Survey: Is polarization Turkey’s fate?

Survey: Is polarization Turkey’s fate?
Eighty-six percent of all respondents want 4 million Syrian refugees living in Turkey to go back home, according to the survey. (AFP file photo)
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Updated 22 December 2020

Survey: Is polarization Turkey’s fate?

Survey: Is polarization Turkey’s fate?
  • Among all political party supporters, the US is seen as the biggest threat, followed by Israel and Russia

ANKARA: A new international study has produced striking results about the growth of polarization in Turkey this year. 

The study, by the German Marshall Fund of the US and the Istanbul Bilgi University Center for Migration Research with financial support from the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (SIDA), published its results on Dec. 22, revealing the social distance, political intolerance and echo chambers within Turkish society.

The survey, entitled “Dimensions of Polarization in Turkey 2020”, was conducted through face-to-face interviews across 29 cities with some 4,000 representing Turkey’s adult population. The results were announced on Tuesday morning.

Among all political party supporters, the US is seen as the biggest threat, followed by Israel and Russia.

Eighty-six percent of all respondents want 4 million Syrian refugees living in Turkey to go back home, while this view climbs to 93 percent among CHP supporters.

As a prominent indicator of political polarization, people created a social distance from others who hold “the most distant” political line to their own.

While 72 percent of the participants do not want to do business with supporters of the “most distant” political party, some 60 percent also do not want them as neighbors. Another 66 percent said that they do not want their children to play with children of that political party’s supporters, and 75 percent don’t want their children to get married with children of the “other” political party.

Professor Emre Erdogan, an academic from Istanbul Bilgi University and the scientific coordinator of the study, said the survey revealed a decreasing willingness for living together among supporters of different political parties.

“This is a polarization both on political and emotional fronts, and is becoming an acute problem for the country,” he told Arab News.

70 percent of CHP supporters, 67 percent of HDP supporters and 65 percent of IYI Party supporters think that social disagreements increased in the country over the last year, with the failed coup attempt, the Kurdish conflict and the executive presidential system that grants President Recep Tayyip Erdogan with excessive power being the hot topics for disagreement.

Paul T. Levin, director of the Stockholm University Institute for Turkish Studies, thinks polarization seems to be part of the government’s strategy, or at least a consequence of it.

“President Erdogan himself has long used divisive rhetoric and depicted his political opponents as vandals, terrorists, or enemies of the state,” he told Arab News, adding that the government-affiliated media has also been known to demonize critics and contribute to the polarization in the country.

 The survey shows that polarization also deepens with some controversial issues. The supporters of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) and its nationalistic ally MHP vehemently support divisive projects such as Kanal Istanbul artificial waterway project or the re-conversion of Hagia Sophia into a mosque, while the opposition party supporters stand against them.

“The timing of the Hagia Sophia decision was probably related to the need to shore up support among core Erdogan and AKP supporters at a time of crisis. It was a big card to play though for relatively small gain at home and irreversibly sours perceptions of Turkey in the West and Orthodox Christian world,” Nora Fisher Onar, Turkey expert from University of San Francisco International Studies department, told Arab News.

“Another aspect of domestic governance that has been polarizing is the government’s interference in an attempt to usurp resources from or block opposition mayors’ provisions of public goods like transportation infrastructure,” she added.

Instead, the education in the mother tongue for the Kurdish community gathers all party supporters against the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party’s (HDP) supporters.

But supporters of the opposition parties stand against the appointment of trustees to the Kurdish-led municipalities with half of the population opposed.

A majority of the respondents do not use Twitter (63 percent) and Facebook (66 percent) as a means to share their political views.

Half of the respondents think the economy and unemployment are the most important problems of the country, followed by inflation rates. Eighty percent of AKP supporters think their opinions are represented in the country’s governance, while this rate is only 13.6 percent among CHP supporters and 8.1 percent among HDP supporters.

The supporters of the opposition parties are inclined to move abroad if they have a chance. One-third of CHP supporters and almost half of HDP supporters would think of immigration for finding a better job, for better opportunities of personal freedoms and due to losing hope about the country’s future.

“The unemployment, the poverty and the lack of means for political expression are the main factors that weaken the citizenship bond of HDP supporters,” Prof. Erdogan said.

Ninety percent of HDP supporters, 80 percent of CHP supporters and 69 percent of IYI Party supporters don’t think that the elections are held fairly in Turkey.

