Turkey's parliamentary race: New deadlock coming?

Turkey's parliamentary race: New deadlock coming? 
After June elections failed to give Turkey's ruling Justice and Development Party the majority it wanted, fresh elections start Sunday. But according to some analysts, the outcome could be much the same

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, second left, Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, center, and the main opposition Republican People's Party leader Kemal Kilicdaroglu shake hands during a ceremony on Republic Day in Ankara, Turkey, Thursday, Oct. 29, 2015 (Photo: AP)

For the second time in five months, Turkey will cast votes for a new parliament Sunday, hoping to end a political deadlock that has existed since June.

In the last elections neither the ruling Justice and Development Party (JDP) nor other political parties managed to secure enough seats to form a government alone.

The JDP received the highest number of votes at 48.86 percent (258 seats). The Republican People’s Party (RPP) came second with 24.9 percent (132 seats), with the Nationalist Movement Party (NMP) coming third with 16.29 percent (80 seats). The pro-Kurdish People’s Democratic Party (PDP) took fourth place with 13.12 percent (80 seats).

Perhaps the biggest loser in June was the president. As the JDP failed to gain an absolute majority, its former leader, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, lost the chance to achieve his ambition of increasing his presidential powers through amending the constitution. 

The JDP's gaining 330 seats in the 550-seat parliament could have been enough for Erdogan to change the constitution, yet only after holding a public referendum. To avoid the referendum step, the JDP needed to win a two-thirds majority of 367 seats. The party, however, didn't achieve either.

Moreover, political talks among party leaders produced no coalition government, making snap polls the only possible way out of the crisis. But what if fresh elections produce the same deadlock?

According to Aykan Erdemir, political science professor at Bilkent University, the elections will probably produce a similar outcome, while Erdogan might fail, this time, in stopping current JDP leader Ahmet Davutoglu from entering into talks on a coalition government, and indeed forming one.

"Turkey will see more or less similar results to the June elections. The NMP might lose some votes and the RPP might gain extra votes, but the distribution of seats will not be much different," the ex-RPP parliamentarian told Ahram Online.

It is no secret that these elections are coming amid turbulent times in Turkish politics. Erdogan has increasingly faced accusations of imposing his grip on the state. The most recent accusations concerned the media.  

Police forces raided Kozi-Ipek, a media group linked to anti-JDP preacher Fethullah Gulen, Wednesday, coming but days ahead of the elections. This followed a court order to appoint an administration to manage the group as part of a wider "terrorism" investigation against Gulen and his followers.

This is not the first incident that is related to Gulen. In December 2014, police forces raided Turkey's Zaman newspaper and Samanyolu (STV) channel, detaining tens of journalists and workers. Those detained were charged with conspiring to overthrow Erdogan. 

Gulen used to be a strong backer of Erdogan, providing him with the support of his Hizmet Movement in consecutive electoral races. The Erdogan-Gulen relationship started to sour after a corruption scandal in December 2013 that led to the resignation of three ministers.

Erdogan accused Gulen of pushing the matter to weaken Erdogan's position ahead of then local elections. Police officers, judges and prosecutors were removed from their positions for being linked to Gulen. The US, where Gulen is based, disregarded Turkish requests in recent years to extradite Gulen.

The EU expressed worry about this week's events. "The situation concerning Kozi-Ipek (is) worrying. We continue to follow the situation very closely," said Catherine Ray, spokeswoman for EU foreign affairs head Federica Mogherini.

"We want to reiterate the importance of respect of the rule of law and media freedom," Ray pointed out during a European Commission media briefing. "We expect this election to be in line with international and democratic standards," she added.

But the extent of EU concern with Turkey relative to democratic reform is questionable. Erdogan and German Chancellor Angela Merkel re-opened the issue of Turkey's accession to the EU during the latter's visit to the country earlier this month, a matter that remained stalled for years.

