Daily Archives: March 30, 2014

Turkey to vote in crucial local elections amid graft scandal and social media ban

Supporters of Turkey's main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP) wave Turkish and party flags during an electioSupporters of Turkey's main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP) wave Turkish and party flags during an election rally at Kadikoy in Istanbul on March 29, 2014.n rally at Kadikoy in Istanbul on March 29, 2014.

With Twitter bans, YouTube blocks, damning leaks and a ‘shadow government’ pulling strings behind the scenes, municipal elections in Turkey are only the beginning of a crucial 15-month voting cycle that could determine Turkey’s future for decades to come.

The polls are set to open across the country on Sunday in what would normally regarded as small town politics replete with the nuts and bolt issues of governing like streets, schools and trash collection. But these are not ordinary times in Turkey, and what would normally be considered local fare is now being viewed as a much broader referendum on the ruling party of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his ruling Justice and Development Party [AKP].

During the last poll in 2009, AKP clinched 39 percent of the vote, light years ahead of the socially liberal and Kemalist Republican People’s Party (CHP), which only managed 23 percent. While AK Party actually took a 2.6 point hit compared to their 41.6 percent showing in 2004, analysts believe anything below 40 percent this time around will be considered a blow to Erdogan.

Along with CHP, the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) and the pro-Kurdish Justice and Development Party (BDP) are also hoping to dethrone AK after over a decade in power.

The nationwide municipal poll is also the first time Turks will vote since last summer’s antigovernment demonstrations, which left 11 dead and over 8,000 injured.

Despite a series of scandals which have completely changed the landscape of Turkish politics, opinion polls suggest the Islamist AK Party, which was first swept to power in 2002, will win on Sunday as well. That victory is viewed as a stepping stone in once against asserting its dominance in a year-plus voting cycle which will see the presidency up for grabs in August and the culminate in the June 2015 Turkish general election.

The mayoral elections in Ankara and Istanbul are viewed as the most important litmus test for Erdogan’s rule, with many believing Sunday’s result is vital to Turkey’s very survival as a democratic state.

Istanbul, the 15-million-megapolis where Erdogan first tested his mettle as the city’s mayor over 20 years ago, is viewed as the epicenter of events. As the old Turkish political aphorism goes: “The one who takes Istanbul, takes Turkey.”

Mustafa Sarigul, the 57-year-old mayor of Istanbul’s wealthy district of Sisli and CHP candidate, hopes to dislodge AK party incumbent Kadi Topbas in elections.

In the Turkish capital, Ankara, meanwhile, five-time AK Party incumbent Melih Gokcek is taking on the CHP’s Mansur Yavas in the mayoral race. Gokcek bested Yavas during the previous race in 2009.

Meanwhile, the run-up to the local elections have been marked by constant rancor, with allegations of fraud adding to the protests over corruption and the suppression of political and civil freedoms from the opposition.

The latest scandal first erupted on December 17, when three AK Party cabinet ministers’ children were arrested on corruption charges, and several government figures were targeted in graft investigations.

In February, a firestorm was sparked when audio recordings in which Erdogan is reportedly heard telling his son, Bilal, get rid of tens of millions of dollars, were posted on YouTube.

Erdogan has responded by purging thousands of police and prosecutors, lashing out at “traitors” and “terrorists” for organizing the campaign against him. Chief among them is rival Fethullah Gulen, the US-based head of the Gulen movement whom Erdogan has accused of organizing a “parallel state.”

Then in a move that has since sent shockwaves through liberal sections of Turkish society, Erdogan moved to do away with the medium in which both the damning leaks and protests against his rule were publicized: social media.

Last week, Turkey blocked access to Twitter just hours before Erdogan promised to “wipe out” the social media network during a campaign rally in the northwestern city of Bursa.

Then on Thursday, access to YouTube was also cut off in Turkey after an explosive leak of audiotapes that appeared to show ministers talking about provoking military intervention in Syria.

Meanwhile, whatever Sunday’s result, Erdogan, who will complete his third term next year, technically cannot run for a fourth term due to an AKP bylaw.

He does have the option of running for president in Turkey’s first publicly-elected presidential elections later this year. There has also been talk of lifting the three-term limit to allow Erdogan to run for PM once again.

Critics fear that Erdogan’s long-heralded “Turkish model”, described as an example of a modern, moderate Muslim state that works, is steadily devolving into authoritarianism.

The popular Turksih daily Hurriyet published an open letter to Erdogan urging him to unite the country of 76.6 million people before it becomes irrevocably fractured.

“Whatever percentage of the votes you get, it should be your and all of your duty to defuse the dangerous polarization and tensions that has spread throughout the whole country.”

Sunday could prove pivotal as the country struggles through what one senior government official called one of the biggest crises in Turkish history.

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Questioning Erdoğan government’s motives is not treason

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It seems that it is easier for the Turkish government to put the blame on an external source, such as the media, opposition parties or foreign governments, rather than answering legitimate questions and admitting failure on many Turkish foreign policy choices.

The media in Turkey as well as opposition parties have questioned the motives of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan‘s government following the shooting down of a Syrian military aircraft just a week before the local elections and the prime minister trumpeting that Turkey will not hesitate to retaliate in the event of an attack on the tomb of Süleyman Şah, a slice of Turkish territory in Syria, attracting unnecessary attention to an area that was probably unknown to many until recently, and what would appear to some as him encouraging an attack and to gain nationalist votes in the local elections.

The Justice and Development Party (AK Party) government has gone as far as having Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu accuse the Turkish media outlets of treason and acting as if they are the spokespeople of the Syrian regime.

In the latest incident, two Syrian MiG-23 warplanes were recently warned four times when they began flying close to Turkish airspace, the Turkish Armed Forces (TSK) said in a statement on Monday, and one was shot down by Turkish F-16 fighter jets in line with Turkey’s rules of engagement. Prime Minister Erdoğan and other Turkish officials say that the warplane was violating Turkish airspace by about one-and-a-half kilometers at the Turkey-Syria border.

“The downing of a Syrian military aircraft, while perhaps explicable in terms of the so-called ‘rules of engagement’ declared by Turkey, is undoubtedly an exaggerated response to an alleged airspace violation,” main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) Deputy Chairman Faruk Loğoğlu told Sunday’s Zaman.

Following the start of civil war in Syria, Turkey developed rules of engagement stating that Syrian military aircraft should not come within five kilometers of the Turkey-Syria border. The Syrian military aircraft was targeting certain terrorist areas in Kasab in Syria when it was shot down by the Turkish F-16 fighter jet, according to various press reports.