“This perception further strengthens the political alienation of people and it pushes them to migrate to other countries where they would be better represented on political fronts with democratic elections,” Prof. Erdogan said.

77 percent of AKP supporters feel “emotionally” attached to the country, while this rate declines to 65 percent among CHP supporters and 45 percent among HDP supporters.

According to Onar, Ankara’s assertive regional policies are most worrisome to HDP voters — especially regarding Syria and Iraq — and for the more progressive elements in the CHP, but are viewed positively by the right-wing nationalist AKP-MHP coalition and also for some in the center-right and center-left nationalist IYI Party.

“The more you polarize by encouraging a strong sense of ‘them’ versus ‘us’ the more you can generate passionate support among your followers. But then the harder it becomes to govern, requiring more polarization to stay in power and making it even harder to govern. This becomes a vicious circle,” she said.


EU sees must-not-miss chance to revive Iran nuclear deal

EU sees must-not-miss chance to revive Iran nuclear deal
Updated 10 min 43 sec ago

EU sees must-not-miss chance to revive Iran nuclear deal

EU sees must-not-miss chance to revive Iran nuclear deal
  • Nuclear deal almost collapsed after the Trump administration unilaterally pulled the US out three years ago
BRUSSELS: The top European Union diplomat supervising the international agreement aimed at curbing Iran’s nuclear ambitions called Friday for a concerted effort to reinvigorate the pact even as Tehran appears to be reneging on some of its commitments.
“This is an occasion that we cannot miss,” to revive the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, or JCPOA, EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell told reporters via video-link.
The deal almost collapsed after the Trump administration unilaterally pulled the US out three years ago, triggering crippling economic sanctions on Iran. Britain, France and Germany notably struggled to keep it alive and have been heartened by President Joe Biden’s willingness to bring the US back in.
“I am convinced as coordinator of the JCPOA that we do have diplomatic space, a diplomatic window of opportunity to dialogue” in line with Biden’s aims, Borrell said. “We need to use this opportunity and focus on solutions to bring the JCPOA back on track in order for everybody (to fulfil) their commitments.”
Iran this week effectively set a deadline to lift the US sanctions within three months, after which it said it would erase surveillance footage of its nuclear facilities. It has also limited some monitoring of its activities, which the EU says are meant to help ensure that Tehran’s nuclear work is peaceful.
The UN’s nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency, has also reported that Iran has added 17.6 kilograms (38.8 pounds) of uranium enriched up to 20 percent to its stockpile as of Feb. 16 — far past the 3.67 percent purity allowed under the JCPOA.
Borrell said that Iran’s latest moves “are very much concerning.”

HRW urges Iran to probe deadly shooting on Pakistan border

HRW urges Iran to probe deadly shooting on Pakistan border
Updated 26 February 2021

HRW urges Iran to probe deadly shooting on Pakistan border

HRW urges Iran to probe deadly shooting on Pakistan border
  • Shooting in the border area near the town of Saravan killed at least 10 people and wounded five
BEIRUT: Human Rights Watch called on Iran Friday to investigate a deadly shooting by Revolutionary Guards against smugglers attempting to transport fuel into neighboring Pakistan for excessive use of force.
Monday’s shooting in the border area near the town of Saravan killed at least 10 people and wounded five, HRW said, citing Baluchi activists.
Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps had blocked a road used to transport fuel before apparently opening fire at people attempting to reopen the route, it added.
The action has prompted attacks by angry protesters on government buildings in both Saravan and the Sistan-Baluchistan provincial capital Zahedan.
“The Iranian authorities should urgently conduct a transparent and impartial investigation into the shootings at the Saravan border,” said HRW Iran researcher Tara Sepehri Far.
“The authorities should hold those responsible for wrongdoing to account, appropriately compensate victims and ensure that border guards are taking the utmost precautions to respect the right to life and other human rights.”
Provincial deputy governor Mohammad-Hadi Marashi said Tuesday that the shooting had started from the Pakistani side of the border and one person had been killed and four wounded.
Sistan-Baluchistan province has long been a security headache for the Iranian government.
Its large ethnic Baluch population, which staddles the frontier, has made it a flashpoint for cross-border attacks on government or Shiite targets by separatists and Sunni extremists.
HRW said the lack of employment opportunities in the province had left its ethnic Baluch population few alternatives to black market trading with their fellow Baluchs across the border.
“Similar to the western provinces of Western Azerbaijan and Kurdistan (on the border with Iraq), its lack of economic opportunities has led many residents to engage in unlawful cross-border commerce with Pakistan,” the New York-based watchdog.

