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Turkey orders arrest of 128 military personnel over suspected Gulen links: Anadolu
June 18, 2019
Updated 27 minutes ago


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FILE PHOTO: U.S. based cleric Fethullah Gulen at his home in Saylorsburg, Pennsylvania, U.S. July 29, 2016. REUTERS/Charles Mostoller/File Photo

ANKARA (Reuters) - Turkey has ordered the arrest of 128 military personnel over suspected links to the network accused by Ankara of orchestrating an attempted coup in 2016, state-run Anadolu news agency said on Tuesday.

Police were looking for just over half of the suspects in the western coastal province of Izmir and the rest across 30 other provinces, Anadolu said.

They were suspected of being supporters of U.S.-based Muslim cleric Fethullah Gulen, who is accused by Turkish authorities of masterminding the failed putsch three years ago. Gulen has denied any role.

More than 77,000 people have been jailed pending trial, while about 150,000 people from the civil service, military, and elsewhere have been sacked or suspended from their jobs under crackdowns since the attempted coup.

Rights groups and Turkey’s Western allies have criticized the scope of the crackdown, saying Erdogan has used the abortive coup as a pretext to quash dissent.

The government has said the security measures are necessary due to the gravity of the threat Turkey faces, and has vowed to eradicate Gulen’s network in the country.

Reporting by Tuvan Gumrukcu; Editing by Andrew Heavens


 

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Turkey to push for trial of Egypt government over Mursi death
June 19, 2019

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A woman holds a flag with a picture of Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan during a symbolic funeral prayer for the former Egyptian president Mohamed Mursi at the courtyard of Fatih Mosque in Istanbul, Turkey, June 18, 2019. REUTERS/Murad Sezer

ANKARA (Reuters) - Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan on Wednesday vowed to try to ensure the Egyptian government is tried in international courts for the death of former president Mohamed Mursi, who suffered a fatal heart attack in a Cairo court earlier this week.

“Muhammed Mursi flailed on the courtroom floor for 20 minutes and the authorities did not help him. This is why I say Mursi did not die, he was murdered,” Erdogan told supporters at an election rally in Istanbul.

“We, as Turkey, will follow this issue and do everything possible for Egypt to be tried in international courts for Mursi’s death,” he said, calling on the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation to take action toward this end.

He spoke a day after he called Mursi a “marytr” and said he did not believe the former president died due to natural causes.

Mursi, a leading member of the Muslim Brotherhood Islamist group which is now banned in Egypt, died on Monday after collapsing in a Cairo court while on trial on espionage charges.

The 67-year-old - the first democratically elected head of state in Egypt’s modern history - had been in jail since the army commanded by Egypt’s current president Abdel Fattah al-Sisi toppled him in 2013 after barely a year in power following mass protests against his rule.

Erdogan’s Islamist-rooted AK Party supported Mursi’s short-lived Egyptian government, and many Brotherhood members and supporters have fled to Turkey since its activities were banned in Egypt.

Erdogan added he would raise the issue at the G20 summit in Japan at the end of the month.

Rights groups have called for an investigation into Mursi’s death and raised questions about his treatment in prison. Egypt’s government has dismissed accusations that he was badly treated.

Reporting by Tuvan Gumrukcu; Writing by Humeyra Pamuk; Editing by Jonathan Spicer, William Maclean


 

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Turkey to push for trial of Egypt government over Mursi death
June 19, 2019

View attachment 8231
A woman holds a flag with a picture of Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan during a symbolic funeral prayer for the former Egyptian president Mohamed Mursi at the courtyard of Fatih Mosque in Istanbul, Turkey, June 18, 2019. REUTERS/Murad Sezer

ANKARA (Reuters) - Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan on Wednesday vowed to try to ensure the Egyptian government is tried in international courts for the death of former president Mohamed Mursi, who suffered a fatal heart attack in a Cairo court earlier this week.

“Muhammed Mursi flailed on the courtroom floor for 20 minutes and the authorities did not help him. This is why I say Mursi did not die, he was murdered,” Erdogan told supporters at an election rally in Istanbul.

“We, as Turkey, will follow this issue and do everything possible for Egypt to be tried in international courts for Mursi’s death,” he said, calling on the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation to take action toward this end.

He spoke a day after he called Mursi a “marytr” and said he did not believe the former president died due to natural causes.

Mursi, a leading member of the Muslim Brotherhood Islamist group which is now banned in Egypt, died on Monday after collapsing in a Cairo court while on trial on espionage charges.

The 67-year-old - the first democratically elected head of state in Egypt’s modern history - had been in jail since the army commanded by Egypt’s current president Abdel Fattah al-Sisi toppled him in 2013 after barely a year in power following mass protests against his rule.

Erdogan’s Islamist-rooted AK Party supported Mursi’s short-lived Egyptian government, and many Brotherhood members and supporters have fled to Turkey since its activities were banned in Egypt.

Erdogan added he would raise the issue at the G20 summit in Japan at the end of the month.

Rights groups have called for an investigation into Mursi’s death and raised questions about his treatment in prison. Egypt’s government has dismissed accusations that he was badly treated.

Reporting by Tuvan Gumrukcu; Writing by Humeyra Pamuk; Editing by Jonathan Spicer, William Maclean


 

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Turkey’s Erdogan's struggles to court Kurds in battle for Istanbul
June 20, 2019
by Daren Butler, Ali Kucukgocmen
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ISTANBUL (Reuters) - Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan’s ruling party is struggling to win over Istanbul’s Kurdish voters, a group it considers a key constituency in the electoral battle for control of Istanbul, despite softening its polarizing rhetoric.

