15 July 2014 News Roundup

Photo credit: www.cafesiyaset.com

[tabby title=”Presidential Election 2014″]

Presidential election campaigns of three candidates continue amid criticisms of unequal opportunities in the race. Both Democratic People’s Party’s (HDP) candidate Selahattin Demirtas and Republican People’s Party (CHP) candidate Ihsanoglu stated that their campaigns are not represented on the media, especially on the state channel TRT. Additionally, PM Recep Tayyip Erdogan is accused of taking advantage of his current position that he can make use of state facilities for his campaign. Due to calls for his resignation, The Higher Election Board (YSK) announced that PM Erdogan has a constitutional right to run for presidency whilst maintaining his current post. A CHP MP, Aykan Erdermir, asked the three candidates to share donations made to their campaigns. PM Erdogan has not responded to this call yet.

PM Erdogan declared in his presidential vision announcement that he will be a strong and active president and he will campaign for a new constitution in order to enhance further democratisation reforms, civil rights and judiciary and economic development. Insiders of government circles stated that a referendum on presidential system will be held in 2015, which will give greater authorities to the president and will change the system of governance in Turkey. The Justice and Development Party (AKP) will have 312 MPs in parliament if Erdogan becomes President and 330 MPs’ support is required for implementing such a referendum.

Erdogan has promised to keep up with the Kurdish Peace Process to ensure the ‘project of brotherhood’ is achieved.

[tabby title=”Aftermath of Soma Disaster”]

It seems less likely that coal mines in Turkey will be required to have ‘a life room’ to be protected from fatal accidents in mines. Questions over such rooms came about following to Turkey’s deadliest mine disaster in May 2014 as there was nowhere for the 301 miners to escape to. A CHP MP put a motion forward with regards to compulsory life rooms in mines, however, AKP’s commission has rejected the motion unanimously. Energy Minister, Taner Yildiz, commented that this issue has not been debated in parliament yet, hence final decision on life rooms will yet to be made.

The workers in the Soma mine, where the terrible fire had occurred taking the lives of 301 people, have decided to go to Ankara and protest the government’s new draft law. The government had promised to improve the conditions of the workers with the new law proposed to parliament after the Soma incident. However, workers do not believe their conditions will significantly improve with the new law, thus have decided to walk to the parliament on Wednesday the 16th of July. Some of their disappointments are that;

  • PM Erdogan had promised that workers working underground will earn at least 2000 TL, however the new law grants 1600 TL
  • PM and ministers had promised that the workers would get 6 bonuses. But this is not included in the draft law
  • The victims of the fire would be given the status of civil martyrs for their relatives to receive certain benefits, but again this has not been the case
  • The new law recognises work hours of the miners as 6 hours, however, this does not include the time they need to prepare for the work underground
  • The premiums for official holidays and annual leaves would be paid, but this has not been included in the draft law
  • As promised by PM Erdogan, employers would not be allowed to use sub-contractors, however the draft law allows for the sub-contractors to be employed for the main job of the mine
  • As mentioned earlier, the inclusion of “life rooms” as obligatory in mines has not been the case.

[tabby title=”Gezi trials”]

The third hearing of the Ali İsmail Korkmaz case was held. Korkmaz was beaten and killed during the Gezi Protests. Many human rights activists and Members of Parliament attended the hearing, alongside Korkmaz’s family.

[tabby title=”Gender crimes”]

  • 30 women’s organisations protested in Kumkapı, Istanbul against sexual assaults on refugee women.
  • A 19-year old man killed his fiancé after having learned that she was not a virgin. He surrendered to the police.
  • A man suspected of rape over a 14-year old girl was acquitted, on a decision of the Court saying that the girl was actually one year older.
  • A transgender sex worker sues the Interior Ministry after having been fined and detained by police for causing disturbance.
  • A group of men in Adana beat 4 LGBT activists with threats and insults.

[tabby title=”Syria, Iraq and the Kurdish Peace Process”]

The Kurdistan Democratic Communities’ Union (KCK) co-presidency announced that the Kurdish peace process cannot continue whilst Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIS) attacks Kurdish towns Rojova and Kobani. KCK claims that the Turkish government supports ISIS against Kurdish fractions by opening its borders. Similarly, HDP co-chair Selahattin Demirtas warned that if Turkey does not stop ISIS advancement into Rojova, ISIS could enter into Turkish border and occupy border city of Turkey, Hatay.

A joint announcement has been made, with the signature of dozens of artists, against the attacks in Rojova. The artists stated that they will be walking to the border with Syria as a protest against the inactivity of the international community against the ISIS attacks on Rojova.

The President of the Iraqi Kurdish Regional Government Mesud Barzani is visiting Ankara with four other ministers. The main topics discussed were

The advancement of ISIS in Iraq

The state of the diplomatic personnel being held hostage by ISIS

Oil trade in the region

The status of the Kurdish region in Iraq

Meanwhile, a group of around 1000 people protested in Kahramanmaraş against the Syrian refugee population living in the city. The group claimed that recent crimes have been committed in the city by the Syrian population and demanded that they leave Turkey. The police intervened to stop the group that was walking to reach the area where the Syrian population’s tents had been set up.

Adana, too, saw a violent group attack the businesses of Syrian refugees in the city. A group of men armed with large knives and covered in masks attacked the Syrians’ shops, breaking the glass and damaging their products.

The MetroPoll Strategic and Social Research Centre have conducted a poll in Turkey regarding the government’s foreign policy. According to the results, the majority of the people who attended the poll found the AKP’s foreign policy in the Middle East, especially in Iraq unsuccessful.

Here are the details of the poll, which was conducted in 28 cities on 2268 people:

– 41,3% find AKP’s foreign policy successful and 51,2% unsuccessful

– 28% find AKP’s policy towards Iraq successful and 57,7% unsuccessful

– 51,2% think ISIS is organizing itself in Turkey but 26,1% does not think so

– 48,8% think ISIS could conduct a terror attack in Turkey but 29,1% do not think so [/show_hide]

[tabby title=”Economy”]

Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) revised its economic growth expectations for Turkey from 2.8% to 3.3% for 2014 and kept 4% growth expectations for 2015 in its Turkey Economic Outlook. OECD noted that Turkey is expected to sustain positive economic growth while continuing the dependency of domestic consumption to the external sources of funding.

It was emphasised in the report that Turkey needs to think about right economic policies in order to keep the accelerating inflation, volatilities in exchange rates and increase in credit volume at sustainable levels. It was reported that the global economic recovery affects Turkey positively and yet Turkey needs to focus on structural reforms that would improve its productivity and enhance its competitiveness.

Economic recovery in Europe combined with the shrinking domestic demand boosted exports as opposed to imports and narrowed down the trade deficit in the first five months of the year. Accordingly, current account deficits became $3.4 billion in May and decreased by 39% to $19.8 billion between January and May.

On the issue of funding current account deficit, it appears that portfolio inflows into Turkey keep continuing and there seems to be no problem on the rollover ratio of foreign borrowing for private sector.  This was also confirmed by JCR, international credit rating agency, in its report on Turkey that shows the sovereign credit rate as “BBB-“, which is the lowest note for investment grade, and the outlook as stable. In the report, JCR, noted the tight fiscal policy and strict banking supervision as positive and yet warned against low saving ratios, high inflation and the dependency on intermediate goods.

However, manufacturing production does not reflect the same momentum. Industrial production increased by 3.3% lower than market expectations of 4 % as per last year and decreased by 1% as per last month. Considering the decrease in Purchasing Managers Index (PMI) to 48.8, it looks like industrial production will slow down further in the rest of the year.