Israel vaccinates 50% of its population against COVID-19

Israel vaccinates 50% of its population against COVID-19
Updated 26 February 2021

Israel vaccinates 50% of its population against COVID-19

Israel vaccinates 50% of its population against COVID-19
  • About 35 percent of Israel’s population had received both doses of the Pfizer vaccine

JERUSALEM: Israel has administered at least one COVID-19 vaccine dose to 50 percent of its 9.3 million population, Health Minister Yuli Edelstein said on Friday.
Israel counts East Jerusalem Palestinians, who have been included in the vaccine campaign that began on Dec 19, as part of its population. Palestinians in the occupied West Bank and the Gaza Strip are not part of the Israeli campaign.
Edelstein said 35 percent of Israel’s population had received both doses of the Pfizer vaccine, putting them on course to receive a so-called “Green Pass” with access to leisure sites that the country has been gradually reopening.


Libya’s new PM delays naming Cabinet as deadline looms

Libya’s new PM delays naming Cabinet as deadline looms
Updated 26 February 2021

Libya’s new PM delays naming Cabinet as deadline looms

Libya’s new PM delays naming Cabinet as deadline looms
  • Appointing the Cabinet is part of a UN-backed transitional roadmap
  • Since 2015, Libyan state institutions have been divided between two administrations

CAIRO: Libya’s newly-elected prime minister failed to name members of a much-anticipated Cabinet ahead of an expected deadline Thursday, raising questions over whether his transitional government can unite Libya’s factions.
Prime Minister designate Abdul Hamid Mohammed Dbeibah was set to announce his Cabinet in a news conference from the capital, Tripoli, and send it to Libya’s House of Representatives for approval.
Instead, Dbeibah told reporters he only shared with Libyan lawmakers proposed guidelines for the selection of Cabinet members and an outline of his priorities in the coming period.
Appointing the Cabinet is part of a UN-backed transitional roadmap, which envisages holding general elections in the war-torn North African country by the end of the year.
Since 2015, Libyan state institutions have been divided between two administrations: One in the east and another in the west, each supported by a vast array of militias and foreign governments.
“We are ready to submit the names (of Cabinet ministers) but we should consult among ourselves and examine candidate names meticulously,” Dbeibah told reporters in Tripoli without specifying when he will actually make the submission.
Dbeibah said he envisages a Cabinet of technocrats who would represent Libya’s different geographic areas and social segments.
“These are critical times and we are taking into consideration that the Cabinet must genuinely achieve national unity and seek consensus and reconciliation,” he said.
He added that the country’s sovereign ministerial portfolios should be equally divided between candidates from Libya’s three key geographic areas in the east, the west and the south.
Earlier this month, Dbeibah was elected as prime minister by Libyan delegates at a UN-sponsored conference near Geneva.
The 75-member Libyan Political Dialogue Forum also elected a three-member Presidential Council, which along with Dbeibah should lead the country through general elections on December 24. Mohammad Younes Menfi, a Libyan diplomat from the country’s east, was selected as chairman of the council.


Bahrain introduces fifth vaccine, extends COVID-19 safety measures

Bahrain introduces fifth vaccine, extends COVID-19 safety measures
Updated 26 February 2021

Bahrain introduces fifth vaccine, extends COVID-19 safety measures

Bahrain introduces fifth vaccine, extends COVID-19 safety measures
  • The Janssen Covid-19 Vaccine will be the fifth vaccine authorized in Bahrain in the fight against the spread of COVID-19
  • The announcement comes as the Government Executive Committee extended precautionary measures

DUBAI: Bahrain’s National Health Regulatory Authority (NHRA) has authorized the use of Johnson and Johnson’s vaccine for coronavirus the Bahrain News Agency reported on Friday.

The Janssen Covid-19 Vaccine will be the fifth vaccine authorized in Bahrain in the fight against the spread of COVID-19 and will be given to those most at risk, suchas the elderly, people with chronic diseases and other groups identified by the Health Ministry.

The announcement comes as the Government Executive Committee extended precautionary measures, aimed at slowing the spread of the virus, for an additional three months.

The measures involve the continued enforcement of  social distancing and screening of people at commercial and industrial premises for a further three months.