‘Aiding and abetting terrorism in Syria’

Loğoğlu also said that the move is “probably inconsistent with the principle of legitimate self-defense as enshrined in the UN Charter” and he added, “If the Syrians claim that the Syrian air force is fighting terrorists in the region, then the Turkish action, in effect, also means aiding and abetting terrorism in Syria.”

“The more disturbing problem in connection to this is that Erdoğan and Davutoğlu are daring to play dangerous games with Turkey’s national security and acting as if they seek an armed conflict with Syria,” said Loğoğlu. “This scenario, if actually a plan put in action, is aimed at diverting public attention away from the corruption and bribery allegations and is a cheap ploy to make a national hero out of Erdoğan,” he said.

The area surrounding the tomb of Süleyman Şah was relatively unknown to most Turks, until the Turkish government drew attention to it recently, saying that it is the only Turkish territory outside Turkey’s borders. Süleyman Şah, who drowned in the Euphrates River, is the grandfather of Osman I, the founder of the Ottoman Empire. The area in Syria where he is buried is considered Turkish territory under international agreements. Beginning in mid-March, President Abdullah Gül, Prime Minister Erdoğan and Foreign Minister Davutoğlu threatened anyone who targets this area with Turkish retaliation.

Erdoğan said, “Attacking the tomb of Süleyman Şah means attacking Turkey,” in a recent TV interview.

The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) threatened Turkey, according to recent press reports, and demanded in a YouTube video that Turkey lower its flag and withdraw its troops protecting the site within three days. The video was uploaded on March 20 but has since been removed by YouTube due to its threatening content.

The criticism of the Turkish government’s foreign policy choices does not just come from within Turkey. The editorial board of the influential US newspaper The Washington Post wrote on March 25 that the Turkish prime minister is acting desperately to hold onto his power.

“Erdoğan tried and failed to shut down Twitter in his country last week. Half a million tweets from Turks were recorded in the first 10 hours after the attempted ban, including one from President Abdullah Gül. On Sunday, the Turkish military had better luck in targeting two Syrian MiG-23 planes that Turkey said briefly penetrated its airspace: One that failed to heed warnings to turn around was shot down,” said the editorial.

The Turkish government also announced on Thursday that it will block access to YouTube, citing national security concerns, following a leaked audio recording that was posted on YouTube by a number of different usernames around noon on Thursday. The audio reveals an allegedly top secret conversation between Davutoğlu, Foreign Ministry Undersecretary Feridun Sinirlioğlu, National Intelligence Organization (MİT) head Hakan Fidan and Deputy Chief of General Staff Gen. Yaşar Güler.

Erdoğan confirmed the meeting at a public rally in Diyarbakır on Thursday, saying that the wiretapping of his foreign minister’s office is “immoral, cowardly, dishonest and mean.”

The conversation in the uploaded audio recording focuses on whether the Turkish military should enter Syria to protect the tomb of Süleyman Şah. The voice allegedly belonging to Davutoğlu can be heard saying that “the prime minister said this [the area where the tomb is located] must be evaluated as an opportunity at this juncture.”

When Fidan asked in the recording why they were pushing for an attack on the tomb of Süleyman Şah, Davutoğlu allegedly responded by saying that the pretext for an incursion must be acceptable to the international community.

The Turkish foreign minister also allegedly said, “Without a strong pretext, we cannot tell US Secretary of State [John] Kerry that we need to take severe measures.” Davutoğlu then apparently added that Kerry had asked him whether Turkey was determined to strike Syria.

According to the audio files, Fidan allegedly said, “If needed, I will dispatch four men to Syria. [Then] I could have them fire eight mortar shells at the Turkish side and create an excuse for war. We can also have them attack the tomb of Süleyman Şah as well.”

Sinirlioğlu was also seemingly recorded as saying that Turkey’s national security has turned into cheap material for domestic political consumption. Gen. Güler allegedly warned, “What we are going to do is a direct cause for war.”

Today’s Zaman

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‘Mystery’ aircraft reportedly spotted flying over Texas raises speculation | Fox News

It’s difficult to determine, but a group of aviation enthusiasts say they caught a glimpse of a mystery aircraft earlier this month flying slowly across the Amarillo, Texas sky.

“We looked southwest and there they were,” Steve Douglass, a journalist and member of the group, told FoxNews.com. “We thought they were B-2s, but when we studied our pictures, we ruled that out.”

Douglass and his group, armed with cameras and binoculars, met on March 10 at the Rick Husband Amarillo International Airport. The airport is a perfect venue because it offers expansive views of Texas‘ big sky and a steady stream of military air traffic. On a good day, the group can see various military jets, and even the elusive F-22 Raptor.

It was a clear day, and the group was alerted to three aircraft flying across the southwest skies. Douglass estimated that the planes got within 20 miles of the group and they started taking pictures with their 300mm zoom cameras. They looked at the photos, and saw that one appeared to be a silver-grey B-2 bomber.

The prospects of spotting a B-2 bomber was exciting, and Douglass said he got home to observe his photos when he noticed the aircraft in his picture had a smooth backside. The B-2 bomber has a distinct “W”-shaped back.

“The trailing edge is wrong,” Douglass shouted, according to his March 28 blog post.

Few items provoke public interest like an unidentified flying object. These stories are often attached to other theories about hidden testing bases or alien life forms. But these images have prompted some interest in the industry.

“The photos tell us more about what the mysterious stranger isn’t than what it is,” Bill Sweetman writes in Aviation Week, which first reported on the story. The report said that Douglass picked up some apparently related voice signals, which would indicate the aircraft had a pilot. Editors at Aviation Week reportedly say the images appear to be “something real.”

“If I had to guess, I’d say we took a picture of a stealthy transport aircraft,” Douglass said.

Douglass writes that he reached out to Whiteman Air Force Base in Missouri, which houses B-2s, to see if it flew any planes over Texas on that day and did not get a response.

via ‘Mystery’ aircraft reportedly spotted flying over Texas raises speculation | Fox News.

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Russia has no intention to send troops into Ukraine – Lavrov

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There is no intention in Moscow to send its troops into eastern Ukraine, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said. Hopefully, the growing understanding in the West of Russia’s position will allow for a de-escalation of the tension, he added.

In an interview with Rossiya 24 TV channel, Lavrov spoke on the futile western attempts to isolate Russia diplomatically, the growing acceptance of the need for constitutional reform, which Moscow proposes, the prospects of NATO’s expansion into Ukraine and the potential for global presence of the Russian Navy.

