Likely outcomes of Turkish presidential runoff explained

Likely outcomes of Turkish presidential runoff explained
Supporters of the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) wave flags during an election rally, ahead of the May 28 presidential runoff vote, in Istanbul on May 27, 2023. (Reuters)
Short Url
Updated 27 May 2023
Follow

Likely outcomes of Turkish presidential runoff explained

Likely outcomes of Turkish presidential runoff explained
  • The new parliament composition is predominantly right-wing, with Islamist and nationalist tendencies
  • Around 6 million people cast votes for the first time on May 14, while about 50,000 new voters will go to the polls in the second round as they turned 18 after May 14

ANKARA: Turkiye’s hotly contested presidential runoff vote between incumbent President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and the joint opposition candidate Kemal Kilicdaroglu will take place on Sunday, with Turks deciding if they want continuity or change.
Polls will open at 8 a.m. local time and close at 5 p.m., with the results to be announced within an hour.
In the initial round of presidential voting on May 14, Erdogan fell just 0.6 percent short of an outright victory, receiving 49.5 percent of votes, while his rival Kilicdaroglu claimed 44.88 percent and a third candidate, ultranationalist politician Sinan Ogan, bagged 5.17 percent.
Following parliamentary elections on May 14, Erdogan retained a majority of 323 in the 600-seat parliament through his People’s Alliance.
The new parliament composition is predominantly right-wing, with Islamist and nationalist tendencies. The Free Cause Party, or HUDA-PAR, directly affiliated with the Islamist paramilitary organization Hezbollah, managed to win three seats on Erdogan’s list.
During the two-week-long campaign for the second round, secular, pro-Western Kilicdaroglu tried to galvanize his supporters around the devastating economic situation and current nationalist fears. At the same time, he also attempted to win over undecided nationalist voters.
“This is no longer an election, but a referendum on Erdogan,” he repeatedly said. He also pledged to repatriate 3.6 million Syrian refugees in Turkiye. “The border is our honor,” he added.
Around 6 million people cast votes for the first time on May 14, while about 50,000 new voters will go to the polls in the second round as they turned 18 after May 14.
Turkiye saw a high voter turnout of 86.2 percent on May 14, with more than 55 million heading to the ballot box. A similar trend is expected on Sunday.
State media coverage mostly favored Erdogan’s campaign, as about 90 percent of the country’s media is under government control.
On Friday, the government blocked the dissemination of Kilicdaroglu’s cellphone text message campaign.
The same day, Interior Minister Soylu harshly criticized the opposition and said “whoever conducts an American-oriented policy will be considered a traitor.”
Ogan, the third contender of the first round, on Monday announced his support for Erdogan in the runoff vote. Whether his endorsement will tilt the election in Erdogan’s favor is yet to be seen, but not all of his supporters are expected to vote for the incumbent and some might opt to not vote.
Kilicdaroglu is still backed by a broad church of six opposition parties, as well as some fringe opposition parties, from left-wing to ultranationalist groups.
Turnout rates in Kurdish-majority provinces in the east and southeast, as well as in the main heartlands where Erdogan is leading, will determine the outcome. The country’s pro-Kurdish People’s Democratic Party, or HDP, said it will back Kilicdaroglu in the runoff.
The voting pattern of about 8.5 million Turks who abstained from voting in the first round will also influence the result.
Soner Cagaptay, senior fellow at Washington Institute who has written several books on Erdogan’s rule, tipped three likely outcomes of Sunday’s runoff.
“As the least plausible outcome, we can see a fragile Erdogan if he wins by a very narrow margin of around 1 percent. The result will be contested by the opposition. In that case, he would emerge with vulnerability. He may tilt further to Vladimir Putin to secure more foreign currency inflow ahead of next year’s local elections. On the economic side, a fragile Erdogan will continue with his unorthodox model,” he told Arab News.
Cagaptay believes that a fragile Erdogan will result in a more authoritarian rule and more crackdowns domestically, while the country will lean more on Russia and Gulf countries for much-needed inflows.
Turkiye’s official annual inflation rate stands at 43 percent, while the country’s foreign currency reserves fell by $7.6 billion to $60.8 billion in one week, the biggest decrease since 2002.
For Cagaptay, the second outcome could be an “emboldened Erdogan” if he won by a landslide, especially by taking more than 55 percent of the votes.
“In this scenario, he will have more space to validate his policies, including those about foreign policy. He will also use his parliamentary majority to pass controversial legislation demanded by his far-right allies because he will feel vindicated with the vote results,” he said.
The most plausible outcome, according to Cagaptay, is Erdogan winning comfortably, but not by a landslide.
“In that case, business will continue to be as usual. Erdogan won’t feel the need to change his economic and domestic policies, and he will continue pursuing a transactionalist foreign policy. But he will more likely rebalance relations with Europe and the US by being less authoritarian at home.”
If the opposition challenger Kilicdaroglu wins, it is likely to be a narrow victory, and the lack of a parliamentary majority will pose problems in the short term, Cagaptay said.
“Although the parliament has turned largely into a rubber stamp under Erdogan’s new system, with little de facto power, it will still create some complications for a Kilicdaroglu win, for instance with parliamentary commissions and committees which will be largely under Erdogan coalition’s control.
“The parliament is the biggest minefield, but Erdogan will also have a hold over the bureaucracy. Kilicdaroglu’s presidency won’t have a solid legislative mandate. He will not really be able to return Turkiye formally to the old parliamentary democratic system. And because Erdogan will have many loyal appointments in the security and foreign policy bureaucracies, these allies can slow down the reform process,” he said.
“The opposition coalition, having seen that it can win only if it is united, will stay together at least through the 2024 local elections,” he added.
Cagaptay expects economic prosperity, emphasis on the rule of law and institutions, and a return to democratic freedoms and short-term political stability if Kilicdaroglu wins.
“Return to rule of law and institutional autonomy for the central bank will improve the investment environment, triggering large cash flows. Markets will rally and the lira will stabilize eventually,” he said.
Meanwhile, Erdogan told CNN Turk on Thursday that he would show “gratitude” to Arab Gulf states for financial support after the elections.
In February, the president paid his first official visit to the UAE in nine years. This trip was followed by another to Saudi Arabia in April. The two countries deposited billions of dollars in Turkiye’s central bank and made key investments in the country.


