The View from India | The reign of Erdogan continues

(This article forms a part of the View From India newsletter curated by The Hindu’s foreign affairs experts. To get the newsletter in your inbox every Monday, subscribe here.)

Before the May 14 general elections in Turkey, most opinion polls stated that Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the country’s Islamist leader who has been in power since 2003, was in trouble. Turkey was struggling with hyper-inflation and the lira, the currency, was in free fall. Some 50,000 people were killed in an earthquake in February, which raised questions about the government’s building permit policy. The opposition, which has been in disarray ever since Mr. Erdogan’s Justice and Development Party (AKP) rose to power, came together and put up a united candidate. But still, they failed to defeat Mr. Erdogan. In the first round, Mr. Erdogan won 49.5% vote, while his main rival, Kemal Kilicdaroglu, a former bureaucrat, secured 44.9% of votes, pushing the race to a second round. In Sunday’s run-off, Mr. Erdogan won 52.1% of the vote, against Mr. Kilicdaroglu’s 47.9%, extending his rule for five more years.

The fact that the opposition forced Mr. Erdogan to go into a run-off itself showed that his brand of politics, a blend of Islamism, welfarism and nationalism, was ageing. But the opposition was not strong enough to beat him. Now that he is reelected, Mr. Erdogan’s balancing foreign policy would continue. Turkey, a NATO member, has cultivated strong ties with Russia in recent years. After Russia invaded Ukraine, Turkey has sent armed drones to Ukraine, but refused to join western sanctions against Moscow. Turkey has also held a veto over the accession of Sweden into NATO. Mr. Erdogan also tried to shift the focus of Turkey’s engagement from Europe to the Arab world. At home, he is accused of suppressing dissent, discriminating against religious and ethnic minorities and Islamising society. What is the enduring allure of the AKP leader? In this profile, I try to trace Mr. Erdogan’s rise to power and his powerful ideology that continues to keep him as Turkey’s most powerful leader since Mustafa Kemal Ataturk.

The fall of Bakhmut

This image taken from a video shows a damaged building in the Belgorod region, Russia, on May 22, 2023.
| Photo Credit:
AP

After 10 months of fighting, Russia’s Ministry of Defence announced last week that its troops have taken control of Bakhmut, in their first major territorial gain since January when they took neighbouring Soledar. Ukraine claims that its troops continue to defend a small area of Bakhmut and is advancing on its flanks, but has admitted that the eastern city “is effectively in Russian hands, for now”. The Russian gain comes at a time when Ukraine was preparing for a counteroffensive with advanced weapons they got from the West. In recent weeks, Ukraine also carried out a number of attacks inside Russia. Now all eyes are on Ukraine’s counteroffensive. The battle of Bakhmut was costly for both sides. Both sides lost men and weapons. But eventually, Ukraine lost the city as well. In December, Ukraine President Zelensky had said that if Bakhmut fell, then it would be an open road for Russia to march to other cities in the east. Now that they have list the city, the pressure is on Ukraine to make gains in their counteroffensive to turn the tide of the war. In this edit, After Bakhmut,The Hindu writes that “As both sides are determined to continue the war, there is no hope for peace or talks on the horizon.”

China watch

China is continuing to expand the network of model villages or ‘Xiaokang’ (moderately prosperous) villages opposite the Line of Actual Control (LAC) in the Middle sector and Eastern sectors of the border. In addition, new posts are also coming up about 6-7 km from the LAC in the Middle sector, according to official sources and, in some areas, the frequency of patrolling has gone up significantly, reports Dinakar Peri. Opposite Barahoti, which has seen face-offs in the past, the Chinese are building villages at a rapid pace, sometimes as many as 300-400 houses in multi-storey blocks within 90-100 days. Officials said PLA patrols have been observed in 15 days or so compared to once in a season earlier, which is about three or four months. Small patrols are also being seen in Mana, Neeti and Thangla areas.

Meanwhile, China and Bhutan held their 12th Expert Group Meeting (EGM), which oversees the actual boundary talks, in Thumpu, reports Suhasini Haidar. “The two sides expressed their confidence in the Three-Step Roadmap and reiterated the importance of increasing the frequency of their meetings to make further progress in its implementation. They agreed to hold the next EGM in Beijing at an early date,” said the joint statement issued by Bhutanese and Chinese Foreign Ministers after the conclusion of the talks on 24-25 May.

