6 May 2014 News Roundup
Disputes over celebrating International Workers’ Day in Taksim Square led to strong police intervention against those gathered for May Day. Press freedom in Turkey dropped from “partially free” to “not free” category by the Freedom House. While, the controversial dialogue between the head of the Constitutional Court and the AKP continued, so did the confusing remarks about AKP’s presidential candidacy. Amidst discussions of the Armenian Genocide, pro-Kurdish party BDP party members moved to sister HDP. Meanwhile, Turkey’s economy showed more resilience than expected against Fed’s tapering, while the trade deficit contracted and the central bank revised its inflation expectations for 2014.
17 and 25 December graft probes have been investigated by the newly appointed Supreme Board of Judges and Prosecutors (HSYK)
It is claimed that the HSYK might start an investigation into three graft probe prosecutors and a judge who issued court orders for the arrest and freezing of assets of graft suspects. Since December, 17 investigations into 60 people, who were directly or indirectly linked to the current government, were launched and all cases have been dropped following the government’s reshuffle of judges and prosecutors. The government claims that the graft probes were coup attempts to topple the democratically elected AKP government and that the Gulen movement is responsible for these actions. It was announced that legal action has been taken against the US based preacher Fettullah Gulen on charges of attempting to overthrow the government. It is suggested that charges against Gulen will be dealt with as crimes against constitution. PM Erdogan stated that the government will request Gulen’s extradition to Turkey.
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National Security Council meeting was held last week. Issues of national security due to ‘illegal organisations attempting to overthrow the government’ within the state and Syrian war as well as alliance of Hamas and El Fetih in Palestine, death penalties in Egypt, elections in turbulent Iraq and Ukrainian crisis were discussed in the meeting.
The summary of proceedings of the four ex-ministers was read out to the assembly in the Turkish Parliament on 5 May 2014. However, the sessions were not televised by the Parliament TV for no official reason. Former Economy Minister Zafer Çağlayan, former EU Minister Egemen Bağış, former Interior Minister Muammer Güler and former Urbanization and Environment Planning Minister Erdoğan Bayraktar had to resign following corruption allegations and detentions of sons of some of the ministers as part of 17 and 25 December graft probe. Motions for four former ministers were filed by the Republican People’s Party (CHP).
Hundreds of demonstrators took part in May Day rallies
1 May International Labour Day celebrations / protests witnessed injuries of hundreds of people in Istanbul. 173 people were detained, but only 18 protestors were sent to courts by prosecutors. Police used tears, water cannons and rubber bullets at times on the day and not only protestors but members of the public including young children were heavily affected by the use of tear gas. The government concerned about ‘terrorism’ by unions banned Taksim Square which is a symbolic location of May Day rallies.
The constitutional court had also rejected the individual application to hold May Day protests in Taksim Square. The court noted that all avenues of domestic law prior to applying to the Constitutional Court were not exhausted.
21 Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) MPs joined the newly founded sister party People’s Democracy Party (HDP)
The pro-Kurdish BDP which won many municipalities in the March Local Elections will continue to operate more on the local level in the south-eastern Turkey and the new HDP aims to bring together left-wing parties throughout Turkey in order to create an alternative to right wing parties.
The imprisoned Kurdistan Worker’s Party (PKK) leader, Abdullah Ocalan, stated in a letter that he would not rule out a restart of conflict in the region although he would like the peace process to continue.
Intelligence Bill was approved by President Gul
President Gul approved the controversial intelligence law which would grant extraordinary powers to the Turkish National Intelligence Organisation (MIT). Please see here for more on the new law.
Controversial dialogue between the AKP government and the Constitutional Court carried out this week
Since the Turkish Constitutional Court ruled that Twitter ban was a violation of freedom of expression, PM Erdogan and several members of the government made controversial statements against the court. The Court’s President Hasim Kilic made a speech as a response to the accusations such as that the court acts against the ‘nation’s will and that the court is part of ‘parallel state’ which aims to topple the AKP government. Kilic defended the rule of law and freedoms and stated that such values are universal. Following to this, the government claimed that Kilic and the other top judges of the court must be blackmailed by the’ parallel state’ as they had been wiretapped, too.
The US based Freedom House published a report on freedom of press in Turkey, which rated press in Turkey from ‘partially free’ to ‘not free’
The report pointed out that 44 journalists are imprisoned as reported by the Committee to Protect Journalist (CPJ) for criticism of the government. FM Davutoglu stated that the report is politically motivated and biased and added “The report, based on the data of the Platform of Solidarity with Detained Journalists, says there are 44 detained journalists in Turkey. As of May 2, only 17 of those journalists were imprisoned, 13 of them were jailed pending trial and 12 of them released”.
Discussions regarding the Armenian Genocide surfaced following PM Erdogan’s message
PM Erdogan’s statement of condolences on the massacre of Armenians in 1915 was published prior to 24 April on which Armenians worldwide commemorate the victims of the killings. Although the statement was applauded for humanitarian approach and recognition of the pain caused for decades for the first time in the Republic’s history, it was not an official acknowledgment of an Armenian Genocide. The statement referred to the killings as a historical matter, but strictly not a political issue, as if only historians should deal with past crimes of the Ottomans.
On a different note…
The Central Bank of Turkey announced its second inflation report this week
According to the report, the Bank revised its end-year inflation expectation between 6.4% and 8.8%, as 7.6% being the mid-point. It also noted that with the front-loaded monetary tightening the Bank expects that the inflationist pressure from food prices and foreign exchange rates inflation rates will decelerate from the second half of 2014. The governor of the bank also added that the risk premiums for the country decreased and the volatility in financial markets stabilised. This might induce a gradual rate decrease and yet the tightening policy will remain as long as needed.
Export increased 12.4% in March compared to last year and reached to $14.7 billion while imports decreased by 3% to $19.9 billion. The trade deficit contracted 30% and became only $5.2 billion. The balancing of external demand to internal demand increased the export to import ration to 74%. This meant that 74% of export meets the internal demands for import.
According to the latest report by the credit rating agency, Fitch, Turkey’s economy, which was expected to experience problems since the start of tapering talks, is stable.
The tight monetary policy, Fitch stated in its report, constrains the growth but also limits the balance of payment deficits. The mains risks for Turkey are listed as domestic political instabilities and high external funding requirement along with global economic risks. This was proven during the Gezi protests and graft probes during December.
CEFTUS Insights Editors