Ahead of another donor conference for Syria, humanitarian workers fear more aid cuts

Ahead of another donor conference for Syria, humanitarian workers fear more aid cuts
Updated 4 sec ago
Follow

Ahead of another donor conference for Syria, humanitarian workers fear more aid cuts

Ahead of another donor conference for Syria, humanitarian workers fear more aid cuts
  • Meanwhile, millions of Syrians have been pulled into poverty, and struggle with accessing food and health care as the economy deteriorates across the country’s front lines
  • id organizations are making their annual pitches to donors ahead of a fundraising conference in Brussels for Syria on Monday
BEIRUT: Living in a tent in rebel-held northwestern Syria, Rudaina Al-Salim and her family struggle to find enough water for drinking and other basic needs such as cooking and washing. Their encampment north of the city of Idlib hasn’t seen any aid in six months.
“We used to get food aid, hygiene items,” said the mother of four. “Now we haven’t had much in a while.”
Al-Salim’s story is similar to that of many in this region of Syria, where most of the 5.1 million people have been internally displaced — sometimes more than once — in the country’s civil war, now in its 14th year, and rely on aid to survive.
UN agencies and international humanitarian organizations have for years struggled with shrinking budgets, further worsened by the coronavirus pandemic and conflicts elsewhere. The wars in Ukraine and Sudan, and more recently Israel’s war with Hamas in the Gaza Strip are the focus of the world’s attention.
Syria’s war, which has killed nearly half a million people and displaced half the country’s pre-war population of of 23 million, has long remained largely frozen and so are also efforts to find a viable political solution to end it. Meanwhile, millions of Syrians have been pulled into poverty, and struggle with accessing food and health care as the economy deteriorates across the country’s front lines.
Along with the deepening poverty, there is growing hostility in neighboring countries that host Syrian refugees and that struggle with crises of their own.
Aid organizations are now making their annual pitches to donors ahead of a fundraising conference in Brussels for Syria on Monday. But humanitarian workers believe that pledges will likely fall short and that further aid cuts would follow.
“We have moved from assisting 5.5 million a year to about 1.5 million people in Syria,” Carl Skau, the UN World Food Program’s deputy executive director, told The Associated Press. He spoke during a recent visit to Lebanon, which hosts almost 780,000 registered Syrian refugees — and hundreds of thousands of others who are undocumented.
“When I look across the world, this is the (aid) program that has shrunk the most in the shortest period for time,” Skau said.
Just 6 percent of the United Nations’ appeal for aid to Syria in 2024 has so far been secured ahead of Monday’s annual fundraising conference organized by the European Union, said David Carden, UN deputy regional humanitarian coordinator for Syria.
For the northwestern region of Syria, that means the UN is only able to feed 600,000 out of the 3.6 million people facing food insecurity, meaning they lack access to sufficient food. The UN says some 12.9 million Syrians are food insecure across the country.
The UN hopes the Brussels conference can raise more than $4 billion in “lifesaving aid” to support almost two-thirds of the 16.7 million Syrians in need, both within the war-torn country and in neighboring countries, particularly Turkiye, Lebanon and Jordan.
At last year’s conference, donors pledged $10.3 billion — about $6 billion in grants and the rest in loans — just months after a 7.8 magnitude earthquake struck Turkiye and much of northern Syria, killing over 59,000 people, including 6,000 in Syria.