Xie Feng, China’s new Ambassador to the United States, speaks to the media upon his arrival at the John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York in the U.S., on May 23, 2023.

Xie Feng, China’s new Ambassador to the United States, speaks to the media upon his arrival at the John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York in the U.S., on May 23, 2023.
| Photo Credit:
AP

In another development, China appointed a new Ambassador to the U.S., filling a post that unusually remained vacant for close to five months and heralding what some observers see as a possible sign of a limited thaw in recently frosty relations, reports Ananth Krishnan. Veteran diplomat Xie Feng, who has spent much of his career dealing with the U.S., told reporters after landing in Washington that he had “come here to enhance China-U.S. exchanges and cooperation, and I take this as my important mission”. Beijing is also yet to appoint a new Ambassador to New Delhi for almost seven months, another unusually long gap amid a continuing chill in ties. The former envoy, Sun Weidong, left his post in October and took over as a Vice Foreign Minister in Beijing. It is understood that Beijing as of this month had not yet proposed the name of a successor to New Delhi.

The Top Five

Pakistan’s establishment has an Imran Khan problem: A bad situation is likely to become worse for Pakistan, with four institutions at work pursuing different endgames, writes D. Suba Chandran.

A ‘middle kingdom’ dawns on India’s west: With the emergence of Saudi Arabia as the main arbiter of the Arab world’s agenda, India needs to realign its strategy, writes Mahesh Sachdev.

In Nepal, a fledgling political outfit gives traditional parties a run for their money: The Rastriya Swatantra Party, founded as an anti-corruption platform last year and surged to become the fourth largest party in the Nepal Parliament, seeks to upend the political status quo in the Himalayan country, Sanjeev Satgainya reports from Kathmandu.

 Malaiyaha Tamils | Two hundred years of struggle: Sri Lanka’s hill country Tamils, who are commemorating the 200th anniversary of their ancestors’ arrival in Ceylon, continue to fight exploitation and discrimination, writes Meera Srinivasan in The Hindu Profiles.

A belligerence towards Beijing that is unsettling: Washington’s hostility towards Beijing may bring benefits to India, but a breakdown in China-U.S. ties would be catastrophic for the world, writes Manoj Joshi.

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Voters in Turkey return to polls to decide on opposing Presidential visions

Voters in Turkey returned to the polls on May 28 to decide whether the country’s longtime leader stretches his increasingly authoritarian rule into a third decade or is unseated by a challenger who has promised to restore a more democratic society.

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who has been at Turkey’s helm for 20 years, is favoured to win a new five-year term in the second-round runoff after coming just short of an outright victory in the first round on May 14.

The divisive populist who turned his country into a geopolitical player finished 4% points ahead of Mr. Kemal Kilicdaroglu, the candidate of a six-party alliance and leader of Turkey’s centre-left main opposition party. Mr. Erdogan’s performance came despite crippling inflation and the effects of a devastating earthquake three months ago.

Kilicdaroglu (pronounced KEH-lich-DAHR-OH-loo), a 74-year-old former bureaucrat, has described the runoff as a referendum on the country’s future.

More than 64 million people are eligible to cast ballots. The polls opened at 8 a.m.

Turkey does not have exit polls, but the preliminary results are expected to come within hours of the polls closing at 5 p.m.

The final decision could have implications far beyond Ankara because Turkey stands at the crossroads of Europe and Asia, and it plays a key role in NATO.

Turkey vetoed Sweden’s bid to join the alliance and purchased Russian missile-defense systems, which prompted the United States to oust Turkey from a U.S.-led fighter-jet project. But Erdogan’s government also helped broker a crucial deal that allowed Ukrainian grain shipments and averted a global food crisis.

The May 14 election saw 87% turnout, and strong participation is expected again on May 28, reflecting voters’ devotion to elections in a country where freedom of expression and assembly have been suppressed.

If he wins, Mr. Erdogan, 69, could remain in power until 2028. After three stints as Prime Minister and two as President, the devout Muslim who heads the conservative and religious Justice and Development Party, or AKP, is already Turkey’s longest-serving leader.

The first half of Mr. Erdogan’s tenure included reforms that allowed the country to begin talks to join the European Union and economic growth that lifted many out of poverty. But he later moved to suppress freedoms and the media and concentrated more power in his hands, especially after a failed coup attempt that Turkey says was orchestrated by the U.S.-based Islamic cleric Mr. Fethullah Gulen. The cleric denies involvement.