‘No isolation of Russia in UN Assembly vote on Crimea’

Question: After the G7 countries announced their decision to withdraw from the G8, it was said that now Russia is isolated in the international arena. In the UN General Assembly 100 countries voted against Russia. The claim of Russia being isolated is true, then?

Sergey Lavrov: “Isolation” is a term invented by our Western partners who act with nostalgic neo-imperial ambitions in mind. The instant something isn’t to their liking they draw out this sanctions stick. The times when such strategy could be employed are long gone. They should think about getting everyone, with no exceptions, to work together, not about isolating their partners.

I’m surprised at how obsessively they’re trying to – create rather than find – proof of Russia’s isolation. I’ve seen a lot in my time, but for major countries to use all their diplomatic resources to twist the arms of the entire world, including our closest partners, in order for them to agree with the argument about Ukraine’s territorial integrity while ignoring the rest of the principles outlined in the UN Charter? I was astonished with the alacrity. Key government institutions expend so much effort on this.

It’s the case with the UN General Assembly vote. Such results are achieved by a combination of several means. First, our Ukrainian neighbors were advised to keep the tone of their draft resolution non-confrontational and level-headed, to send a positive message of the need to respect Ukraine’s territorial integrity. Who would oppose that? But that’s not even half of the truth, it’s just a sliver of it. You and our viewers understand what I’m talking about.

Then, some countries that are naïve enough for it are told, “Look, it’s such a great resolution, why don’t you sign it and become a co-sponsor.” The more experienced ones who realize what’s really going on are approached with, “If you don’t support this resolution, there will be consequences.” And then they describe these consequences. We know about that. Our colleagues come to us and confide why this or that relatively small country has to cave in. For example, they were told contracts would not be signed or political dividends would be withheld. If we take into consideration that the West in the broad sense, including Australia, New Zealand, Japan etc., amounts to about 40-something countries, basically 50 states were forced or somehow persuaded to do it.

We hold no grudge against these delegations. It will not affect our relations with them. I can’t but point out another number: about 70 countries refused to support this resolution.

Q: And if we count the countries who didn’t cast a vote that would make it 93.

SL: So basically it’s a tie. The Western propaganda machine – there’s really no other way to call it – will hail it as a great victory in the media, but we know the value of this victory.

Q: 100 countries voted against Russia. The number of countries that voted for Russia abstained or didn’t cast a vote comes up to 93. This includes the brave countries that, despite the pressure, made this choice.

SL: This is no doubt a brave thing to do. It’s not anti-Western or anti-Ukrainian. It reflects a deep understanding of what’s going on the part of the countries who didn’t vote in favor and especially those who voted against. This wasn’t about territorial integrity or Ukraine at all.

China understands legitimate Russian interests and concerns in Ukraine’

Q: Three weeks ago, on our program, Russian Ambassador to the UN Vitaly Churkin said that Russia expects to see moral support from China. China abstained from voting on the resolution. After that President Obama and President of China Xi Jinping held a meeting, during which, as my Western colleagues told me, the Americans were trying to persuade China to scrap gas supply contracts with Russia. And then you met with Xi Jinping. So what is China to Russia?

SL: China is a very close partner of Russia. In our joint documents our relations are defined as comprehensive strategic partnership of cooperation. All of China’s actions reaffirm its commitment to the principles we agreed on. If, as you say, the Americans did try to convince China to review its economic agreements with Russia on the highest level, it’s an off-the-scale naïve or brazen attitude. I would even say that not understanding the essence of Chinese politics and mentality is just inexcusable for the officials in charge of such negotiations.

At the very beginning China said that it takes into consideration the combination of historical and political factors. China strongly opposed using non-diplomatic measures and threats of sanctions to resolve this problem. Our contacts with our Chinese partners show that they not only understand Russia’s rightful interests in this case, but are also hand-in-hand with us in the understanding of the initial causes of the current crisis in Ukraine. There is no doubt about it. President Putin and President Xi Jinping spoke on the phone. On March 24, I met with President Xi Jinping on the sidelines of the Nuclear Security Summit in The Hague. BRICS foreign ministers held talks as well.

Q: Did BRICS work out the joint statement in The Hague?

SL: It’s the chairperson’s statement, which the Foreign Minister of South Africa delivered after our meeting.

‘Ukraine, not Russia hampered OSCE mission deployment’

Q: Last Saturday we informed our viewers that the OSCE agreed on the mandate of a mission to be sent to Ukraine. Why did Russia object to it initially? What’s the mission going to work on?

SL: I would say that it was our Western and Ukrainian partners that initially objected to this mission.

Q: But as usual it was presented the other way around – Russia against the rest of Europe.

SL: We’re used to that. Orwellian talents are still widely used. Russia was willing to send the OSCE mission a week before the decision was finally made. Even though everything was clear by then, our partners demanded with inexplicable determination for Crimea to be included in the mandate as part of Ukraine.

One can completely disagree with our take on the situation, one can refuse to recognize the decisions made by Russia based on the will of the Crimean people and supported by an overwhelming majority. We understand that, it happens. But it’s just diplomatic impudence or complete diplomatic incompetence to fail to comprehend the real political situation and the utter uselessness of their demands after we said we would recognize any outcome of the referendum in Crimea, telling us that despite what the President said the mandate of the mission should include Crimea as part of Ukraine.

Q: Moscow was insisting that the mission should go to western regions of Ukraine as well as eastern. Was that achieved?

SL: Taking into consideration our Western colleagues’ well-proven talents to twist words and interpret provisions, we were insisting that cities and regions be listed in the mandate instead of it just saying “mission to Ukraine.” Of course the list includes cities situated both in western and eastern parts of Ukraine, but none situated on the territory of the Republic of Crimea of the Russian Federation.

‘Denunciations of Right Sector were long overdue’

Q: Maybe then what we see is some progress not only in terms of sending an OSCE mission to Ukraine, but also new Ukrainian authorities, their legitimacy aside, dealing with the Right Sector problem, as evidenced by the last 36-48 hours.

SL: It’s taken them too long, though it’s true that [it’s] better late than never. Over a month ago I raised the issue of the Right Sector and the necessity to dissociate from the radical forces with our Western partners. I asked them a very simple question: “If you agree that we need to defuse the situation, why won’t you publicly say what the Right Sector really is?” Same to a degree goes for the Svoboda party, whose platform references The Declaration of June 30, 1941, which expressed support of Nazi Germany and its efforts to establish a new world order. According to the party’s charter, it’s still committed to this principle.