For northwestern Syria, an enclave under rebel control, aid “is literally a matter of life and death” this year, Carden told the AP during a recent visit to Idlib province. Without funding, 160 health facilities there would close by end of June, he said.
The International Rescue Committee’s head for Syria, Tanya Evans, said needs are “at their highest ever,” with increasing numbers of Syrians turning to child labor and taking on debt to pay for food and basics.
In Lebanon, where nearly 90 percent of Syrian refugees live in poverty, they also face flagging aid and increasing resentment from the Lebanese, struggling with their own country’s economic crisis since 2019. Disgruntled officials have accused the refugees of surging crime and competition in the job market.
Lebanon’s bickering political parties have united in a call for a crackdown on undocumented Syrian migrants and demand refugees return to so-called “safe zones” in Syria.
UN agencies, human rights groups and Western governments say there are no such areas.
Um Omar, a Syrian refugee from Homs, works in a grocery store in the northern Lebanese city of Tripoli — an impoverished community that once warmly welcomed Syrian refugees.
For her work, she gets to bring home every day a bundle of bread and some vegetables to feed her family of five. They live rent-free in a tent on a plot of land that belongs to the grocery store’s owners.
“I have to leave the kids early in the morning without breakfast so I can work,” she said, asking to be identified only by her nickname, Arabic for “Omar’s mother.” She fears reprisals because of heightened hostilities against Syrians.
The shrinking UN aid they receive does not pay the bills. Her husband, who shares her fears for their safety, used to work as a day laborer but has rarely left their home in weeks.
She says deportation to Syria, where President Bashar Assad’s government is firmly entrenched, would spell doom for her family.
“If my husband was returned to Syria, he’ll either go to jail or (face) forced conscription,” she explains.
Still, many in Lebanon tell her family, “you took our livelihoods,” Um Omar said. There are also those who tell them they should leave, she added, so that the Lebanese “will finally catch a break.”

Aid trucks from Egypt enter Gaza via Kerem Shalom crossing: media

Aid trucks from Egypt enter Gaza via Kerem Shalom crossing: media
Updated 57 sec ago
Follow

Aid trucks from Egypt enter Gaza via Kerem Shalom crossing: media

Aid trucks from Egypt enter Gaza via Kerem Shalom crossing: media
  • All aid from Egypt is inspected by Israeli authorities and distributed via the UN

CAIRO: Aid trucks from Egypt began entering the Gaza Strip on Sunday through the Israeli-controlled Kerem Shalom crossing, state-linked media Al-Qahera News reported.

A total of “200 trucks” had moved from the Egyptian side of the Rafah border crossing, which has been shut since early May when Israel seized the Palestinian side of the terminal, to the Kerem Shalom crossing, some 4 kilometers (2.5 miles) to the south.

Egypt has refused to coordinate aid through Rafah as long as Israeli troops control the Palestinian side.

But on Friday, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi agreed in a call with his US counterpart Joe Biden to allow aid through Kerem Shalom, the other entry point into southern Gaza, the White House said.

Al-Qahera News did not specify how many trucks had made their way through inspection into besieged Gaza, but said “four fuel trucks” had already crossed and were heading to hospitals.

All aid from Egypt is inspected by Israeli authorities and distributed via the United Nations.

The remainder of the 200 trucks were “expected to cross into Gaza today,” Khaled Zayed, head of the Egyptian Red Crescent in Al-Arish — where the bulk of aid arrives — said.


