the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) were all expelled, thus losing their parliamentary immunity.

According to Somer, the latest arrests are not only an attempt to restrict democratic opposition by criminalizing it but also to drive a wedge between pro-Kurdish opposition parties and the rest. They are also a warning to potential dissidents inside the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP).

“All this is yet another step in the ongoing struggle between those who want to consolidate an authoritarian presidential system and a still-divided yet dynamic opposition (aiming) to revive democracy,” he said.

The crackdown on the HDP is expected to push the pro-Kurdish party to adopt a more radical standpoint that could make any electoral alliance difficult to sell to CHP voters.

Alpay Antmen, an attorney and a CHP MP, said the arrests are intended to shift people’s focus away from Turkey’s economic turmoil and the fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic. Members of the main opposition party were about to launch a campaign across 19 of Turkey’s hardest-hit cities to listen to the views of local citizens.

“The ruling government tries to restrict the opposition parties’ efforts to reach out to the citizens and to help them recover (financially). But whatever they do, it gives us further enthusiasm for our nationwide projects,” Antmen told Arab News.

Director of Human Rights Watch Turkey Emma Sinclair-Webb also criticized the move, describing it as “another sign of the relentless assault on elected opposition parties,” and added that the three lawmakers had been subjected to “politically motivated trials in which legal activities were criminalized.”


Debate rages over Turkey’s surging pandemic numbers

Pedestrians, wearing face masks, walk in a street of Ankara on November 20, 2020. (AFP)
Updated 24 November 2020

Debate rages over Turkey’s surging pandemic numbers

  • 20% of Israeli travelers to Turkey in October tested positive for coronavirus on their return
  • No PCR test is required now in Turkish airports for the passengers entering the country. It is a very big mistake

ANKARA: Unofficial sources have warned that numbers of COVID-19 cases in Turkey are skyrocketing.

The Turkish Medical Association (TTB) estimated that daily COVID-19 cases have risen to more than 47,500, of which about 12,500 are in Istanbul. This would represent a 300 percent increase in November compared to the month before.

According to official data, however, Turkey recorded 5,103 new COVID-19 patients on Nov. 20 — the second highest new daily figure since March — and its highest daily death toll with 141 fatalities.

Istanbul Mayor Ekrem Imamoglu announced that 186 people died from “infectious diseases” in the city on Nov. 22 — more than the official countrywide death toll. (The Turkish health ministry is accused of classifying some COVID-related deaths as "infection-related deaths")

The TTB, whose data drew on figures from 1,270 medics in 76 provinces, claimed that someone in Turkey dies from COVID-19 every 10 minutes. It declared that “they have lost control of the pandemic.”

Health Minister Fahrettin Koca previously admitted that they do not include everyone who tested positive for COVID-19 in the number of daily cases — they only count those who show symptoms. Following this admission Turkey was put on the UK’s quarantine-on-arrival list in early October.

BACKGROUND

Health Minister Fahrettin Koca previously admitted that they do not include everyone who tested positive for COVID-19 in the number of daily cases — they only count those who show symptoms.

Reports drawing on Israeli health ministry data say that 20 percent of Israeli travelers to Turkey in October tested positive for coronavirus on their return home, which experts consider a worryingly high figure.

Everyone arriving in Israel is obliged to self-isolate for 14 days. There is no such an obligation in Turkey.

“The countries which prove successful in managing the pandemic are those that apply strict quarantine rules and rigorously regulate arrivals in the country. But this is not the case in Turkey nowadays,” said Guner Sonmez, a radiologist from Uskudar University in Istanbul.

“Only one case can again trigger a whole chain of contagion and begin a new wave of pandemic. However, no PCR test is required now in Turkish airports for the passengers who enter the country. It is a very big mistake for managing the dynamics of the pandemic.”

Turkey recently re-introduced a partial evening curfew and restrictions on the weekends, although scientists have been urging a full 14-day lockdown.