Turkey: April 2024 Update


April 30, 2024: The big news in Turkey continues to be the major March 31 electoral defeat of President Erdogan’s AKP Party. Turkey’s three major cities, Istanbul, Ankara, and Izmir are now under the firm political control of the CHP Party, originally established by Kemal Ataturk, the founder of modern Turkey in the 1920s. Moreover, the AKP lost the total popular vote for the first time since 2002. The CHP received 37.8 percent of the overall vote, the AKP 35.5 percent. Erdogan’s chronic economic mismanagement is a key reason. On March 21 Turkey’s central bank unexpectedly raised interest rates to 50 percent. During the first week of April Erdogan’s government acknowledged inflation for March 2024 was 68.5 percent. In February it was 67.1 percent.

For years Erdogan has argued that raising interest rates increases inflation. Of course, his theory is dead wrong. The electorate initially overlooked Erdogan’s mishandling of the 2023 earthquakes but his government has failed to complete the massive –and quick-- new housing construction he personally promised. The CHP’s Ekrem Imamoglu won re-election as mayor of Istanbul with 51.1 percent of the vote. His AKP opponent received 39.6 percent. For the record, Istanbul has 16 million of Turkey’s 83 million people and contributes about 32 percent of Turkey’s GDP. Imamoglu is already a national political figure and his victory makes him Erdogan’s most potent rival. In the capital, Ankara, the CHP candidate defeated AKP by 29 percentage points. This was a huge victory in Turkey’s capital and second largest city. In Izmir, the third largest city, the CHP candidate won 49 percent to 37 percent. What to make of it? Erdogan has no one to blame but himself. He created a powerful executive presidency and undermined the power of Turkey’s high courts.

President Erdogan expects NATO's next secretary-general to give Turkey’s terror-related security concerns a high priority. This announcement came after Erdogan concluded a meeting with Mark Rutte, the outgoing Dutch prime minister and a candidate for the NATO secretary-general job.

Last week the Istanbul Naval Shipyard briefed the media on the Turkish Navy’s future aircraft carrier project. The government had previously announced the carrier project is a completely indigenous Turkish program with a Turkish designer, Turkish engineering, and Turkish domestic construction. The ship will be 285 meters long and have a displacement of around 60,000 tons. The Navy currently plans to fly 50 aircraft from the ship, a mix of manned and UAV (drone) aircraft. The manned aircraft could be a navalized version of Turkish made Hurjet light attack aircraft, but only if a catapult is added to the carrier. The Navy originally wanted to acquire F-35Bs (STOVL jump jets) but the U.S. kicked Turkey out of the entire F-35 program after Turkey acquired Russian S-400 missiles.

On the 22nd Erdogan announced that Iraq had agreed to cooperate with Turkey to fight PKK Kurdish rebels. Erdogan was visiting Iraq and meeting with the Iraqi leader. Both men discussed security issues like the PKK and agreed to take joint steps to improve border security. This was another way of saying Iraq would try to keep the PKK out of Iraq. Also discussed were several bilateral economic issues, including a new economic trade corridor called The Development Road. The corridor would connect Arab and Persian Gulf countries to Turkey via Iraq. Erdogan and Sudani also discussed water issues. Iraqis worry that Turkey’s dams on the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers will restrict the amount of water Iraq receives, which violates their downstream water rights. In the 1980s Turkey began constructing a series of large power dams on the headwaters of these rivers, which are in Turkey. The dams were part of the Southeastern Anatolia Project. Sudani said that Turkey and Iraq had reached a ten-year agreement on managing water resources that recognized Iraq’s needs. Turkey and Iraq signed 20 memorandums of understanding. Erdogan’s trip to Baghdad was the first visit to Iraq by a senior Turkish official since 2011.

Turkey’s Scientific and Technological Research Council announced it has begun low-rate production of two domestically developed air to air missiles, the Gokdogan and the Bozdogan. Initially 25 of each will be produced. The missiles will be carried by Turkish F-16’s.

The Turkish Ada-class corvette TCG Kinaliada is enroute to a five-month long deployment in East Asia. The ship left Turkey April 8 and is on its way to Japan to celebrate the 100th anniversary of Turkish-Japanese diplomatic relations. The vessel will visit several other countries in East Asia.

Diplomatic relations between Turkey and Israel continue to deteriorate. Since the beginning of April, both nations have slapped trade barriers on each other. Turkey said it is restricting exports of 54 types of products to Israel, among them steel, aluminum, steel, aviation fuel and chemical fertilizers. On April 8 Israel told Turkey that Turkish military transport planes could not participate in a humanitarian air airdrop over Gaza.

Turkey has also joined its NATO allies and suspended its participation in the Treaty on Conventional Armed Forces in Europe. The agreement imposed limits on conventional military equipment in Europe. It was supposed to be a post-Cold War confidence building measure. Russia withdrew from the agreement in 2023.

The government’s High Electoral Board restored the right of Abdullah Zeydan to be the new mayor for the city of Van in eastern Turkey. Zeydan belongs to the pro-Kurd DEM Party. He won the election on March 31st but on April 2nd a regional election board refused to recognize his victory and replaced him with the man he had defeated, who was a member of Erdogan’s AKP Party. A national outcry erupted. The High Electoral Board overruled the regional electoral board’s decision. Zeydan won 55 percent of the vote, the AKP candidate 27 percent.

Turkish media describe President Erdogan as stunned at the results of the March 31 municipal elections. The CHP retained control of both Istanbul and Ankara. The pro-Kurd DEM won several municipalities in southeastern Turkey.

Last month Turkish security personnel announced the arrest of two suspected Israeli spies. Six other people were detained in the police and intelligence operation. (Austin Bay)


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