Hamas says it captured Israeli soldiers in Gaza

Hamas says it captured Israeli soldiers in Gaza
Updated 26 May 2024
Follow

Hamas says it captured Israeli soldiers in Gaza

Hamas says it captured Israeli soldiers in Gaza
  • Al-Qassam Brigades spokesman: ‘Our fighters lured a Zionist force into an ambush inside a tunnel’
  • The Israeli military, in a statement, denied the claim of Hamas’ armed wing

CAIRO: A spokesman for Hamas’ armed wing said on Sunday its fighters had captured Israeli soldiers during fighting in Jabalia in northern Gaza on Saturday, though the Israeli military denied the claim.
The Hamas armed wing spokesman did not say how many soldiers had been abducted and showed no proof of the claim.
“Our fighters lured a Zionist force into an ambush inside a tunnel ... The fighters withdrew after they left all members of the force dead, wounded, and captured,” Abu Ubaida, the spokesman for Al Qassam Brigades, said in a recorded message broadcast by Al Jazeera early on Sunday.
The Israeli military on Sunday denied the claim by Hamas’ armed wing.
“The IDF (Israeli Defense Forces) clarifies that there is no incident in which a soldier was abducted,” the military said in a statement.
Hamas released a video that appeared to show a bloodied person being dragged along the ground in a tunnel and photos of military fatigue and rifle. Reuters could not independently verify the identity of the person shown in the video nor his or her condition.
The comments by Abu Ubaida came hours after prospects for a resumption of mediated Gaza ceasefire talks grew on Saturday.
An official with knowledge of the matter said a decision had been taken to resume the talks next week after the chief of Israel’s Mossad intelligence agency met the head of the CIA and the prime minister of Qatar.
The source, who declined to be identified by name or nationality, said it had been decided that “in the coming week negotiations will open based on new proposals led by the mediators, Egypt and Qatar and with active US involvement.”
A Hamas official later denied Israeli media reports the talks would resume in Cairo on Tuesday, telling Reuters: “There is no date.”
After more than seven months of war in Gaza, the mediators have struggled to secure a breakthrough, with Israel seeking the release of hostages held by Hamas and Hamas seeking an end to the war and a release of Palestinian prisoners in Israel.
Nearly 36,000 Palestinians have been killed in Israel’s offensive, Gaza’s health ministry says. Israel began the operation in response to Hamas-led militants attacking southern Israeli communities on Oct. 7, killing around 1,200 people and seizing more than 250 hostages, according to Israeli tallies.


Scuffles erupt between police, protesters demanding return of Israeli hostages still held in Gaza

Scuffles erupt between police, protesters demanding return of Israeli hostages still held in Gaza
Updated 26 May 2024
Follow

Scuffles erupt between police, protesters demanding return of Israeli hostages still held in Gaza

Scuffles erupt between police, protesters demanding return of Israeli hostages still held in Gaza
  • Israel says around 100 hostages are still being held in Gaza, along with the bodies of around 30 more
  • Around half of the 250 hostages taken by Hamas and other militants have been freed, most in swaps for Palestinian prisoners held by Israel

JERUSALEM: Scuffles between Israeli police and protesters erupted in Tel Aviv on Saturday after thousands gathered to demonstrate against the government and demand that it bring back the hostages being held by Hamas in Gaza.
Meanwhile, a small US military vessel and what appeared to be a strip of docking area washed up on a beach near the southern Israeli city of Ashdod, not far from the US-built pier on which the Israeli military said humanitarian aid is moving into the Palestinian territory.
Also on Saturday, Israeli bombardments were reported in northern and central Gaza.
Some protesters in Tel Aviv carried photos of the female soldiers who appeared in a video earlier in the week showing them soon after they were abducted during the Hamas attack on Israel on Oct. 7 started the war between Israel and Hamas. Some held banners reading “Stop the war” and “Help.” They called on the government to reach a deal to release the dozens of hostages still in captivity.
The protesters also called for the resignation of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and demanded new elections.
“We all saw the video, we could not stay at home after the government abandoned all these people,” said Hilit Sagi, from the group “Women Protest for the Return of All Hostages.”
Divisions among Israelis have deepened over how Netanyahu has handled the war against Hamas after the attack that killed about 1,200 people and saw 250 others taken hostage. Israel says around 100 hostages are still being held in Gaza, along with the bodies of around 30 more.