Our colleagues reacted quite strangely to our requests to at least publicly express their opinion on these forces and exert their influence on the people in Kiev who claim they’re the new authorities so that they do the same. At first they avoided the issue, and then at one of the recent meetings, I think it was in London, US Secretary of State John Kerry told me that after close scrutiny they concluded that the Right Sector was trying to become a political movement. The subtext was that it’s a good thing, and Svoboda is moving towards [the] mainstream. That’s a quote. A lot of people were present at the meeting, so I’m not revealing a secret here. I was giving examples of the opposite trend concerning these groups, starting with their urging the public to shoot Russians in the head and kill them, calling Russians names, and all the way up to the beatings that take place even in the eastern parts of Ukraine where the members of these groups consider themselves at home.

As for what’s been happening in the last few days, let’s hope that the Ukrainian government’s statements and steps are the result of some awareness campaign conducted by our Western partners. Like I said, better late than never.

Let’s see what comes out of it and whether those in power manage to bring to heel the people they relied on to get their current positions. The recent events, that is, when the Right Sector surrounded the Verkhovna Rada [Ukrainian Parliament] building again and demanded for the Interior Minister to be sacked because of [Right Sector leader] Sashko Bilyi’s death, are very telling. Whatever one might think about the circumstances of his death, which, like in any such case, should be investigated thoroughly, one can’t fail to notice the moral boost his death gave to the people wearing Right Sector colors who follow the principles we all know about. It’s a very alarming signal.

It surprised me that while Russian television, including your channel, showed the siege of the Verkhovna Rada and commented comprehensively on the events unfolding between the Right Sector and the members of parliament, on their possible ramifications, Euronews hasn’t said a word about it, with Ukraine mentioned in the context of the IMF deal in the third or fourth news piece.

Sadly, this kind of coverage is also telling. We’ll try to establish the truth through channels alternative to mainstream Western media. I hope that your alternative channels become the mainstream.

‘Sad to see OSCE justify censorship of media in Ukraine’

Q: Alternative channels – that’s another matter, since Ukrainian cable providers were banned from transmitting Russian TV channels. At first, the OSCE condemned it. As far as I understand, this issue was raised even at your talks with the Western partners. Then it was slowly moved towards the bottom of the priorities list. As the OSCE representative said, there are national interests that allow for TV censorship.

SL: Yes, Dunja Mijatović said that. Let’s just say that being the OSCE Representative on Freedom of Media, she should show more freedom in her judgments. It’s lamentable that excuses are made for banning Russian channels. Who could imagine that channels can be banned if it’s done for protecting fundamental values? However, Ms. Mijatović dismissed in the past our numerous appeals that demonstrations with fascist and neo-Nazi slogans held in a number of the OSCE countries were unacceptable, citing freedom of speech. So in Ms. Mijatović’s opinion four channels are more dangerous than neo-Nazi demonstrations in the Baltic states and a number of other countries, including Germany.

‘Idea of Ukrainian Federation no longer taboo for western diplomats’

Q: What kind of a compromise with the West is possible? Russia is on one side of the line, and the US and the West are on the other, so which points can you agree on with your colleagues?

SL: I don’t believe we’re divided by that strict a line. We’re working on aligning our positions. Based on my latest meeting with Secretary of State John Kerry in The Hague and my contacts with Germany, France and a number of other countries, I can say that there’s a possibility of drafting a joint initiative that we could offer to our Ukrainian colleagues.

It’s a very important consideration, because up until now our partners have been offering to set up a contact group within the framework of which Russia and the people who seized power in Kiev would negotiate under their supervision. Such a platform is absolutely unacceptable, and that’s not even the issue. What’s happening in Ukraine now is the result of the deep crisis in the political system, triggered by the inability – I wouldn’t want to accuse anyone of deliberately avoiding it – of each successive leader to reconcile the interests of the western and southeastern regions of Ukraine. It can’t go on like this.

We are convinced that Ukraine needs a fundamental constitutional reform. To be honest, we see no other way that would ensure Ukraine’s sustainable development except becoming a federation. Maybe someone knows better, and there’s a magic formula that would make a unitary system of government work in a state where in western, eastern and southern regions people celebrate different holidays, honor different heroes, have economic structure, speak different languages and think differently and gravitate towards different European cultures. It’s tough to live in a unitary state like that.

That’s why on March 10 we gave an unofficial document outlining our vision to our American, European and Chinese partners and other colleagues, including BRICS countries.

Q: So, a constitutional reform, elections…

SL: No. First of all, it states that the most urgent task is to stop the violence of armed groups, disarm militants and free all illegally seized buildings – which hasn’t been done yet – as well as squares, streets, cities, towns and villages.

First and foremost we mean Maidan. It’s just a disgrace for a European country and one of the most beautiful cities in Europe to have this kind of thing for half a year, and in front of Western visitors besides. We’re told Maidan will stay until presidential election take place, with the outcome that satisfies Maidan. It’s a disgrace for all who put up with it.

We proposed to start with sorting out these issues, especially since it was a responsibility Mr Klichko, Mr Yatsenyuk, and Mr Tyagnibok assumed when they signed the document along with the German, French and Polish foreign ministers.

Another thing we proposed was to begin a comprehensive constitutional reform right away, with all political forces and regions having an equal say in it, to discuss establishing a federation, which would grant every region wide powers in the spheres of economy, culture, language, education, economic and cultural ties with neighboring countries or regions and guarantee minority rights.

Taking into consideration the number of ethnic Russians living in Ukraine, we propose and we’re convinced that there’s no other option – and a few presidential candidates said so on numerous occasions – but to make Russian language the second official language of Ukraine, and ensure the rights of minorities in every constituent entity in accordance with the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages.

Q: There are Hungarians and Romanians living there as well.

SL: Hungarians, Czechs, Germans – they are all complaining to the governments of their countries that they are no longer comfortable living in Ukraine. Czechs even wanted to go back home but the Czech government said, “No, we looked at the conditions you live in and we think you are fine.” This indicates that they care more about geopolitical matters and political expediency than about human rights.

A constitutional reform should be approved by a referendum. It should take into account the interests of all the regions. And once this constitution is approved by a nationwide vote, there should be a presidential and parliamentary election; new legislative assemblies should be elected in all the regions; and there should be new governors. Governors should be elected, not appointed. Eastern and southern regions insist on that.

