Turkey’s Municipal Elections: A Yellow Card for the Government

Co-authored with Yusuf Buluc (*)

April 1, 2019

The significance of an election in a democratically governed country is determined by the context and the framework in which it is held, as well the political backdrop. If these parameters were to be applied to the municipal elections held yesterday in Turkey, in effect to determine choices for local administrations, the exercise takes on deeper and critical political character. Given where we are in our journey of modern and republican statehood close to a century, this election, as confirmed by the intensity with which the political parties have conducted their respective campaigns, brought us to a juncture with a sign boldly printed as “last exit for democracy”. Continue reading

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Discord over the Golan Heights

March 26, 2019

Yesterday was a day of jubilation at the Trump White House, perhaps more than the Inauguration Day. Perhaps, it will be remembered as the beginning of Mr. Trump’s campaign for the 2020 presidential election. Because, the investigation led by Special Counsel Robert Mueller found no evidence that Mr. Trump or any of his aides were involved in Russian government’s 2016 election interference. The conclusion of the probe is likely to lead to many foreign and security policy questions, first and foremost, the future of US relations with Russia.

And, who could possibly be the lucky foreign leader to be there on the spot to share Mr. Trump’s joy other than Prime Minister Netanyahu who cut his Washington visit short because a rocket fired from the Gaza Strip, reportedly by mistake, injured seven civilians in north-east of Tel Aviv on Monday morning. The image of a leader returning home immediately to take the helm might help his election campaign, who knows. Continue reading

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The Christchurch Tragedy

March 21, 2019

The Christchurch massacre was a horrendous crime. It was a ghastly, dastardly act of terrorism. The innocent people who lost their lives there ranged in age from 3 to 71. The enormity of the crime shocked the people of New Zealand and Muslims around the world. It shocked the world. It was a tragedy and its handling a huge challenge for the government of New Zealand. Continue reading

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Turkey’s “More Than Municipal” Election

March 18, 2019

At the end of March Turkey will hold municipal elections. However, the ongoing campaign is not about our failed city planning, repairing broken sidewalks and potholed streets.

For the JDP this is an exercise to further consolidate its power. It is running its campaign on a nationalistic platform claiming that the election is about Turkey’s survival. The JDP has won every single election since 2002 and the prospect of losing the popular vote and/or the mayorships of major cities has now become its worst nightmare. President Erdoğan is crisscrossing the country from one end to the other leading his Party’s campaign. This is a novelty of our new “presidential system” approved in the April 2017 constitutional referendum with a very slim margin (51.41 % – 48.59%). In that referendum the JDP lost in all major cities. The Party, as before, relies heavily on religious themes. Its rhetoric is at times threatening and almost always polarizing. Continue reading

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From Downing of Russian Military Aircraft to the Purchase of Russian S-400s

March 11, 2019

At the beginning of the Syrian conflict Russia and Turkey were on diametrically opposite sides. Russia was supporting the regime, the Turkish government the opposition. Nonetheless, Turkish-Russian relations remained on track.

On November 24, 2015 a stunning development changed the picture. Turkey shot down a Russian Su-24 military plane for having violated Turkish airspace for 17 seconds.  This was no “accident”. It was a tragic “incident”. Continue reading

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The Hanoi Summit

March 2, 2019

The three paragraphs below were among the conclusions I had drawn from the first Trump-Kim summit held in Singapore on June 12, 2018 (*):

  • The Singapore summit marks the relaunching, under more favorable circumstances and with a lot of theater, of decades of diplomatic negotiations with Pyongyang on denuclearization. However, the DPRK is now an established nuclear power. Thus, there is a long road ahead and a US president with little patience.
  • One may conclude therefore that in the negotiations soon to be launched, the Trump White House would insist on rapid denuclearization and Kim Jong Un on the need to normalize relations and at least a gradual lifting of sanctions.
  • It seems that under Mr. Trump conventional diplomacy will give way to one-to-one deal-making with no mention of agreements, treaties and multilateralism.

Continue reading

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Confronting Terrorism and Islamic State’s Ideology

February 26, 2019

The following is among the permanent fixtures of UN Security Council resolutions on terrorism:

“Emphasizing that terrorism and violent extremism conducive to terrorism cannot and should not be associated with any religion, nationality, or civilization…”

The reality is different and reflects a multitude of contradictions. Continue reading

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