Israeli police detain a protester during a demonstration in Tel Aviv on May 26, 2024, by relatives and supporters of Israelis taken hostage by Palestinian militants in Gaza in the October 7 attacks. (AFP)

“Basically they are not doing enough in order for the hostages to come back, either with military force, with (a) hostages’ deal, negotiating. Nothing is being done,” said Snir Dahan, uncle of hostage Carmel Gat, still in captivity in Gaza.
Earlier in the week, the bodies of three hostages killed were recovered from Gaza, Israel’s army said Friday. The army said they were killed on the day of the attack and their bodies were taken to Gaza. The announcement came less than a week after the army said it found the bodies of three other Israeli hostages killed on Oct. 7.
Around half of the 250 hostages taken by Hamas and other militants have been freed, most in swaps for Palestinian prisoners held by Israel during a weeklong ceasefire in November.
Netanyahu’s government has faced increasing pressure, both at home and abroad, to stop the war and allow humanitarian aid into the enclave that is home to 2.3 million Palestinians, almost 80 percent of whom have been displaced.
Also this week, three European countries announced they would recognize a Palestinian state, and the chief prosecutor for the International Criminal Court requested arrest warrants for Israeli leaders, along with Hamas officials.
On Friday the International Court of Justice ordered Israel to end its military offensive in the southern Gaza city of Rafah and to open the nearby border crossing for crucial humanitarian aid. The top United Nations court also said Israel must give war crimes investigators access to Gaza.
However, the judges stopped short of ordering a full ceasefire across the entire Palestinian territory, and Israel is unlikely to comply with the court’s ruling. South Africa accuses Israel of committing genocide against the Palestinians during the war in Gaza, which Israel vehemently denies.
“We were hoping the war would end,” said Islam Abu Kamar, who moved from Gaza City to Rafah following the ground operation launched by Israel after the Hamas attack in October.
In the past two weeks, more than a million Palestinians have fled Rafah as Israeli forces pressed deeper into the city. Israel’s takeover this month of the Rafah border crossing, a key transit point for fuel and supplies for Gaza, has contributed to bringing aid operations to near collapse, the UN and relief groups say.
Israel says it needs to invade Rafah to destroy Hamas’ last stronghold. Egypt said it agreed to send UN humanitarian aid trucks through the Kerem Shalom border crossing, Israel’s main entry point into southern Gaza. But it remains unclear if the trucks will be able to enter because fighting still rages in Rafah.
Israel said aid is moving into the Palestinian territory through northern Gaza and via the US-built pier. On Saturday, a small US military boat and what appeared to be a strip of docking area washed up on a beach near the southern Israeli city of Ashdod.
The US Central Command said four of its vessels supporting the humanitarian aid mission were affected by rough seas with two of them anchoring near the pier off the Gaza coast and another two in Israel.
US officials said no injuries were reported and the US is working with the Israeli army to recover the vessels, Central Command said.
American officials hope the pier at maximum capacity can bring the equivalent of 150 truckloads of aid to Gaza daily. That’s a fraction of the 600 truckloads of food, emergency nutritional treatments and other supplies that USAID says are needed each day to bring people in Gaza back from the brink of famine and address the humanitarian crisis brought on by the 7-month-old Israel-Hamas war.
Israeli bombardments continued in the enclave on Saturday with reports of strikes northern and central Gaza. Witnesses said people were killed in strikes on the cities of Jabaliya and Nuseirat.
More than 35,000 Palestinians have been killed in the war, according to the Health Ministry, which doesn’t distinguish between combatants and civilians.


Tunisian president fires interior, social affairs ministers in partial cabinet reshuffle

Tunisian president fires interior, social affairs ministers in partial cabinet reshuffle
Updated 26 May 2024
Follow

Tunisian president fires interior, social affairs ministers in partial cabinet reshuffle

Tunisian president fires interior, social affairs ministers in partial cabinet reshuffle

TUNIS: Tunisian president Kais Saied dismissed on Saturday the Interior Minister Kamel Feki as part of a partial cabinet reshuffle, the presidency said.

The partial cabinet reshuffle also included replacing the minister of social affairs, Malek Ezzahi.

Saied appointed Khaled Nouri as the new interior minister and Kamal Madouri as minister of social affairs.