For Mother’s Day, I post here a film called simply “Mother (Anne)” made by CHP MP Safak Pavey. In it, the mothers of the young people killed during the Gezi protests speak.

Final 2014 Local Election Results

The final numbers for the March 30, 2014, elections are in from the Supreme Election Board (YSK):
89% participation rate

Metropolitan mayoral elections:
AKP: 45,54
CHP 31,04
MHP: 13,65

Mayoral elections:
AKP: 43,13
CHP: 26,45
MHP: 17,76

Turkey’s Institutional Problem: By the Numbers

You can find Eric Meyersson’s fascinating statistical analysis of Turkey’s institutions here. His practical, fact-based approach is a refreshing alternative to news hyperbole.

The takeaway:

Thus the problem is not simply that its institutions are bad, but that they are unbalanced toward state power at the expense of citizens’ rights, executive constraints, as well as openness and accountability.

Moreover, this imbalance appears to be getting worse…

Turkey’s institutions are correlated with countries that have significant authoritarian characteristics and strong security establishments, some – like Iran, Russia, and Belarus – are international pariahs.

Meyersson builds his argument using a variety of available databases to comparatively analyze patterns in institutional behavior, such as judicial independence, press freedom, imprisonment, and constraints on government power. Below is one of several fascinating charts in the essay.

by Eric Meyersson

by Eric Meyersson

Erdogan to Step Down as PM. And Then?

The AKP’s executive board, in a meeting chaired by PM Erdogan, has decided not to extend the term limit for prime minister from three to four terms. This means that Erdogan will not have another term as PM and instead will likely run for president in August. The presidency has in the past been a largely ceremonial post, its incumbent elected by parliament. This will be the first time the president is elected by popular vote. Erdogan attempted unsuccessfully to change the constitution to give the presidency more power, but in his public statements has said that, if he were president, he would wield more power because the position would be an elected one. In other words, in a kind of magical thinking,  he believes that the popular vote on its own confers powers beyond the letter of the law regulating the institution. If president, Erdogan would also likely seek a weak PM.

The current president, Abdullah Gul, is holding his cards close to his chest. Popular and respected, and a more conciliatory figure than Erdogan, Gul could run again for president (against Erdogan) or put his hat in for prime minister (not the weak PM Erdogan as president would prefer). Either route puts him at odds with Erdogan’s aspirations. Or he could choose to leave the dirty game of politics to those with sharper claws and less conscience. Many hope, though, that President Gul’s conscience and concern for his country is strong enough to sacrifice a comfortable retirement in order to place himself between the rock of Erdogan’s autocracy and the hard place of democratic reform.

That Day (December 17)

Clear minute-by-minute timeline of December 17, 2013, the day the corruption scandal broke, from the early morning arrests of dozens of people in PM Erdogan’s circle to frantic attempts by Erdogan and others to hide vast quantities of money and beat the rap. Incorporates video footage and wiretap recordings gathered as evidence in the corruption case (these were later leaked to the public when the prime minister removed prosecutors, thus squelching the case). All in Turkish, unfortunately. Put together by Can Dündar, one of Turkey’s most respected journalists.

▶ Can Dündar’ın hazırladığı 17 Aralık belgeseli Erdoğan’ın En Uzun Günü TEK PARÇA – Dailymotion video.

April 15: Blood Moon over Istanbul

Photo by Jenny White

Photo by Jenny White

Local Elections 2014 Roundup

This post has been updated.

Here is a study of why voters voted as they did. Corruption allegations and leaked tapes had little effect. AKP voters chose AKP mainly because of the leader Erdogan and because of the services AKP provides.


Take a Deep Breath. It’s Spring.

The view outside my office window in Stockholm yesterday:


The New Old Nationalist Extremism

This very creepy AKP election ad was recently rejected for use by the Higher Election Board because it misuses the Turkish flag, which by law is not allowed to be used in political propaganda. PM Erdogan said he would “ban the ban”, showing yet again his contempt for law and the integrity of state institutions. But the imagery in the video itself is hair-raisingly evocative in the worst possible way.

The spoken text is from the national anthem:

Friend! Don’t let scoundrels into my country!

Shield with your body, let this shameless invasion stop.

Days which God has promised to give you will dawn;

Who knows, maybe tomorrow, maybe sooner than tomorrow.

This rhetoric was used against Erdogan in AKP’s early days, but during the Gezi protests last year, he began using ultranationalist language and conspiracy theories himself. Here is an article from Al Monitor analyzing the video (with another link to the video).

My personal reaction to the video was horror, deja vu (with an admixture of Islam), and that I was seeing ants, not citizens.

What Ban?

The Twitter Ban instituted at midnight last night just got even more interesting.

Apparently there has been no lessening of Twitter traffic coming out of Turkey.

President Gul tweeted (!) that he didn’t think the ban was a good idea or even possible. Deputy PM Bulent Arinc is tweeting. So are the US and UK Embassies.

Istanbul’s chief prosecutor’s office, recently purged by PM Erdogan, denies web watchdog’s claim that the Twitter ban was initiated at its request.

Rumor is (based on vehement pre-emptive denials by the people involved) that videos will soon be leaked that show PM Erdogan asking whether it is permissible in Islam for him to order the killing of a politician (who died in a small plane crash a few years ago), and an affair between Erdogan and a TV announcer. Maybe the Twitter ban was meant to jam the Internet system for just the last few days before the election next week so that the threatened videos won’t be aired. The AKP is already claiming they’re fakes, using Hollywood methods and silicone masks. It sounds like they’ve seen them already. I’m sure we’ll be seeing them soon.

Will any of this have any effect on the structures of power? Maybe not. Here’s an argument for why those big crowds drawn together by Twitter may not be as effective as big crowds in the past.