Erdogan’s Islamist-rooted AK Party (AKP) has been targeting Kurdish voters in the hopes of securing victory in a re-run of a mayoral election in the city on Sunday. But the efforts – which include adopting a more conciliatory stance than in the run up to the March election – are falling flat due to doubts about the party’s sincerity, according to voters, Kurdish politicians, and pollsters.

The main opposition Republican People’s Party’s (CHP) won the mayoral vote in Istanbul on March 31 – a stinging setback for the president and his party, which had long-controlled the city. They now have a second chance after election authorities annulled the first vote following AKP complaints of election irregularities.

A loss on June 23 for AKP’s mayoral candidate Binali Yildirim, who was hand-picked by Erdogan, would serve as a further embarrassment for the president after March’s defeat. It would also deal a symbolic blow to his power as Turkey battles recession, jockeys in war-torn Syria, and balances its U.S. and Russian ties.

Istanbul is Turkey’s largest city – accounting for nearly a fifth of Turkey’s population of 82 million – with a budget of about $4 billion.
An AKP spokesman declined to comment

Party officials say they believe the strategy is having a positive impact, including drawing support from conservative Kurds who had voted for the party in the past but stayed home in March.

KEY CONTRIBUTION
Kurdish voters account for about 15% of the roughly 10.5 million eligible voters in Istanbul. They mostly support the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) or the centre-right AKP, which attracts conservative Kurdish voters.

The AKP received a potential major boost late on Thursday when state-owned Anadolu news agency reported that jailed Kurdish militant leader Abdullah Ocalan had called on the HDP to be “neutral” in the election, implying they should abstain.[L8N23R5YS]

However, there was no immediate reaction from the HDP to the report and Ocalan’s lawyers said they would issue a statement on Friday.

In March’s mayoral race, HDP supporters tended to vote for the main opposition, the secularist, centre-left CHP, while many conservative Kurdish voters stayed home, pollsters say.

CHP’s mayoral candidate Ekrem Imamoglu received some 13,000 more votes than AKP’s Binali Yildirim – marking the first time in 25 years that AKP or its predecessor had lost control of the city.

The loss triggered a re-calibration of the AKP’s election strategy after Erdogan’s polarizing campaigning in March was judged to have backfired and alienated Kurdish voters.

According to AKP officials and insiders, the party is targeting the 1.7 million voters who stayed home on March 31, particularly conservative Kurds and AKP supporters looking for more focus on fixing the country’s stalled economy.

“Kurds will have a big impact on the result of this election,” said a source close to AKP. “Of course, if we can secure a contribution from the Kurds, if there is a rise in their votes, it will make a seriously positive contribution.”

At a rally days before the March 31 vote, Erdogan called out a pro-Kurdish opposition leader and said: “If you want to live in Kurdistan, there is a Kurdistan in northern Iraq. Take all the terror lovers with you, clear off and live there.”

But two months later, that rhetoric is absent ahead of the re-run. Instead the party has focused on a “softer messages towards Kurds and a more moderate stance are helping,” according to a source close to the AKP.

SOFTER STANCE
A softer stance was on display earlier this month when the AKP’s Istanbul candidate, Binali Yildirim, visited Diyarbakir in the mainly Kurdish southeast. He greeted a crowd in Kurdish and spoke of Kurdistan being represented in Turkey’s first parliament, established by modern Turkey’s founder Mustafa Kemal Ataturk in 1920.

Yildirim’s gesture coincided with easing tensions in the southeast as jailed militant leader Ocalan was allowed to meet his lawyers for the first time since 2011 and brought an end to a hunger strike by his supporters.

The lifting of the years-long ban on lawyers visiting Ocalan was seen as an overture towards the Kurds. AKP has also brought some Kurdish community leaders from the southeast to build support in small gatherings, according to people close to the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP).

But polling suggests the change in tack is having limited impact. A voter survey conducted by Turkish pollster Konda last weekend put the main opposition’s candidate Imamoglu in the lead with 54 percent, and AKP’s Yildirim on 45 percent. A survey by another pollster for the AKP in May put Imamoglu three percentage points ahead.

After a televised debate between the two candidates on Sunday, pollster Mehmet Ali Kulat, owner of polling firm Mak Danismanlik, said Imamoglu was slightly ahead of his rival in a survey of 30,000 city residents.

Hakan Bayrakci, head of polling firm Sonar Arastirma, said he expected HDP voters who did not vote in the previous election to come out in support for the CHP on June 23.

‘THIS IS TRICKERY’

The pro-Kurdish HDP has come out more solidly in support of the main opposition’s candidate, Imamoglu, dismissing Yildirim’s speaking in Kurdish and referencing Kurdistan as a “cheap” election ploy.

“You deny the Kurdish people’s language, culture and identity. But when the elections get close, you say Kurdistan and speak Kurdish,” HDP co-leader Pervin Buldan told a rally in Istanbul’s Esenyurt district on Saturday.

“Who are you kidding? Kurds won’t vote for you,” she said.

Selahattin Demirtas, the former HDP leader jailed since 2016 on terror-related charges, issued a series of tweets on Tuesday to galvanize his party’s supporters behind Imamoglu. “Because together we are great. Nothing will be great enough without the HDP,” Demirtas wrote, echoing Imamoglu’s campaign slogan “everything will be great.”

In Esenyurt, a district with a relatively high Kurdish population and where HDP won 22% of the vote in last year’s parliamentary election, Reuters interviewed more than a dozen voters, none of whom indicated a change in their voting intention, despite the change in campaigning tone.

Tuncay Ulu, a 62-year-old Kurd, said he had voted for the main opposition party’s mayoral candidate, Imamoglu, in March and planned to do the same this weekend, saying the AKP’s overtures would not win Kurdish votes over.

“This is trickery, they treat people like herds. It has no impact because people know what they are doing,” he said.

But, civil engineer Cemal Ankay voiced opposition to Imamoglu, questioning his appreciation for the HDP support.