Merkel — who has always asserted that Ankara will never join the EU — said Germany is ready to open economic and monetary policy chapters in this year, while preparing to open issues of fundamental rights and justice.

She also said that Berlin could speed up the process of allowing Turkish citizens to enter Germany without a visa. This package of offers is related to the growing refugee crisis.

Germany anticipates that about one million refugees will arrive to its territories amid apparent problems persuading other European states to act in a like manner. Davutoglu said that Turkey, which already hosts more than two million Syrian refugees, will be ready to share the burden only if progress is seen on the visa issue.

Marc Pierini, ex-EU head of delegation to Turkey, told Ahram Online that the matter has turned into "some sort of bargain diplomacy," believing that this is not the best way to deal with the refugee crisis.

"This crisis affects the EU and Turkey in very similar ways: large numbers of people, no immediate prospect of returning to Syria, humanitarian needs, but also the need for income-generating jobs and education. This calls for a statesman-like joint handling of the crisis by Turkey and the EU," the now Carnegie scholar said.

"On the other hand, the prospects for re-energising EU accession talks for Turkey are slimmer than ever due to the massive deterioration of rule of law in Turkey (media freedom, independent justice, polarising narratives, etc). What happens after the election will be key in restoring an acceptable level of rule of law," added Pierini.

The elections in Turkey, in the meantime, cannot be separated from military clashes with outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK). In July, one month after the June race, Turkey started aerial operations against the PKK, described by Davutoglu as a "synchronised fight against terror." The air strikes expanded to reached Kurds on the Iraqi-Turkish border.

A ceasefire agreement, ahead of the new wave of violence, between Turkey and the PKK held for two years after successful talks with Abdullah Ocalan — the group's leader — which brought an end to the conflict with the Turkish army that raged since the 1980s.

Ziya Meral — a London-based Turkey researcher — told Ahram Online that the crisis has put the pro-Kurdish PDP in a tough situation after taking seats usually won by JDP candidates in the June elections. The PDP, Meral said, is "caught in the crossfire" between Turkey and the PKK, as it fails to please both PKK supporters and "more democratic peace driven voters."

However, Nigar Goksel — Turkey analyst at the International Crisis Group — believes that anti-PKK operations might not give the JDP "the decisive advantage that some observers speculated it would."

Goksel argued that the resumption of violence, Kurdish anger at Turkey's refusal to aid Syrian Kurds in Kobane, and their perception that the JDP has been insincere in the peace process, "has cost the JDP Kurdish votes." 

"However, as long as JDP sees it cannot win back Kurdish votes from the PDP, it may permanently change its approach to this conflict, in line with the nationalist voting bloc. The fate of the peace process will also depend on whether, and with which party, the JDP forms a coalition after the elections," concluded Goksel. 

Libya court adjourns trial of Gaddafi son

Saadi Gaddafi , a son of Libya's slain dictator Moamer Gaddafi , appeared in court Sunday to face trial on charges of murder and repression during the 2011 revolution.

Dressed in prison-issued blue uniform, Saadi, 42, sat in the dock as the presiding judge consulted with a defence lawyer.

Minutes later the judge announced that he was adjourning the trial to December 6.

He gave no reason for the delay.

Gaddafi 's third oldest son had sought refuge in Niger after the 2011 armed uprising that toppled his father.

He is charged with the first-degree murder in 2005 of a former trainer at Tripoli's Al-Ittihad football club and his trial opened in May.

Sunday's court hearing came days after Human Rights Watch said it had been able to meet Saadi at Tripoli's Al-Hadba prison, where he said his rights were being violated.

"He said lawyers were not present during any of the interrogation sessions, where, he alleged, prosecution officials had intimidated and threatened him and other witnesses," HRW reported.

The New York-based rights watchdog said it met Saadi in September, a month after Arabic news website clearnews.com published a video appearing to show officials and guards at Al-Hadba ill-treating several detainees including Saadi.