Mr. Erdogan transformed the presidency from a largely ceremonial role to a powerful office through a narrowly won 2017 referendum that scrapped Turkey’s parliamentary system of governance. He was the first directly elected president in 2014 and won the 2018 election that ushered in the executive presidency.

The May 14 election was the first that Mr. Erdogan did not win outright.

Critics blame Mr. Erdogan’s unconventional economic policies for skyrocketing inflation that has fueled a cost-of-living crisis. Many also faulted his government for the slow response to the earthquake that killed more than 50,000 people in Turkey.

Still, Mr. Erdogan has retained the backing of conservative voters who remain devoted to him for lifting Islam’s profile in the country that was founded on secular principles and for raising the country’s influence in world politics.

In a bid to woo voters hit hard by inflation, he has increased wages and pensions and subsidized electricity and gas bills, while showcasing Turkey’s homegrown defence industry and infrastructure projects. He also centred his reelection campaign on a promise to rebuild quake-stricken areas, including constructing 319,000 homes within the year. Many see him as a source of stability.

Mr. Kilicdaroglu is a soft-mannered former civil servant who has led the pro-secular Republican People’s Party, or CHP, since 2010. He campaigned on a promise to reverse Mr. Erdogan’s democratic backsliding, restore the economy by reverting to more conventional policies and to improve ties with the West.

In a frantic do-or-die effort to reach out to nationalist voters in the runoff, Mr. Kilicdaroglu vowed to send back refugees and ruled out any peace negotiations with Kurdish militants if he is elected.

Many in Turkey regard Syrian refugees who have been under Turkey’s temporary protection after fleeing the war in neighboring Syria as a burden on the country, and their repatriation became a key issue in the election.

Earlier in the week, Mr. Erdogan received the endorsement of third-place candidate, nationalist politician Sinan Ogan, who garnered 5.2% of the votes and is no longer in the race. Meanwhile, a staunchly anti-migrant party that had supported Ogan’s candidacy, announced it would back Mr. Kilicdaroglu.

A defeat for Mr. Kilicdaroglu would add to a long list of electoral losses to Mr. Erdogan and put pressure for him to step down as party chairman.

Mr. Erdogan’s AKP party and its allies retained a majority of seats in parliament following a legislative election that was also held on May 14. Parliamentary elections will not be repeated on May 28.

Editorial | Weaker by the year: on the elections in Turkey and Recep Tayyip Erdoğan

Mr. Erdogan’s party also dominated in the earthquake-hit region, winning 10 out of 11 provinces in an area that has traditionally supported the president. Mr. Erdogan came in ahead in the presidential race in eight of those provinces.

As in previous elections, Mr. Erdogan used state resources and his control of the media to reach voters.

Following the May 14 vote, international observers also pointed to the criminalization of dissemination of false information and online censorship as evidence that Mr. Erdogan had an “unjustified advantage.” The observers also said the elections showed the resilience of Turkish democracy.

Mr. Erdogan and pro-government media portrayed Mr. Kilicdaroglu, who had received the backing of the country’s pro-Kurdish party, as colluding with “terrorists” and of supporting what they described as “deviant” LGBTQ rights.

Mr. Kilicdaroglu “receives his orders from Qandil,” Mr. Erdogan repeatedly said at recent campaign rallies, a reference to the mountains in Iraq where the leadership of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK, is based.

“We receive our orders from God and the people,” he said.

The election was being held as the country marked the 100th anniversary of its establishment as a republic, following the collapse of the Ottoman Empire.

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In divided Turkey, Erdogan’s hold is weakened but not broken

“Why are you so curious,” Cehan finally asked after at least 40 minutes of Google Translate-aided conversation. And suddenly, it occurred to me that his honest responses could have got him in trouble if he was not careful. Sitting on a public bench in Kaleici, Antalya, overlooking the blue Mediterranean waters, we discussed politics, President Erdogan’s possible return, growing religiosity in Turkey, steep inflation, and the Kurds.