“He is ungrateful,” the 39-year-old said, complaining that Imamoglu went to the Black Sea region rather than the southeast during campaigning. “He is acting as if he did not get support from the Kurds,” he said, adding he would vote for Yildirim.

Additional reporting by Ece Toksabay, Orhan Coskun, Yesim Dikmen and Humeyra Pamuk; Editing by Jonathan Spicer, Cassell Bryan-Low and Alexandra Hudson

 

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Turkey's Lira Weakens on Several Concerns

Saturday, 22 June, 2019

A man looks to a board displaying US dollars and Euros exchange rates in Turkish liras on May 23, 2018 at a exchange office in Istanbul. AFP

Istanbul - Asharq Al-Awsat

Turkey’s lira dropped on Friday as investors worried about the outcome of an Istanbul mayoral election on Sunday, as well as uncertainty over policymaking under President Tayyip Erdogan and possible US sanctions.

The lira stood at 5.8170 against the dollar at 1511 GMT, declining more than 1 percent from Thursday’s close of 5.7550. Earlier, it weakened as far as 5.8250.

On Thursday, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said he remains opposed to the country’s tight monetary policy and pledged a “definitive solution” to soon lower the central bank’s key interest rate from 24 percent.

In other economic news, Energy Minister Fatih Donmez announced that Ankara was sending a second drilling ship to conduct natural gas operations off the northeast coast of Cyprus for three months.

Donmez said that Ankara's search for hydrocarbon reserves would continue "uninterrupted."

"We will continue the drilling activities that derive from our own legitimate rights uninterrupted," he told journalists at the port, after inspecting the ship, Yavuz.

But Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras said on Friday that Turkey could face consequences from Europe if it persisted on a course of action challenging Cyprus’s right to explore for gas.

“There is an upsurge in Turkish aggression, something we don’t only observe in the relations of Turkey with Greece and Cyprus, but also important countries like the United States, and with Europe,” Tsipras told reporters at the end of an EU summit in Brussels.

 

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Turkey: Key facts in Istanbul’s rerun election
By ZEYNEP BILGINSOY
2 hours ago
22 June 2019


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FILE - In this Friday, June 21, 2019 file photo, Ekrem Imamoglu, candidate of the secular opposition Republican People's Party, or CHP, waves to supporters during a rally in Istanbul, ahead of the June 23 re-run of Istanbul elections.Voters in Istanbul return to the polls on Sunday for a rerun of the election for the mayor of the city. (AP Photo/Lefteris Pitarakis, File)

ISTANBUL (AP) — Voters in Istanbul return to the polls Sunday for a rerun of an election for mayor of the city. After weeks of uncertainty, Turkey’s top electoral body cancelled the March 31 vote that had resulted in a narrow win for candidate opposed to President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. The ruling party argued that the initial vote was marred by irregularities but the opposition insists victory was snatched from its hands.

Here’s a look at the tightly contested race seen by many as a test for democracy in this country of nearly 80 million people.

THE VOTE
The election is taking place again because Turkey’s electoral board ordered a rerun after ruling in favor of the governing party, on the grounds that some officials overseeing the vote were not civil servants as required by law. The controversial decision raised questions over Turkey’s democratic process and whether Erdogan’s ruling party, in power since 2002, would be willing to accept electoral defeat.

Sunday’s vote is to elect the mayor of Istanbul only, unlike the election in March when voters across the country chose mayors, municipal assemblies, and neighborhood administrators.

Around 10.56 million people are eligible to vote Sunday.

THE CITY
Erdogan has famously said: “Whoever wins Istanbul, wins Turkey” and “Whoever loses Istanbul, loses Turkey.” Erdogan’s rise to power began as Istanbul mayor in 1994.

The city of more than 15 million residents is Turkey’s largest, straddling both Europe and Asia. It draws millions of tourists each year and is the country’s commercial and cultural hub.

The sprawling city accounted for 31% of Turkey’s GDP in 2017. The Istanbul metropolitan municipality and its subsidiaries had a total budget of $8.8 billion last year.

The municipality, which has been run by the conservative ruling party and its Islamic-oriented predecessor for 25 years, has awarded lucrative contracts to businesses considered to be close to the government and offers huge financial resources and employment opportunities.

THE CANDIDATES
Twenty-one people are officially running for mayor but the race is essentially between two men: Ekrem Imamoglu and Binali Yildirim.

Imamoglu, from the secular Republican People’s Party, CHP, won the annulled vote by a narrow margin of just 13,729 votes in a surprise victory over the ruling party. The 49-year-old is a former contractor and ex-mayor of the district of Beylikduzu in Istanbul. He served as Istanbul’s mayor for just 18 days before his victory was annulled. He is also backed by the nationalist Good Party.

Binali Yildirim, 63, is the candidate for the governing Justice and Development Party, AKP. A former prime minister and transport minister, he resigned as parliament speaker to run in the March 31 local government elections. He’s also backed by the AKP ally, the Nationalist Movement Party.

As in the March poll across Turkey, the Kurdish vote is key. A pro-Kurdish party, second largest opposition group in parliament, is again sitting the race out in a strategy seen as favoring Imamoglu.

THE CONTROVERSY
The March vote was rife with controversy that started on election night. Turkey’s official Anadolu news agency suspended its results service as the opposition candidate began to narrow the gap, drawing widespread criticism that it was partial toward the government. Both Imamoglu and Yildirim declared victory on the night.

Erdogan’s governing party filed a series of objections to the results citing alleged voting irregularities. Imamoglu received a mandate to serve as mayor on April 17 when the ensuing recounts failed to alter the results. He was stripped of it on May 6.