HRW reported that Saadi said he had been "held in solitary confinement at Al-Hadba prison since his extradition in a windowless cell, though with a fan, and has had no communication with other detainees".

Three of Gaddafi's seven sons were killed in the 2011 NATO-backed uprising while he himself was captured and killed by rebels in October of that year.

In July, a court sentenced another Gaddafi son and one-time heir apparent Seif al-Islam to death for crimes during the uprising.

Joint communique by US, Central Asian countries declares support for Afghanistan

A joint communique by the United States and five Central Asian countries on Sunday declared support for Afghanistan and its development as an independent, peaceful state and noted that it was important for the security and stability of the surrounding region.

The communique also stated the intention of the countries to increase cooperation and counter "trans-boundary" threats and challenges such as terrorism.
Boko Haram suicide attack in Chad kills 11 civilians: Govt

Eleven civilians were killed in a Boko Haram suicide bomb attack Sunday on a Chadian army post at Bougouma in the Lake Chad region, the government said.

"Two members of Boko Haram were neutralised and a third blew themselves up, killing 11 civilians," a Chadian government statement said, referring to the Nigerian jihadist group.

Israel economy minister resigns to allow major gas deal: PM

Israel's economy minister resigned on Sunday, opening the way for the government to greenlight a multibillion dollar gas deal with US energy giant Noble Energy, a statement from the Prime Minister's office said.

"Minister (Aryeh) Deri announced to me his intention to quit. In order to proceed with the (offshore gas) agreement the ministry will be transferred to me and I will give the greenlight," Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said.

A major deal to exploit offshore gas reserves in the eastern Mediterranean has been stuck for almost a year due to the objection of the country's anti-trust authority, which warned the agreement could give Noble and its Israeli partner Delek an effective monopoly.

It was also held up by Deri's refusal to overrule the authority.

Netanyahu, who is already acting foreign minister, will now assume control over the economy ministry and press ahead with the deal.

"We are making today a big step towards advancing delivery to the state of Israel. Gas is the number one engine for economic growth in Israel for the coming years," Netanyahu said.

Israel has been trying to extract and develop offshore gas since the discovery of the Tamar and Leviathan fields in 2009 and 2010. While extraction has begun in Tamar, the far larger Leviathan has been hit by a series of bureaucratic delays.

For resource poor Israel, the aim is to use the gas to become more economically independent, lower energy prices and potentially export its gas.

But Netanyahu has come under criticism from opposition politicians, with many accusing the government of agreeing a bad deal for the country.

Neighbouring Egypt recently discovered what was described as the "largest ever" gas field in the Mediterranean, sparking fears in Israel that the country could fall behind.

Noble Energy had previously threatened legal action against the government for the delay.

Mona Sukkarieh, analyst at the Middle East Strategic Perspectives risk consultancy which focuses on Mediterranean oil and gas, said Sunday's announcement was "significant."

She said that Deri had been hesitant to become the first Israeli minister to overrule the anti-trust authority.

"Deri's resignation and the transfer of his authority to the Prime Minister could move the gas plan forward and avoid a legal battle with Noble Energy."

The size of the Leviathan field is estimated at 18.9 trillion cubic feet (535 billion cubic metres, or bcm) of natural gas, along with 34.1 million barrels of condensate.

Noble and Delek also control the Tamar field, which holds 250 bcm of natural gas, and lies 80 kilometres (40 nautical miles) west of the northern Israeli port city of Haifa.

Deri's resignation has raised concerns that Netanyahu is seeking to avoid democratic checks and balances.

Lior Rotem, a spokesman for the Israeli parliament's energy committee, said they would seek to establish whether the proper democratic process had been followed.

"We have to make a hearing with the minister who has the authority and only after that will the committee establish its opinion," he told AFP.