We strongly believe this is the right way to go. In response, we are told through the Ukrainian Foreign Ministry that Russian proposals are a provocation and that we are meddling in Ukraine’s internal affairs, because our ideas are inconsistent with the foundations of the Ukrainian state. Which ideas? First, federalization, and, second, Russian as the second official language. I don’t see how this is inconsistent with the foundations of the Ukrainian state.

Q: Do Western partners hear these proposals?

SL: They do. I can tell you that “federalization” is definitely no longer a taboo word in our talks. I really believe we should insist on it – not because it is our whim but because southern and eastern regions want that.

Q: Do you expect that these ideas will eventually reach Kiev, at least through Western capitals?

SL: That’s what I count on, because the current Ukrainian government can hardly be suspected of being independent.

‘Ukraine’s military neutrality must be stated unambiguously’

Q: Do Moscow and, say, Washington talk about Ukraine’s non-bloc status?

SL: This idea is present in our proposals. We definitely think that the new constitution should clearly say that Ukraine cannot be part of any bloc.

Q: Do Americans hear that?

SL: They hear that and you can tell whether they understand it or not by listening to their public statements. Speaking in Brussels last week, President Obama said that neither Ukraine nor NATO were ready and that there was no point talking about that.

Q: By the way, Yatsenyuk says he is not considering this option at this point.

SL: “At this point.” We are convinced there can be no ambiguity on this issue. There are too many of those caveats – “at this point” and “no intention.” Intentions can change, and you end up facing new facts on the ground.

Q: Especially in the last couple of months.

SL: Not just in the last couple of months – in the last 25 years. We are told that the West keeps extending a hand of friendship, and Russia keeps choosing a zero-sum game. A few days ago, my colleague, British Foreign Secretary William Hague, published an article, in which he writes that Russia faces global isolation again, because, he says, you come to Russia with open arms and it turns away and pursues zero-sum mentality. But that’s totally unfair. On the contrary, we are always eager to engage in fair partnership. This is reflected in our proposals on indivisible security, which should be the same for everybody. It is wrong for NATO members to be protected with indivisible security and for everybody else to be treated as second-rate nations, so NATO can act as a magnet to attract new members and keep pushing the dividing line further to the east.

We were promised that this would not happen – and we were cheated. We were promised that NATO would not bring its military infrastructure closer to our borders – and we were cheated. We were promised there would be no military installations on the territory of the new NATO members. At first, we just listened to those promises and believed them. Then we started putting them on paper as political obligations, and serious people, Western leaders, signed those documents. But when we asked them how come those political obligations were ignored and whether we can make them legally binding, they told us, “No, political obligations are enough, and anyway, don’t worry, whatever we do is not against you.”

‘West plays ‘either-or’ game with Eastern Partnership’

SL: Speaking of zero-sum games we are being accused of, the EU Eastern Partnership project from the very beginning was based on the “either-or” concept: either you’re with us or you’re against us. Actually, our Western partners have been talking about this since the 2004 election in Ukraine. Back then, there was no Customs Union and no Eastern Partnership; there was an unconstitutional, artificially invented third round of the presidential election. Karel de Gucht, who then was the foreign minister of Belgium and who is now, by the way, the EU Trade Commissioner, publicly demanded that Ukrainians should vote and decide whether they want to be with Europe or with Russia. This is where such mentality comes from.

Eastern Partnership – as well as NATO expansion – was simply an instrument used to quickly take control over geopolitical territory. The EU was ready to push this project through at any cost. It completely ignored legitimate economic interests of both Ukraine’s neighbors, like Russia and other countries, and even the nations that were part of this program. There have been many studies on this issue. No wonder even Yatsenyuk says that Ukraine needs to take a closer look at the economic section of this agreement.

The same will happen with Moldova. They are doing their best to sign a similar agreement with Moldova this summer, before the upcoming election. And this agreement they intend to sign with Moldova – it completely ignores the issue of Transnistria. It ignores the 1997 agreement between Chisinau and Tiraspol which entitled Transnistria to international trade. It ignores what is happening with Transnistria today: Chisinau and the new Ukrainian authorities have basically blockaded the territory. But our European partners keep mum about that. In fact, the European Union and, I think, the United States approve of this policy.

We want to talk to them very seriously about that, because they are escalating tensions over Transnistria, almost claiming that it will be next. This is outrageous, provocative rhetoric. Actually, they want to create unbearable conditions for Tiraspol in violation, I repeat, of the agreements which entitled Transnistrians to certain travel, transit and trade rights. This is outrageous. They never learn. Once again, they seek to create a sore point in our relations.

‘Russia has no intention to send troops across Ukrainian border’

Q: Almost all the statements regarding sanctions, including those made by the EU and the US official political institutions, contain the phrase “further escalation.” By “further escalation” my Western colleagues mean that Russian military forces may cross the borders of the mainland Ukraine and move toward Kharkov, for example. Will this happen or not?

SL: President of Russia Vladimir Putin in his address given on March 18 in the Georgievsky Hall said clearly that we are very concerned with the situation with Russians and Russian speakers in eastern and southern Ukraine, especially after various Right Sector groups, a certain Beletsky and the Eastern Front rushed there. Those are absolutely odious people. You don’t need to be a physiognomist to be able to tell what their intentions are. They speak openly about that. Many leaked phone calls indicate how Russians will be treated in Ukraine not just by the Right Sector members.

The Russian president demanded that Ukrainian authorities and their Western patrons take immediate action to stop the violence. He said we are going to protect the rights of Russians and Russian speakers in Ukraine using all the political, diplomatic and legal methods. I have nothing to add to that.

We need to be honest. You cannot just say like many times before – regarding Syria, Iran, etc. – that we have come to a crisis and that we just need to accept the reality. Russia is to settle the Syrian crisis, to solve the Iranian problem and to resolve the situation in Ukraine through direct talks with the Ukrainian authorities. The West is consistently trying to avoid the responsibility of dealing with those whom they nurtured and continue to support for their geopolitical purposes.

We have absolutely no intentions of crossing Ukrainian borders. This is not in our interests. We simply want everybody to work together; we want the violence to stop and we want the Western countries who are trying to sweep under the rug those cases of violence and to portray the situation in Ukraine in a positive light to realize they need to bear the responsibility.

According to Ukraine’s Interior Minister Arsen Avakov, the Ukrainian authorities lately have been trying to disarm all those who possess firearms illegally – that is, the criminals. If this is the result of our Western partners’ efforts, then, I repeat, we are satisfied with that. We are ready to continue to work out joint recommendations for the Ukrainians to stop all the lawlessness and to start a deep constitutional process to reform their country.