Voting 7-4, the election board annulled the Istanbul mayoral election on the grounds that some polling stations were not headed by civil servants. Before the elections however, parties had time to appeal alleged violations but had not objected to staffing at those polling stations.

THE CAMPAIGN
President Erdogan spoke at numerous rallies ahead of the March vote across Turkey, appealing to nationalist and religious sentiments, describing the elections a fight for national survival. But Turkish voters are grappling with economic uncertainty and rising food prices.

Both Imamoglu and Yildirim have worked hard to reach Istanbul residents through neighborhood meetings. They’ve also made visits to homes during what has been the month of Ramadan to break their fasts with voters after sunset.

Yildirim has struggled to explain the need for a repeat election. He has promised to build on the government’s achievements in improving Istanbul’s infrastructure and services.

Imamoglu, on the other hand, argues that the AKP squandered the city’s resources to the benefit of a powerful inner circle of government backers, and is promising social policy reforms to try and lift a quarter of Istanbul residents out of poverty. He is leading a mild mannered campaign despite attacks from the pro-government news media.

 

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EU warns Turkey of sanctions for Cyprus drilling
21 June 2019
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The drilling ship Yavuz left Turkey on 20 June bound for waters off Cyprus

The EU has threatened to impose sanctions on Turkey if it continues "illegal drilling" in waters near Cyprus in the eastern Mediterranean.

The warning came at an EU summit in Brussels. EU Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker called Turkey's actions "totally unacceptable".

Turkey launched a second drilling ship - the Yavuz - on Thursday for natural gas and oil prospecting off Cyprus.

The Republic of Cyprus is in the EU, but the breakaway north is pro-Turkey.

The European Council - the EU government leaders - called on Turkey to "show restraint, respect the sovereign rights of Cyprus and refrain from any such actions".

"The European Council endorses the invitation to the [EU] Commission and the EEAS [EU foreign affairs service] to submit options for appropriate measures without delay, including targeted measures," the statement said.

The self-declared Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus is recognised only by Turkey, and is internationally isolated.

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Turkey said it was drilling inside its continental shelf, complying with international law. Reuters news agency reported that a Turkish drilling ship, the Fatih, had been anchored west of Cyprus since early May and had begun drilling.

Turkey is a candidate for EU membership but its negotiations are currently frozen. The EU Commission has said President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's government has backtracked on pledges to improve justice and the rule of law. The government has purged state institutions since an abortive coup attempt against Mr Erdogan in July 2016.

Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras said the threatened EU measures "are against companies and individuals, a possible EU accession process freeze and measures with significant economic consequences".

"These will take place unless Turkey stops its illegal operations inside the Exclusive Economic Zone of Cyprus," he said in Brussels.

Turkey - a key Nato partner for the West - has extensive trade ties with the EU and has not yet been hit with EU sanctions, unlike Russia.
The US has threatened Turkey with sanctions if Mr Erdogan goes ahead with a deal to buy S-400 air defence missiles from Russia.

 

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Istanbul votes in mayoral re-run, in test for Turkish democracy, Erdogan
June 23, 2019
by Ezgi Erkoyun, Ali Kucukgocmen

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A woman shows a ballot paper at a polling station during a mayoral election re-run in Istanbul, Turkey, June 23, 2019. REUTERS/Murad Sezer


ISTANBUL (Reuters) - Millions of Istanbul residents voted on Sunday in a re-run of a mayoral election that has become a referendum on President Tayyip Erdogan’s policies and a test of Turkey’s ailing democracy.

In the initial March 31 vote, the opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) candidate secured a narrow victory over Erdogan’s AK Party (AKP) in Turkey’s largest city, a rare electoral defeat for the president.

But after weeks of AKP appeals, Turkey’s High Election Board in May annulled the vote citing irregularities. The opposition called the decision a “coup” against democracy, which has raised the stakes for round two.

“It is really ridiculous that the election is being re-run. It was an election won fair and square,” said Asim Solak, 50, who said he was voting for the opposition candidate in the CHP stronghold of Tesvikiye.

“It is clear who canceled the election. We hope this election re-run will be a big lesson for them,” he said.

Polling stations across Istanbul opened at 8 a.m. (0500 GMT), with 10.56 million people registered to vote in a city which makes up nearly a fifth of Turkey’s 82 million population. Voting ends at 5 p.m. Results will be announced in the evening.

Real estate agent Bayram, 60, said he voted for the AKP’s candidate, former prime minister Binali Yildirim, as he believed foreign powers the United States, Europe and Israel supported the opposition.

“All of these will want a piece from Istanbul and then there will be chaos. The enemy of my enemy is my friend. All these foreign powers don’t like Erdogan, so he is my friend,” he said after voting in Kagithane district, an AKP stronghold.

HIGH STAKES
Erdogan has repeated his line that “whoever wins Istanbul wins Turkey.” A second loss in the city, where in the 1990s he served as mayor, would be embarrassing for Erdogan and could weaken what until recently seemed to be his iron grip on power.

Turkey’s economy is in recession and the United States, its NATO ally, has threatened sanctions if Erdogan goes ahead with plans to install Russian missile defenses.

A second AKP loss could also shed further light into what CHP mayoral candidate Ekrem Imamoglu said was the misspending of billions of lira at the Istanbul municipality, which has a budget of around $4 billion.

“If Imamoglu wins again, there’s going to be a chain of serious changes in Turkish politics,” journalist and writer Murat Yetkin said.

“It will be interpreted as the beginning of a decline for AKP and for Erdogan as well,” he said, noting that the president himself had called the local elections “a matter of survival”.

Another Imamoglu win could eventually trigger a national election earlier than 2023 as scheduled, a cabinet reshuffle, and even a potential adjustment in foreign policy, Yetkin added.

