15 April 2014 News Roundup

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Democracy in Turkey is being fundamentally questioned: the ban on YouTube continues; the workers are not given permission to celebrate May Day in Taksim Square; the Gezi Report claimed that using excessive tear gas was legitimate in Istanbul last year; the tension between the government and the Constitutional Court grows into a political row; and the proposed bill on National Intelligence Service grants the MIT expansive authorities over any other institution. Meanwhile, Turkish Lira has been gaining some of its lost value while the country’s current account deficit declined slightly in early 2014.

Disputes over election results have not settled.

Even though AKP candidate Melih Gokcek has officially started his new term, the CHP candidate Yavas had appealed to the first instance court, to be rejected. His appeal to the High Council of Elections for the results to be cancelled has also been rejected.

An urgent action plan was drafted by a council established by PM Erdogan before the local elections. The report submitted to PM Erdogan last week was drafted to analyse the local elections and to advise certain measures to be implemented by the government. It suggests that;

  • the government should ensure accountability and transparency in the fight against corruption,
  • the electorate expects the government to cleanse the ‘parallel state’ internally and externally
  • the government should strengthen relationships with Western allies by emphasizing the continuity of the democratisation process in Turkey,
  • the government should carry out its reforms with more confidence in the peace negotiations.

The fight over YouTube continues.

After the Golbasi penal court removed the ban on YouTube, the Communication Technologies Institution (BTK) insisted on the ban, saying that the content that has led to the initial ban was not removed. Meanwhile, whether Twitter will open offices in Turkey has become a significant issue in Turkish media.

May Day celebrations will not take place in Taksim Square.

As May 1st approaches, workers organisations have made a call to gather in Taksim Square. However the mayor of Istanbul has announced this will not be allowed, saying collective celebration will not be permitted in Taksim Square. Meanwhile the head of the Confederation of Progressive Trade Unions has stated their determination to celebrate International Workers Day in the historic square of Istanbul. The European Court of Human Rights had previously ruled that the Turkish authorities’ prevention of May Day celebrations in Taksim Square as a violation of the right to assembly.

Interior Ministry’s report on the Gezi protests cleared the police and Istanbul’s Governor of excessive use of violence in Istanbul.

A Gezi Report by the Ministry of Interior has been released. The report has absolved the police and the governor of Istanbul from charges of using excessive violence against the protestors in Istanbul last summer. The report defined the events as having escalated from the burning of the tents in Gezi Park by the municipal police stating that this arbitrary event was relayed on social and mainstream media so as to inspire wider protests. The report added that marginal groups manipulated the crowds, vandalising public property. The Interior Ministry accused the protestors of not being conciliatory, but of forcing the police to use water cannons and tear gas.

An intelligence bill known as the National Intelligence Organization (MIT) Law was back in the agenda this week.

The bill had received serious criticism from the opposition and President Gul in February 2014 and was postponed to after the local elections. The draft bill aims to expand powers of the MIT, which will have the authority to fulfill all kinds of tasks regarding external and national security issues and terrorism if it is approved by the parliament. See here proposed items of the item. The draft bill grants the MIT the authority to negotiate with terrorist organizations, which would legally protect the peace process talks. Responding to Gul’s reservations on the bill in February, the government will reportedly take the amended draft bill to the President before discussing it in the parliament.

Constitutional Court overturned some articles of the bill on the Supreme Board of Judges and Prosecutors (HSYK).

The ruling came after an appeal by a CHP MP regarding the new authorities granted to the Justice Minister with the new bill. The court ruled that extensive authorities granted to the Ministry of Justice over the HSYK should be redefined for concerns over the independence of the judiciary and separation of powers. Justice Minister, Bekir Bozdag, questioned the timing of the ruling and commented that the Constitutional Court should not be politically motivated. He added that the new members of the HSYK appointed after the bill will not be replaced as the ruling does apparently have no retrospective effect.

On a different note…

  • A court in the southeastern city of Diyarbakır has released 48 of the 91 prisoners held under arrest within the scope of the case against Kurdistan Communities Union (KCK). Arrested members of the KCK, the urban wing of the PKK, were released mostly for having served lengthy detentions.
  • The CHP leader, Kemal Kilicdaroglu, was physically attacked in the Turkish Parliament on his way to a party meeting. Other political parties condemned the assault as an attack against democracy. Parliamentary Speaker held a meeting with representatives of four political parties to tighten security in the parliament.
  • The former CEO of Halkbank, Suleyman Aslan, is now assigned as a member of executive board of another state-owned bank, Ziraat Bank. Suleyman Aslan was taken into custody during the graft probe that started on 17th December and was charged for money-laundering. He was unanimously elected as a member for 3 years.
  • MP for the pro-Kurdish party BDP, Demir Çelik stated that pilot projects have begun in the southeastern cities of Hakkari and Şırnak for autonomous rule by the local Kurdish authorities.

Industrial production increased by 4.9 % in the second month of the 2014 compared to last year. The 7.3% increase in the production at the beginning of 2014 was sustained with the support of export related production. The 4.9% increase surpassed the 4% expectations according to Turkey Statistics Institute (TUIK).

This week Turkish Lira appreciated against dollar and retreated to the levels around 2.09. The gains in Lira are partially due to;

  • the inflows into the emerging markets after expectations on a possible rate increase by FED diminished
  • weak domestic corporate demand.

The IMF has warned Turkey of its external imbalances.

The IMF announced this year’s first of semi-annual Global Financial Stability Report. The report analyses the economic trends in the world and Turkey is also warned for its external imbalances. It is stated that Turkey is dissociated from the other emerging markets including Brazil, India, Indonesia and South Africa due to its high external financing requirements and macro-volatilities.

  • High inflation and current account deficit are named as the major problems for Turkish economy.
  • The dependence on portfolio investments to finance external deficit is emphasised once more.
  • It is also added that developing countries including Turkey are facing transitional risks between liquidity-oriented economy and growth-oriented economy.

Turkey’s current account deficit has slightly decreased.

Meanwhile, current account deficit has been announced as $ 3.19 billion in February. The $ 4.88 billion deficit in January is revised to $ 4.93 billion and amounted to $ 8.12 billion in the first two months in this year. The decline in the deficit is coming partially from decreasing trade deficit by $ 2.5 billion and partially from an increase in FDI of $ 514 million.

Moody’s downgraded Turkey sovereign outlook to negative.

It seems not everyone thinks that Turkey has survived its recent political turmoil and economic instability. The reasons for Moody’s downgrade were the risks to Turkey’s external financing positions and domestic and foreign investor confidence by increasing political instability and diminishing global liquidity.

 

CEFTUS Insights Editors

 

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