Russia stops Kogalymavia flights on Airbus A321 aircraft : Interfax
In this photo taken on Tuesday, Oct. 20, 2015, The Russian airline Kogalymavia’s Airbus A321 with a tail number of EI-ETJ on an airstrip of Moscow’s Domodedovo international airport, outside Moscow, Russia (AP) 

Russian transport regulator Rostransnadzor has told Kogalymavia airline to stop flights on Airbus A321 aircraft until the causes of a crash involving a Kogalymavia Airbus A321 in Egypt on Saturday are known, Interfax reported on Sunday.

But RIA news agency cited a Kogalymavia representative as saying that the airline had not received the order from Rostransnadzor.

South Sudan rebels still holding 13 UN contractors, says UN

A United Nations official says that South Sudan's rebels are holding 13 U.N. contractors in Upper Nile state.

The U.N. is engaging with the rebels to release the men, U.N. information officer Shantal Persaud told The Associated Press on Sunday.

The U.N. earlier said 12 local contractors were detained after the rebels released 18 international peacekeepers Thursday. The rebels captured the men last week when they seized a U.N. barge carrying fuel along the Nile River. Rebels control the river's west bank. The U.N. has bases on the government-controlled east side of the river.

The rebels said they took the vessel because they thought it was delivering weapons to government troops and carried army soldiers and members of the domestic spy agency. South Sudanese nationals working for U.N. agencies have been kidnapped and killed in the past along the Nile.

Government army spokesman Col Philip Aguer denied that any government soldiers were on board, and accused the U.N. of assisting the rebels. Rebels have previously used barges to carry forces and ammunition, he said.

The U.N. denied the barge carried weapons cargo and said the fuel was meant for use by the U.N., not by the opposition, according to a statement by Ellen Loj, head of the U.N. mission in South Sudan.

South Sudan has been at war since 2013 between President Salva Kiir's forces and rebel leader Riek Machar. Although the warring factions signed a peace deal in August, fighting persists, especially the contested states of Upper Nile and Unity.

Gunmen kill two Yemen security officers in Aden

Gunmen killed two security officers in separate drive-by shootings in the southern Yemeni city of Aden, where militants are becoming increasingly active, security officials said on Sunday.

In the first incident, gunmen opened fire from a car at Major Meead Ali outside the building where he lives in the port city's Inmaa neighbourhood, one official said.

Gunmen shot dead Abdelwahed Ahmed of Aden's criminal investigation unit in a similar attack outside his home in Al-Mansura district, another security official said.

Meanwhile, the chief prosecutor of the neighbouring Lahj province, Saeed Abdullah, escaped an attempt to assassinate him in a similar way in Aden, a third security official told AFP.

All the attacks took place late on Saturday, the sources said.

Such assassinations by unidentified gunmen in cars or on motorbikes are common in Yemen, especially in the lawless south and are usually attributed to Al-Qaeda, although it rarely claims responsibility for them.

Aden has been rocked by unrest since Shiite Houthi rebels and their allies, who have seized the Yemeni capital before expanding further across the country, entered the city in mid-March.

Southern fighters allied with President Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi and supported by Saudi-led coalition forces managed in July to push the rebels out of the port city.

But Islamist militants, including Al-Qaeda and the Islamic State group, appeared to have gained ground in the southern city, where jihadists have become visibly present.

On October 6, government temporary headquarters came under attack in a series of bombings that lightly wounded several ministers and killed more than 15 people.

ISIS claimed the bombings which also hit military installations used by Saudi-led coalition troops.

Eleven migrants, including six children, drown off Greece: Coastguards

Eleven migrants, including six children -- four of them babies -- drowned on Sunday in a new tragedy off the Greek island of Lesbos, coastguards said.

Ten of the dead were found in the cabin of the boat, which overturned as it made the hazardous crossing from the nearby Turkish coast, authorities said. The final victim, a young girl, was washed up on the island, where dozens of refugees have died trying to reach Europe in recent days.

Turkey's parliamentary race: New deadlock coming? Turkey's parliamentary race: New deadlock coming? Reviewed by Ajit Kumar on 7:31 PM Rating: 5

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