To narrow the roughly 13,000-vote gap in March, the AKP re-calibrated its message recently to court Kurdish voters, who make up about 15% of voters in the city of 15 million.

The campaign received a twist when jailed Kurdish militant leader Abdullah Ocalan urged the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) to stay neutral in the vote. The HDP, which backs Imamoglu, accused Erdogan of trying to divide Kurds.

LOCAL PROTESTS
Having campaigned hard ahead of the March vote, a strategy that many within AKP believe has backfired, Erdogan initially kept a low-profile this month. But last week he returned to his combative campaigning and targeted Imamoglu directly, including threatening him with legal action, raising questions over whether the AKP would accept a second defeat.

Polls have shown Imamoglu, a former district mayor, retaining a lead over his AKP rival. Some polls put him up to 9 percentage points ahead, with his more inclusive message resonating with some voters.

The decision to re-run the vote drew international criticism and accusations from Turkey’s opposition of an erosion in the rule of law. Residents in several districts took to the streets banging pots and pans in protest.

Some voters told Reuters that an AKP victory on Sunday could lead to bigger protests.

The uncertainty over the fate of Istanbul, Turkey’s business hub, and potential delays in broader economic reforms, have kept financial markets on edge. Turkey’s lira currency tumbled after the decision to annul the March vote and is down nearly 10% this year in part on election jitters.

Additional reporting by Daren Butler, Ece Toksabay and Eylul Aytan; Writing by Tuvan Gumrukcu and Humeyra Pamuk; Editing by Jonathan Spicer, Gareth Jones and Muralikumar Anantharaman

 

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Istanbul mayoral re-run: Erdogan's ruling AKP lose again
23 June 2019

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Ekrem Imamoglu hailed the result as a "new beginning" for the city

Turkey's ruling party has lost control of Istanbul after a re-run of the city's mayoral election, latest results show.

The candidate for the main opposition party, Ekrem Imamoglu, won 54% of the vote with nearly all ballots counted.

He won a surprise victory in March which was annulled after the ruling AK party complained of irregularities.

His opponent, ex-PM Binali Yildirim, has conceded. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan congratulated the winner.
"I congratulate Ekrem Imamoglu who has won the election based on preliminary results," he tweeted.

But the result is being seen as a major setback for Mr Erdogan, who has previously said that "whoever wins Istanbul, wins Turkey".

In his victory speech, Mr Imamoglu said the result marked a "new beginning" for both the city and the country.
"We are opening up a new page in Istanbul," he said. "On this new page, there will be justice, equality, love."

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Opposition supporters celebrated after the results were announced

He added that he was willing to work with Mr Erdogan, saying: "Mr President, I am ready to work in harmony with you."
Mr Imamoglu's lead of more than 775,000 votes marks a huge increase on his victory in March, when he won by a margin of just 13,000.

Who were the candidates?
Mr Imamoglu, 49, is from the secular Republican People's Party and is mayor of Istanbul's Beylikduzu district.
But his name was barely known before he ran for mayor in the March election.

1561318584800.png

Binali Yildirim is an Erdogan loyalist

Mr Yildirim was a founding member of Mr Erdogan's AKP and was prime minister from 2016 until 2018, when Turkey became a presidential democracy and the role ceased to exist.

He was elected Speaker of the new parliament in February and before that served as minister of transportation and communication.

Why was the previous result annulled?

Mr Imamoglu's narrow victory of 13,000 votes in March was not enough for Mr Yildirim to accept defeat.
The ruling party alleged that votes were stolen and many ballot box observers did not have official approval, leading the election board to demand a re-run of he vote.
Critics argue that pressure from President Erdogan was behind the decision.

Why is this election so important?
Mr Erdogan, who is from Istanbul, was elected mayor in 1994.

He founded the AKP in 2001 and served as prime minister between 2003 and 2014, before becoming president.

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Mr Erdogan, seen voting, is a native of Istanbul and a former mayor of the city

But cracks in the party are now beginning to show and analysts suggest these could be exacerbated by this loss.
"Erdogan is extremely worried," Murat Yetkin, a journalist and writer, said ahead of the vote.
"He is playing every card he has. If he loses, by whatever margin, it's the end of his steady political rise over the past quarter of a century," he added.
"In reality, he'll still be president, his coalition will still control parliament - although many will perceive his defeat as the beginning of the end for him."

 

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Turkey's opposition strikes blow to Erdogan with Istanbul mayoral win
24 June 2019
by Humeyra Pamuk, Jonathan Spicer


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Ekrem Imamoglu, mayoral candidate of the main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP), greets supporters at a rally of in Beylikduzu district, in Istanbul, Turkey, June 23, 2019. REUTERS/Kemal Aslan

ISTANBUL (Reuters) - Turkey’s opposition has dealt President Tayyip Erdogan a stinging blow by winning control of Istanbul in a re-run mayoral election, breaking his aura of invincibility and delivering a message from voters unhappy over his ever tighter grip on power.

Ekrem Imamoglu of the secularist Republican People’s Party (CHP) secured 54.21% of votes, the head of the High Election Board announced on Monday - a far wider victory margin than his narrow win three months ago.

The previous result was annulled after protests from Erdogan’s Islamist-rooted AK Party, which said there had been widespread voting irregularities. The decision to re-run the vote was criticized by Western allies and caused uproar among domestic opponents who said Turkey’s democracy was under threat.

On Sunday and in the early hours Monday, tens of thousands of Imamoglu supporters celebrated in the streets of Istanbul after the former businessman triumphed over Erdogan’s handpicked candidate by almost 800,000 votes.

“In this city today, you have fixed democracy. Thank you Istanbul,” Imamoglu told supporters who made heart signs with their hands, in an expression of the inclusive election rhetoric that has been the hallmark of his campaigning.