On May 15, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan — an Islamist who was imprisoned on the charges of inciting religious hatred and violence in 1999 while holding the mayoral office of Istanbul — prayed at Hagia Sophia for his return as Turkey’s most powerful man despite growing anti-incumbency sentiments. In the opinion polls before the May 14 elections, Kemal Kilicdaroglu, Mr. Erdogan’s rival and the opposition coalition candidate, was said to have a slight edge. However, the preliminary results showed that Mr. Erdogan won 49.5% of the votes against Mr. Kılıcdaroglu’s 44.9%, and his coalition has secured a comfortable majority in Parliament.

A resurgent Mr. Erdogan will now face off Mr. Kılıcdaroglu in a presidential run-off May 28.

Stirred but not shaken

Clearly, his hold over Turkey is stirred, not shaken. For each Ataturkist Turkish citizen, there’s at least one staunch Erdogan supporter and half a decrier of the “West’s conspiracy to undermine Islam”.

Cehan, 36, is a fitness trainer in Antalya and he wasn’t expecting to be ambushed by a curious foreigner on a sunny afternoon. He was there with his friend, Orhan, smoking cigarettes and drinking beers that the duo kept furnishing from a tiny black plastic bag. “If he [Erdogan] comes back, we won’t be able to drink beers in public like this,” he typed on his phone and offered me a pint that I was too happy to accept. “My parents are Ottoman supporters, but I am an Ataturk,” he said, referring to Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, the founder of modern, secular Turkey.

He declared with mellow pride and echoed the sentiment of many a man and woman in Istanbul, Izmir, Bursa and Pamukkale.

ALSO READ | Weaker by the year: on the elections in Turkey and Recep Tayyip Erdoğan

The night before, Semi, 29, a jeweller, was a lot more boisterous. He spoke English with reasonable ease. “I live away from my family because they don’t understand my life and choices. I was with them for Bayrham Ramzan (Id-ul-Fitr) but that’s all. They are becoming increasingly religious, and I cannot deal with it any more.” Semi, however, believes in the Illuminati. He will vote against Mr. Erdogan.

Message to Muslims

Barak, 34, a tourist guide in Istanbul, had given me a great primer the day I landed in Turkey on what most young people in coastal Turkish cities thought of the two decades of President Erdogan’s rule. His guided tour in the Sultanahmet neighbourhood of Istanbul was deeply political in spirit. “The Ottomans decided to convert Hagia Sophia, the church, into a mosque [in the 15th century, after the fall of the Constantinople] They wanted to send a message to all the Muslims worldwide that now they were the caretakers of Islam. Many centuries later, the same message has been conveyed with the conversion of Hagia Sophia the museum into a mosque.”

A banner of Kemal Kiliçdaroglu banner in Izmir, Turkey
| Photo Credit:
Nishtha Gautam

Ataturk, who abolished the Caliphate, closed down Hagia Sophia in 1930. Five years later, it was was reopened as a museum. Mr. Erdogan turned it back to a mosque in July 2020.

“Erdogan has destroyed our country beyond repair,” Barak continued. “People wanted employment, education, and healthcare, he gave them religion. A lot of people in Turkey are not practising Muslims. They gravitated towards ‘nationalism’ to make up for that. Erdogan exploited this. He also exploited the fact that the global economic crash of 2008 did not affect Turkey as badly as it did the rest of Europe and the US.”

Sitting in a historical coffee house in Istanbul — where poets, writers, and philosophers have been communing for centuries — Barak was relentless. “He (Erdogan) has ensured that there are spiralling queues in front of the Hagia Sophia to show that the world is at his doorstep. The Blue Mosque has been under supposed renovation for the past two years and is inaccessible to tourists. And there are these inconvenient barricades outside Hagia Sophia, so, obviously, the crowds build up and give the impression that the world has congregated to applaud his decision to turn it into a mosque.”

Selma and Rashet* (names changed) run a cafe near Suleimani mosque in Istanbul. Rashet is a bit careful while expressing his angst. “We often get into trouble for critiquing Erdogan in front of the foreigners. I have nicknamed him ‘the tall man’ and we spell out KURD while talking about these oppressed people. The police can pick us up for questioning and detain us for talking about the K.U.R.D.S.”

The Kurdish question

The Kurds are the largest ethnic minority in Turkey and an armed conflict between the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), a Kurdish militia group, and the Turkish state has been ongoing since 1978. In November 2022, a bombing in Istanbul, allegedly carried out by a Kurdish-Syrian separatist, claimed six lives. “Yes, there are Kurdish terrorists in Turkey but why punish the innocent Kurds for the terrorists’ actions?” Rashet asked.