‘No US-style naval bases build-up planned’

Q: There are speculations that Russia may respond to all these events by setting up its military bases in the Seychelles, Vietnam, Nicaragua, Cuba and even in Argentina.

SL: This is a complete lie. We have no plans whatsoever to build naval and military bases abroad in the sense which you put into the term. The Russian Navy is now much stronger than before. I believe after Crimea joined Russia, it will have much more opportunities for development. Along with the Black Sea Fleet, we also have the Pacific, the Northern Fleet, etc.

It’s very important for a country to have highly trained Navy, especially because today the Navy has not just to plough the ocean for training purposes but also to complete specific tasks like counter-piracy operations in the Gulf of Aden and elsewhere. Ships have to travel to remote places. We have agreements with some countries allowing our vessels and warships to use their existing infrastructure for servicing, minor repairs, water and food replenishments and for the crew to rest.

We are absolutely not considering building bases similar to how America does it. And of course, unlike the US, we will not have any agreements, which would make our personnel immune to criminal prosecution in the countries where they are deployed.

By the way, I recently saw an interesting picture on the Internet: a map of the Russian Federation and US military bases around it. It looks very impressive. There are over a hundred of them. And there is a quote from a US soldier: “How dare Russians be so close to our bases?”

Q: Are you talking to the countries I mentioned about the possibility of our warships entering their seaports?

SL: There are a few countries we are talking to but these issues are handled by defense ministries.

 

via Russia has no intention to send troops into Ukraine – Lavrov — RT News.

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From Merkel to Tymoshenko : NSA spied on 122 world leaders, Snowden docs reveal

The NSA’s data base contains information obtained during the surveillance of over a hundred world leaders, new leaks by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden revealed.

Der Spiegel has looked through a top secret presentation by NSA’s Center for Content Extraction, which is responsible for automated analysis of all types of text data.

According to the document, the leaders of 122 states were among the high-ranked targets of the US intelligence.

However, only 12 names were revealed by the German journalists in the publication as an example.

With the heads of state arranged alphabetically by first name, the list begins with ‘A’ as in Abdullah Badawi, the former Malaysian prime minister.

He’s followed by Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas, who appears so high due to being mentioned under his alias, Abu Mazin.

The catalogue of world leaders under surveillance goes on with the heads of Peru, Somalia, Guatemala and Colombia right up to Aleksander Lukashenko of Belarus.

The list is completed by Yulia Tymoshenko at No.122, who used to be Ukrainian prime minister from February-September 2005 and from December 2007 till March 2010.

Merkel appears on the document between former Mali president, Amadou Toumani Toure, and Syrian leader, Bashar Assad.

The document indicates that the German chancellor has been included in the so-called Target Knowledge Database (TKB), which includes “complete profiles” of the individuals under surveillance.

The automated name recognition system, Nymrod, which deals with transcripts of intercepted fax, voice and computer-to-computer communications, has provided around 300 citations for Merkel alone, Der Spiegel wrote.

The authors of the NSA presentation especially stressed the effectiveness of the automated capture, with manual maintenance of high-ranking targets database being “a slow and painstaking process”.

Der Spiegel were also shown a weekly report from the Special Sources Operations (SSO) division, which proves that the NSA had received a court order to spy on Merkel.

According to the paper, FISA, the special court responsible for intelligence agency requests, provided the NSA with authorization to monitor “Germany” on March 7, 2013.

The new Snowden leaks are significant for Germany as they prove that Chancellor Merkel was an official target for surveillance by the US.

The office of German Federal Public Prosecutor, Harald Range, still hasn’t made up its mind over suing the National Security Agency.

The allegations that the NSA monitored Merkel’s mobile phone and conducted mass surveillance on the communications of millions of Germans are currently under review by the prosecutors.

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Turkey : Turning mayoral elections into Armageddon rehearsal

The battle between Turkish jedis is raging in the midst of pastoral Turkish life. To those who know nothing about Gülen and Erdoğan garlands of blue and orange flags of the two major parties in the streets may seem like decorations for a city festival.

On March 30, such a common affair as local elections in Turkey will turn into a battle between two iconic characters of the XXI century – Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and Fethullah Gülen.

None of them will be running that day, but Turkey’s future as well as the future of the whole Middle East – the place where the world’s destiny is determined, no matter how stilted it may sound – depends on how many of Erdoğan’s candidates win elections.

By force of circumstances two Turks turned into symbols for whom one country is too small.

Islamism versus Americanism

Erdoğan, a NATO country leader, took the path of the Political Islam, which is called Islamism in the West and is considered to be violating rules of democracy which ordains that religion must be separated from politics. NATO and the US are fighting against this Islamism in Afghanistan and Iraq and they have been planning to fight against it in Iran for a long time.

Erdoğan strongly supported Palestinians’ struggle and intentionally and publicly damaged his relations with Israel. After 70 years of a strict ban he rebuilt the Mosques, destroyed by the Turkish reformer Kemal. He restored the forbidden azan (calling for prayer) and the right for Turkish women to wear hijab in schools, colleges and government institutions. It was during his time that Islamic organizations emerged in Turkey, filling in the void left by secularization and spreading Islamic teachings.

Gülen is a living denial of Political Islam. He is a retired imam, a son of imam, a writer and a preacher, the founder of the Hizmet movement, which is opening Turkish secular schools all over the world. Generation after generation those schools produce loyal disciples ready to work for the common cause of enlightenment and better life.

Gülen’s followers are present in all social groups; they can be found among government officials, policemen, prosecutors, journalists and sportsmen. They are also quite numerous among Erdoğan’s people. This is not a party or a religious order, they don’t have membership cards, but they are headed towards rational pragmatism, acceptance of the world and peaceful coexistence with all the things of this world.

Gülen used to support Erdoğan. But after the episode with the “Freedom Flotilla” he stopped supporting him, and lately their relations turned into a direct confrontation.

Gülen has been living in the US since 1999. He has strong political ties there. Gülen supports NATO, the USA and Israel. Shortly before the elections he cursed Erdoğan though he never mentioned his name in his address. And, according to many of Erdoğan’s followers, he is responsible for all the anti-Erdoğan scandals and media leaks before the elections.
Erdoğan called Gülen’s followers “a parallel state” and promised to close all their schools in Turkey.

In March, two former US ambassadors to Turkey Morton Abramowits and Eric Edelman published a report which sounds more like a threat. In their report they predicted that Turkey and Erdoğan will collapse and a coup will happen, if Erdoğan continues to persecute Gülen’s followers.