“We came to embrace everyone,” he said. “We will build democracy in this city, we will build justice. In this beautiful city, I promise, we will build the future.”

Erdogan congratulated him for the victory and Imamoglu’s rival, Binali Yildirim of the ruling AK Party (AKP), wished him luck as mayor barely two hours after polls closed.

WANING SUPPORT
Erdogan has ruled Turkey since 2003, first as prime minister and then as president, becoming the country’s most dominant politician since its founder, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, nearly a century ago.

His AKP has strong support among pious and conservative Turks and its stewardship of Turkey’s economy through a decade and a half of construction-fuelled growth helped Erdogan win more than a dozen national and local elections.

But economic recession and a financial crisis have eroded that support and Erdogan’s ever-tighter control over government has alarmed some voters.

Turkey’s lira tumbled after the decision to annul the March vote and is down 8% this year, in part on election jitters.

But assets rallied on Monday as investors welcomed the removal of one source of political uncertainty. The lira firmed 1% against the dollar, shares rose nearly 2% and bond yields fell.

Imamoglu won support even in traditionally pious Istanbul districts, once known as AK Party strongholds, ending the 25-year-long Islamist rule in the country’s largest city.

“This re-run (election) was one to put an end to the dictatorship,” said Gulcan Demirkaya, a 48-year-old housewife in Istanbul’s AKP-leaning Kagithane district. “God willing, I would like to see him as the president in five years’ time. The one-man rule should come to an end.”

FALLOUT IN ANKARA
The results are likely to trigger a new chapter in Turkish politics, now that the country’s top three cities now held by the opposition. Cracks could also emerge within Erdogan’s AKP, bringing the economic troubles more to the fore.

“This is definitely going to have an impact on the future of Turkish politics given the margin of victory. It’s alarming sign for the AKP establishment,” said Sinan Ulgen, visiting scholar at Carnegie Europe in Brussels and former Turkish diplomat.

Analysts say the loss could set off a Cabinet reshuffle in Ankara and adjustments to foreign policy. The leader of the AKP’s nationalist ally played down the prospect that the loss could even trigger a national election earlier 2023, when the next polls are scheduled.

“The election process should close,” MHP party leader Devlet Bahceli said. “Talking of an early election would be among the worst things that can be done to our country.”

The uncertainty over the fate of Istanbul and potential delays in broader economic reforms have kept financial markets on edge. Threats of sanctions by the United States if Erdogan goes ahead with plans to install Russian missile defenses have also weighed on the markets.

A Council of Europe delegation said its observers were given a “less than friendly reception” in some places and had “too many unnecessarily aggressive and argumentative encounters to ignore,” but that the election was conducted competently.

“The citizens of Istanbul elected a new mayor in a well-organized and transparent vote, albeit in tense circumstances,” delegation head Andrew Dawson said in a statement.

Reporting by Humeyra Pamuk and Jonathan Spicer; Additional reporting by Ezgi Erkoyun, Ali Kucukgocmen and Daren Butler; Writing by Dominic Evans; Editing by Jon Boyle

 

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Turkish court releases U.S. Consulate worker from house arrest
June 25, 2019

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Nazmi Mete Canturk

ISTANBUL (Reuters) - A Turkish court ruled on Tuesday to release U.S. Consulate employee Nazmi Mete Canturk from house arrest on health grounds but said he could not leave the country during his trial.

Canturk, a security officer at the U.S. Consulate in Istanbul, and his wife and daughter are accused of links to the network of Fethullah Gulen, the U.S.-based Muslim cleric blamed by Ankara for a failed 2016 coup.

In court on Tuesday, Canturk denied he is a member of Gulen’s organization. That charge was set out an indictment which also said Canturk was in contact with dozens of people under investigation for membership of Gulen’s network.

However, he said he only spoke with officials who he needed to contact as required by his job. “The people in these offices are public officials appointed by the state. It is impossible for me to know if these people had criminal records. There was no such obligation on my part,” he said.

Canturk said that in addition to having hypertension and diabetes, he suffered a heart attack in 2008 and needs to see his doctor regularly. His long house arrest has worsened his health, he said. “This measure, which has continued for 17 months, has turned into a punishment.”

Taking into account his 17 months spent under house arrest and his health, the court released him from house arrest and ordered him to report to local authorities as the trial continues.

U.S. Charges d’Affaires Jeffrey Hovenier welcomed the move.

“We continue to have seen no evidence to support the charges brought against him, and we reiterate our call for this process, as well as other processes involving our unjustly detained staff, to be resolved quickly, transparently and fairly,” he told journalists outside the courthouse.

Canturk is the third U.S. consulate worker to stand trial and face charges of membership of an armed terrorist organization.

One of the three, Hamza Ulucay, was sentenced to four-and-a-half years in prison on terrorism charges but was released in January, with travel restrictions, after almost two years in detention.

Reporting by Ali Kucukgocmen; Writing by Ezgi Erkoyun and Sarah Dadouch; Editing by Dominic Evans

 

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After loss, Erdogan vows to listen to people’s ‘messages’
25 June 2019
By SUZAN FRASER
18 minutes ago

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Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, left, with Binali Yildirim, his mayoral candidate for Istanbul, attends parliament in Ankara, Turkey, Tuesday, June 25, 2019, two days after Ekrem Imamoglu, the candidate of the secular opposition Republican People's Party, won the election for mayor of Istanbul. Erdogan addressed his AK Party's weekly meeting, the first time he speaks since the Istanbul mayoral election Sunday, which was a big setback for him and his party. (AP Photo/Burhan Ozbilici)

ANKARA, Turkey (AP) — In his first public appearance since a crushing defeat in a rerun election for mayor of Istanbul, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Tuesday vowed to draw lessons and make adjustments in line with “the messages given by the people.”