There is no doubt that these threats, coming from people close to neocons, are not just an emotional reaction from disgruntled officials. Turkey is flooded with Syrian refugees and militants, many of whom are directly linked to US intelligence agencies.

As one of Erdogan’s followers pointed out, groups of Syrian militants have been increasingly active inside Turkey, inciting conflict.

For example, on Thursday, March 27, members of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) opened fire on police in Ümraniye, leaving three officers wounded. ISIL is one of the groups fighting against both Assad and rebels in Syria.

The relationship between Erdogan and Putin, on the other hand, seems to be developing in a totally different vein. In 2012, Erdogan thanked Putin for supporting Palestine in its bid for observer status in the UN.

In March alone, Erdogan and Putin talked twice because of the Ukrainian events, including one time on the day of the Crimean referendum. Erdogan asked Putin to take care of Crimean Tatars along with ethnic Russians in Crimea. Moscow responded by promising that the Tatars’ rights won’t be infringed. In April Turkish Airlines plans to renew regular flights to Crimea.

Rehearsal for disorder?

In 2008, Foreign Policy called Gülen the world’s most powerful intellectual of the year. In 2013, Time included him into the top 100 most influential persons.

The global media appear to have chosen to side with Gülen, and in doing so they basically follow Gülen’s own rhetoric. Erdoğan is presented as a “dictator” and is denounced for trying to cut off public access to Twitter and Youtube. At the same time, the media have devoted much less attention to General Sisi who has sentenced to death 529 people in Egypt. The intensity of the media coverage looks to suggest that choosing from these two, cutting off Twitter is a sure sign of a tyrant.

“Erdoğan needs 38% to win, and he will make it, he is supported by half the country, by all rural residents,” – says a bright 22-year-old from İskenderun. This young man sleeps 2 hours a day, he’s been working since he was 12, he is currently in college, learning English, and dreaming of making it to a university. He is one of Erdoğan’s new active and pro-education generation.

“Erdoğan will win. I support him, and all my friends and classmates too, he has fresh ideas and people understand him,” – these are the main messages voiced by many.

All sorts of public polls surface in the media, but I haven’t seen 38% mentioned anywhere.

You could say that the more figures make it to the public domain in Turkey, the more unreliable they start to look.

Erdoğan’s supporters in the media believe that 45% will secure his win.

Rehearsal for disorder?

In 2008, Foreign Policy called Gülen the world’s most powerful intellectual of the year. In 2013, Time included him into the top 100 most influential persons.

The global media appear to have chosen to side with Gülen, and in doing so they basically follow Gülen’s own rhetoric. Erdoğan is presented as a “dictator” and is denounced for trying to cut off public access to Twitter and Youtube. At the same time, the media have devoted much less attention to General Sisi who has sentenced to death 529 people in Egypt. The intensity of the media coverage looks to suggest that choosing from these two, cutting off Twitter is a sure sign of a tyrant.

“Erdoğan needs 38% to win, and he will make it, he is supported by half the country, by all rural residents,” – says a bright 22-year-old from İskenderun. This young man sleeps 2 hours a day, he’s been working since he was 12, he is currently in college, learning English, and dreaming of making it to a university. He is one of Erdoğan’s new active and pro-education generation.

“Erdoğan will win. I support him, and all my friends and classmates too, he has fresh ideas and people understand him,” – these are the main messages voiced by many.

All sorts of public polls surface in the media, but I haven’t seen 38% mentioned anywhere.

You could say that the more figures make it to the public domain in Turkey, the more unreliable they start to look.

Erdoğan’s supporters in the media believe that 45% will secure his win.

Sarıgül is making a promise to build a monument to the “martyrs of democracy” i.e. the victims of the police crackdown on the protests in 2013.

Different sources place Topbaş 7% to 9% ahead of Sarıgül. However, the media keeps predicting a failure for Erdoğan in Istanbul. And it is known that whoever loses the Istanbul election loses the nation-wide election…

Two Turkish men from Anatolia, one young and one old, seem to be equally displeased with the prime minister: “We never voted for Erdoğan, and we hate him. When he started out he had nothing, and now he’s got it too sweet.”

Some of the Erdoğan opponents try to give a more detailed argument.

A 46-year-old Kurd from nearby Diyarbakir who had been to the Gezi Park protests together with his son, says: “Erdoğan is telling everyone that the Gezi Park protests were all staged and orchestrated, but I went there of my own will, no one had asked me to. Erdoğan owns 9 TV channels and most of the newspapers, so journalists cannot write anything against him unless they want to lose a job.”

A shop owner from Edirne, 39:

“Erdoğan will go, his time is over, he’s up to his ears in dirty business. It makes me furious when he dares say the name of Allah and then talks about money. I am a Muslim, but I do not want the rule of the Sharia law. If we had the rule of the Sharia law in place, Erdoğan would have had both his hands cut off. If Kemal had been alive he would have destroyed Erdoğan physically, not just politically.”

“I am no fan of Gülen either, he is even more of a fundamentalist. I want a secular state; Turkey needs the government to make domestic issues a priority over foreign relations. Look what he did – he’s trying to engage in the Syrian crisis, all the while there are loads of unsolved problems at home. That’s no way to do it,” – says a taxi driver, 49, a native of Izmir.

Soon the people will make their choice and we will know what they consider the lesser evil, legalized invasion of privacy or no access to Twitter.

RT Op-Edge.

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Turkish politics : The battle for Turkey’s future

464564An increasingly autocratic prime minister is losing touch with voters and damaging his country

An increasingly autocratic prime minister is losing touch with voters and damaging his country – See more at: http://www.economist.com/news/europe/21599819-increasingly-autocratic-prime-minister-losing-touch-voters-and-damaging-his-country#sthash.lHg8PweI.dpuf
An increasingly autocratic prime minister is losing touch with voters and damaging his country – See more at: http://www.economist.com/news/europe/21599819-increasingly-autocratic-prime-minister-losing-touch-voters-and-damaging-his-country#sthash.lHg8PweI.dpuf
An increasingly autocratic prime minister is losing touch with voters and damaging his country – See more at: http://www.economist.com/news/europe/21599819-increasingly-autocratic-prime-minister-losing-touch-voters-and-damaging-his-country#sthash.lHg8PweI.dpuf
An increasingly autocratic prime minister is losing touch with voters and damaging his country – See more at: http://www.economist.com/news/europe/21599819-increasingly-autocratic-prime-minister-losing-touch-voters-and-damaging-his-country#sthash.lHg8PweI.dpuf

RECEP TAYYIP ERDOGAN has reason to thank Vladimir Putin. For weeks the Russian president’s attack on Ukraine has hogged headlin

An increasingly autocratic prime minister is losing touch with voters and damaging his country – See more at: http://www.economist.com/news/europe/21599819-increasingly-autocratic-prime-minister-losing-touch-voters-and-damaging-his-country#sthash.lHg8PweI.dpuf

es. This has let Turkey’s prime minister get away with only limited international opprobrium for a string of illiberal laws that seem designed mainly to protect himself and his allies from a corruption scandal that one insider calls the biggest in modern Turkish history.