Addressing legislators from his ruling party in Parliament, Erdogan again congratulated opposition candidate Ekrem Imamoglu who garnered 54.21% of the vote in Istanbul on Sunday to become Istanbul’s mayor. Erdogan had previously congratulated Imamoglu in a tweet.

Sunday’s results came as a rare electoral defeat for Erdogan and broke the Islamic-leaning ruling party’s decades-old grip on Turkey’s most important city. It was also a personal blow to Erdogan whose rise in Turkish politics had started with his own election as Istanbul mayor 25 years ago.

“In line with our political understanding, we cannot be angry or hold a grudge or blame the people,” Erdogan told his party’s legislators. “We don’t have the luxury of turning a deaf ear and ignoring the messages given by the people,”

He said his ruling party, which is scheduled to meet later Tuesday, would determine its “failings, disunity and errors” and look for ways to fix them.

In a related development, Erdogan in his speech marked the anniversary of last year’s electoral win that also ushered in a new political system by abolishing the office of the prime minister and vastly expanded the powers of the president. Critics say the system has eroded democracy and paved the way to one-man rule.

Erdogan said the people and country had “accepted” and “adjusted” to the new system but stated that a committee lead by Vice President Fuat Oktay, would nevertheless be formed to assess possible shortcomings.

Hours later, Kemal Kilicdaroglu, who leads the main opposition party that backed Imamoglu, called for the new presidential system to be scrapped.
“Let’s lift this one-man regime and build a democratic system,” Kilicdaroglu said in a speech in Parliament.

Speaking to journalists on his way out of parliament, Erdogan wouldn’t rule out a Cabinet reshuffle following Sunday’s defeat.
“If one is needed we will do it, but we won’t take an order,” Erdogan said.

Sunday’s repeat election in Istanbul was held after the ruling party challenged the first vote over alleged irregularities, and Turkey’s electoral board nullified the results and revoked Imamoglu’s mandate after 18 days. Imamoglu won by around 800,000 votes more than his rival, compared with a 13,000-vote margin in the first vote.

The win electrified the secular party that has been spent nearly two decades in lackluster opposition as Erdogan strengthened his hold on power. The opposition also gained hold of the municipality of the capital, Ankara, in the March 31 local elections.

 

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Turkey revives plan to tap 46 billion lira in central bank legal reserves: sources
June 27, 2019
Orhan Coskun

View attachment 8596
FILE PHOTO: A merchant counts Turkish lira banknotes at the Grand Bazaar in Istanbul, Turkey, March 29, 2019. REUTERS/Murad Sezer/File Photo

ANKARA (Reuters) - Turkey’s government is reviving plans to transfer the central bank’s 46 billion lira ($8 billion) in legal reserves to its deteriorating budget to shore it up and is also considering adjusting some tax measures as it battles recession, sources said.

A Treasury official and three other sources familiar with the plans confirmed that the funds - which are separate from the central bank’s foreign exchange reserves - were being eyed to help narrow a budget deficit that has widened by 225% in the first five months of the year.

The Treasury ministry’s proposals were expected to be presented to parliament in a few weeks, after which they could be passed into law, the sources said.
Such a transfer from the central bank would mark the latest unorthodox attempt by President Tayyip Erdogan’s government to pull Turkey out of recession and steady the lira following a currency crisis last year.

Reuters reported in May that the Treasury was working on a plan to transfer some 40 billion lira of the legal reserves, but it was later shelved amid a market backlash including worries about weakening the bank’s ability to respond to another crisis.

The “legal reserves” are what the central bank sets aside from profits by law to be used in extraordinary circumstances.
“The planned regulation amendment for legal reserves was not completely dropped. It was on hold during that time,” said one of the officials with knowledge of the matter. “There is a will that it would be included into a proposed legislation.”

Turkey’s budget recorded a 66.5 billon-lira deficit in the first five months of this year, even after the central bank transferred in some 37 billion lira in profits in January, Treasury and Finance Ministry data showed.

The government predicts an 80.6 billion lira deficit this year, or a 1.8% ratio versus Turkey’s GDP. Economists generally expect the ratio to be more than 3%, though the addition of the legal reserves would lower that by about one percentage point.

MONEY OF LAST RESORT

Last month, economists warned that the planned transfer risked depleting the central bank’s last-ditch defenses while also making the budget more reliant on one-off income boosts.

“This is the money for difficult times. It should not be used to continue faulty policies...This is clearly wrong. Turn back from this mistake,” said Ozgur Demirtas, the finance desk chairman at Sabanci University.

The Reuters story sparked a selloff on May 13. But the lira has strengthened some 5% since then. It stood at 5.7705 per U.S. dollar at 1108 GMT, roughly unchanged from Wednesday’s close.

Erkin Isik, the chief economist at QNB Finansbank, said such a move could set the stage for similar steps in the years ahead as Turkey’s fiscal position becomes less stable.

TAXATION CHANGES
The tax measures under consideration included introducing a new income tax band of around 50% for those earning annual income of more than 1 million lira, three of the sources said. They also included reducing the corporate tax rate to 20% from 22%, they said.

Turkey currently applies up to 35% income tax at the highest income band.
“A possible change in tax levels is still being evaluated, but increasing income tax to around 50% for people with over 1 million lira income is on the table,” a second official said.

The lira lost 30% against the dollar last year and another 10% so far this year in part due to worries about a run-down in the central bank’s net reserves, which are different from legal reserves. At end-2018, the legal reserves stood at 27.6 billion lira, according to the bank’s balance sheet data.

“It is a reality that the budget needs to be supported,” a third official told Reuters.

“The expected transfer of 46 billion lira in legal reserves would in part fix the outlook of the budget. We will see this amount in the budget after the final approval” by Erdogan.

Reporting by Orhan Coskun; Additional reporting by Nevzat Devranoglu and Behiye Selin Taner; Writing by Jonathan Spicer; Editing by Dominic Evans and Toby Chopra

 

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New Istanbul mayor a catalyst for change in old Erdogan stronghold
27 June 2019
Daren Butler



View attachment 8597
Ekrem Imamoglu, mayoral candidate of the main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP), greets supporters at a rally of in Beylikduzu district, in Istanbul, Turkey, June 23, 2019. REUTERS/Kemal Aslan


ISTANBUL (Reuters) - Through his 16 years in power, Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan has been able to rely on the pious electorate of Istanbul’s Eyup district, where for centuries Ottoman sultans received their ceremonial sword after ascending to the throne.

But on Sunday, it turned its back on his Islamist-rooted AK Party (AKP) for the first time since 2002 and helped opposition candidate Ekrem Imamoglu become mayor - a historic reverse that could also spell trouble for Erdogan in Turkey’s Anatolian heartland, where his grip on power could also be vulnerable.

Several voters in Eyup who ditched the AKP criticized Erdogan’s campaign rhetoric as divisive and - perhaps more alarming for the president as the country grapples with economic hardship and a debilitating row with the United States - praised Imamoglu’s strong rapport with Turks of all kinds.

“Imamoglu has a stance which is more embracing of society. He opened himself up and accepted everyone with encompassing and constructive language,” said retired teacher Ahmet Cetin, 57, adding that he and his wife used to back the AKP.

The abrupt turnaround in Eyup, where Imamoglu - a practicising Muslim but belonging to the secularist Republican People’s Party (CHP) - took 54% of the vote, was mirrored in other traditional AKP strongholds across the city.

There is speculation, thus far dismissed by Imamoglu, that the 49-year-old could use Istanbul as a platform to challenge Erdogan nationally as the CHP’s future presidential candidate.

Cetin said that, if he was to build on his election success, Imamoglu needed above all to retain affinity with voters in Anatolia, the territory in Asia that makes up most of Turkey and where people are more conservative.

For one such Eyup voter, Ayse Esintokan from Kahramanmaras in southern Turkey, he is already doing that.
“We like the way he speaks, as someone from Anatolia like us. He speaks like one of the people and mixes with them,” she said outside her spices store.

‘HIS OWN PATH’
Due to take office on Thursday after 25 years of rule by the AKP and its Islamist predecessors, Imamoglu was little known across Turkey three months ago.
He narrowly won an initial election in March that was annulled after AKP appeals, setting up Sunday’s re-run which gave him a decisive victory.

Many of Istanbul’s 15 million residents have roots elsewhere in the country and, after carrying a sense of injustice through a campaign in which he sought to bridge divides between devout and secularist voters, he now shoulders the expectations of a long lackluster opposition.

Esintokan said whether Imamoglu would be equal to the task would depend on him maintaining a distance from the CHP’s traditional secularist stance. “He can achieve success if he goes on his own path,” she said.

She and others criticized CHP leader Kemal Kilicdaroglu as divisive and polarizing - an accusation also commonly leveled at Erdogan.
“Imamoglu is not the classic CHP profile,” said retired teacher Cetin.

If he “can maintain that old embracing style of the Anatolian people he will succeed. But if he returns to the old CHP it can end with a CHP fiasco,” he said while walking with his wife near the Eyup Sultan Mosque.

Imamoglu prayed there after his win in March, and its origins date back to the Ottoman conquest of Istanbul in 1453. It contains a mausoleum marking the spot where the Prophet Mohammad’s standard bearer is said to be buried.

While some praised the new mayor’s campaign style, others among the 10 voters whom Reuters spoke to worried that Erdogan - himself a former Istanbul mayor and who prayed at the same mosque on the eve of Sunday’s election - was being unfairly dismissed.

Shopkeeper Zulkarni Okunus, 57, said voters had either ignored Erdogan’s achievements in developing Turkey or were too young to appreciate them.
“The people showed ingratitude,” he said as he drank tea with friends at a table outside his shop. “Imamoglu does not have any successes. Nobody knows him.”

Yet Erdogan’s campaigning style alienated others, who noted a contradiction in him accusing the opposition of terrorism links and then highlighting a call by jailed Kurdish militant leader Abdullah Ocalan for the pro-Kurdish party to remain neutral in the vote.

“Who cooperated with the terrorists in the last three days of the election? People are not stupid,” said women’s hairdresser Cemil Canbayraktar, 37, who had supported the AKP in the past.

“The president came from this municipality in his time,” he added. “Ekrem Imamoglu is now going through the same thing and there will be better and greater days. All the people believe this.”

Reporting by Daren Butler; Editing by Jonathan Spicer and John Stonestreet

 

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Russia Supplies Three Ka-32 Helicopters to Turkey
July 3, 2019

Russian Helicopters KA-32 choppers

Russian Helicopters has completed delivery of three multipurpose Ka-32 helicopters to Turkey, the company's CEO said on July 3.

"We have completed execution of the contract to supply three Ka-32 helicopters to Turkey," Andrey Boginsky, the CEO of JSC Russian Helicopters, told reporters on the sidelines of the ARMY-2019 forum in Moscow Oblast.

He added that Moscow and Ankara are engaged in talks about buying more copters from the firm.

Russia and Turkey signed the deal for the Ka-32s at the Eurasia Airshow last year in the Turkish Mediterranean resort of Antalya.

The helicopters are supposed to be used in firefighting. Calling the Turkish market “one of the most promising,” this April Boginsky said based on the size of the country, Turkey needs more helicopters to fight fires.

The helicopters delivery comes at a time when the US has threatened to cut it off the F-35 stealth jet supply chain and impose sanctions if it proceeds with the purchase of Russian S-400 air defence systems.

 

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