Since the scandal broke in mid-December, when police raided the homes of several sons of ministers, illicit recordings have emerged on the internet supposedly implicating Mr Erdogan, his relatives and others in dodgy dealings. Mr Erdogan has denounced these as fabrications, and blamed a network of judges, prosecutors and police linked to Fethullah Gulen, a powerful Sunni Muslim cleric based in Pennsylvania. (The irony that Mr Gulen was an ally of Mr Erdogan in his previous legal battles against the army and the secularists has not escaped Turks.)

Mr Erdogan has reassigned or sacked hundreds of policemen, judges and prosecutors, stalling the investigation. He has passed laws giving the government greater control over the judiciary and security services, clamped down on the media and tightened internet regulation. His latest move was to get the internet regulator, a former spook, briefly to ban Twitter, and he has often threatened other social media as well (see article).

Mounting criticism of the prime minister has left him unmoved, just as it did after he unleashed a brutal police assault on protesters in Istanbul’s Gezi Park last summer. Besides attacking Gulenists and protesters, he has responded with digs at the foreign media and a purported “interest-rate lobby” (in January the central bank doubled its rates to 10%). And he defiantly declared that the Twitter ban showed to the world the strength of the republic.

Above all, Mr Erdogan relies on one overarching claim: that he has the support of voters. Ever since his Justice and Development (AK) party was catapulted to power in November 2002, its electoral success has been impressive. AK’s share of the vote rose to 47% in 2007 and almost 50% in 2011 (though it fell below 40% in municipal elections in 2009). Mr Erdogan has adopted a fiercely majoritarian attitude: so long as voters back him, he is entitled to do whatever he wants, heedless of opponents, protesters, judges, prosecutors or Europe. In a country with weak institutions and few checks and balances, such a view inevitably tends to authoritarianism.

On March 30th the prime minister’s support among Turkish voters will be put to the test, for the first time since the Gezi protests and the corruption probe, in municipal elections. Mr Erdogan has explicitly turned these into a referendum on himself and his party. If AK does well, which most analysts reckon means winning over 40% of the vote and keeping control of both Ankara and Istanbul, Mr Erdogan will claim vindication for his tough policies.

The outcome is highly uncertain. The main opposition parties, the Republican People’s Party (CHP) and the Nationalist Action Party (MHP) are weak. AK remains very strong in its Anatolian heartland, which includes such cities as Bursa, Kayseri and Konya. But Mr Erdogan’s approval rating has fallen over the past year. The CHP is quietly confident of winning Ankara, and it even hopes to upset AK in Istanbul, the city where Mr Erdogan began his political career. If AK does that badly, one minister predicts, it might even split.

Besides his 11 years in office, Gezi and the corruption cases, another reason why some Turks are tiring of Mr Erdogan is the economy. During AK’s time in power, GDP per head has tripled in real terms. After a sharp drop in 2009, growth bounced back to China-like levels in 2010 and 2011 (see chart). But this year it may be barely above 3%. The IMF reckons trend growth has dropped from 7% to 3%, too low to stop unemployment rising. Turkey also has the biggest current-account deficit in the OECD rich-country club, making it vulnerable to a loss of foreign confidence. Not surprisingly the lira has tumbled, shedding some 24% of its value against the dollar since last April and pushing up inflation.

Mehmet Simsek, the finance minister, rejects warnings about the economy as alarmist. He says all emerging markets have suffered since America signalled that interest rates might start rising. The current account was hit by high gold imports. Worries about corporate exposure to foreign-currency debt are exaggerated: most is owed by the biggest exporters. For the long term, he talks of better infrastructure, education (he points to 400,000 extra teachers and 210,000 extra classrooms) and more investment in R&D. He notes that Turkey has climbed from 71st to 44th in the World Economic Forum’s competitiveness table.

Yet Turkey’s weaknesses are obvious. Female participation in the workforce is the lowest in the OECD. Inequality is alarmingly high. Turkey comes a lowly 69th in the World Bank’s “Doing Business” rankings. In many ways it is in a middle-income trap: the low-cost advantage that the Anatolian tigers had in textiles, furniture, white goods and carmaking has been eroded by rising wages (and prices), but productivity and skills are not good enough to switch easily to higher-value production.

Above all is the uncertainty about Turkey’s political direction. Although the new European Union minister, Mevlut Cavusoglu, talks of 2014 as the year of the EU, he concedes that popular support for EU membership has fallen from 70% in 2005 to only 40% today. In truth EU membership talks are stalled, and they are unlikely to revive soon, not least because Mr Erdogan has lost interest. He is also said to have become more dismissive of Turkey’s NATO membership. Losing the EU anchor, in particular, worries businessmen. Muharrem Yilmaz, chairman of Tusiad, the industrialists’ lobby, complains that the government did not take advantage of EU membership talks to strengthen political and economic institutions, and that its reform momentum has run out.

What might Mr Erdogan do next? He had hoped to stand for president in August, when the term of the incumbent, Abdullah Gul, a co-founder of AK, runs out. Mr Gul, who has avoided clashing directly with Mr Erdogan but made clear his unhappiness with his restrictive laws, could then become prime minister. But recent events have reduced the chances of Mr Erdogan stepping up to the presidency, not least because he has been unable to amend the constitution to give the job greater powers. So he may prefer to let Mr Gul run again and instead scrap the internal AK party rule against any MP running for a fourth term. That would let him stay on as prime minister and perhaps bring forward the general election due next year.

Yet such a move would only confirm criticism of Mr Erdogan’s autocratic ways.  Aykan Erdemir, a young CHP MP, says the situation makes him think of other embattled leaders in their bunkers, surrounded by yes-men. Put simply, the prime minister lacks an exit strategy. It would be better for his country if he found one.

 

 The Economist.

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