A rock sculpture of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, the founder of modern, secular Turkey, in Izmir, Turkey

A rock sculpture of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, the founder of modern, secular Turkey, in Izmir, Turkey
| Photo Credit:
Nishtha Gautam

After the failed military coup attempt in 2016, Mr. Erdogan undertook a purge that saw his dissenters across civil, military and educational institutions either getting sacked or arrested. His powers grew with the constitutional referendum in 2017 through which the Turkish parliamentary system got converted into a presidential system.

“You know Mussolini? Erdogan is our Mussolini. You know Hitler, he’s our Hitler,” an impassioned native interrupts me as I chat, days later, with Çevat and Sara (names changed), the local shopkeepers of Derinkuyu village in the Anatolian plateau region of Turkey. This statement came as a mild surprise. Geographically speaking, rural Anatolia (Anadolu in Turkish) has been rallying behind Erdogan, as against the ‘liberal’ cities of Istanbul, Izmir, Ankara, Antalya et al. Konya, the biggest province of Turkey, is called Erdogan’s fortress.

Inshallah, Erdogan

Despite the criticisms he faces and the mounting economic woes of Turkey, including runaway inflation, the President’s supporters remain adamant and confident. Mehmet, 20, who works in a small cafe in the Ilhara Valley in the tourist-riddled Cappadocia region, says, “Inshallah, Erdogan!” He responded to my sly question about the next possible President that I cautiously slip in after almost an hour of Google Translate-facilitated conversations about food, fashion, education, family, and girls. I smile and ask about the state of the economy. This time his father, Yunus, gesticulates, “Prices up up up!”

Inflation has been Erdogan’s biggest challenge as it surged to above 85% last year and is hovering around 40% now. Why is he not able to control inflation, I enquire. Mehmet punched the following on my keypad: “Everything is in control. All is well. Mashallah.”

Birsen Aliçi, a political worker of the Turkish Workers’ Party (TIP), puts up posters of party candidates

Birsen Aliçi, a political worker of the Turkish Workers’ Party (TIP), puts up posters of party candidates
| Photo Credit:
Nishtha Gautam

My conversation is interrupted by an incoming canvassing party. Yilmaz Ilhan, a local candidate, arrives with his supporters to seek votes. Contesting as an independent, he is sure that Mr. Erdogan will come back. His confidence is built on the support of people like Gursen and Sinaan (names changed), the police guards posted outside a heritage site in the region. But equally confident was Birsen Aliçi, a political worker of the Turkish Workers’ Party (TIP), who was putting up posters of her candidates at midnight in Antalya and wanted me to meet them. “We’ll make sure Erdogan does not come back to power. Turkey has had enough.”

There is Najat (name changed), too. A hardcore Ataturkist, Najat works with Turkish Airlines. “Even if I woke up on May 29 and saw the regime change, I won’t be able to believe it. He (Erdogan) will not go easily. He cannot afford to, there are too many skeletons in his cupboard. His family, friends, and coterie have indulged in corruption and crimes and won’t survive out of power. Yes, you may call me a pessimist.”

As despondency surges in the anti-Erdogan camp, all eyes are now on Ekrem İmamoğlu, mayor of Istanbul and Kemal Kilicdaroglu’s vice presidential candidate. What Turkey decides will have consequences not just for the country, but for the rest of the world, too.

Nishtha Gautam is a Delhi-based writer, entrepreneur.

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Elon Musk’s Twitter caves to Turkish demands of censorship

Let’s start with something basic: Freedom of expression is absolutely essential to democratic or republican government. The syllogism works like this. If you have a right to vote freely, you have a right to have as informed a choice as possible. In order to make such an informed choice, you have to be able to receive information freely, and if people cannot speak freely, you cannot receive information freely. Therefore, freedom of expression is absolutely essential to free elections. Frankly, by this metric, few world governments are truly democratic or republican.

Turkey is one of those countries that isn’t truly republic (as they claim) because they do not have free speech. For instance, Article 299 of their penal code literally punishes you for insulting the president of Turkey. That significantly impairs the ability of any opponent to actually challenge the incumbent (but it doesn’t limit incumbents), because it hems in how one can criticize the persons currently in power. After all, if that law was enacted in America, Donald Trump would have racked up probably 200 years in prison by now! And Joe Biden wouldn’t have been too far behind by the time he took office in 2020. And that is only scratching the surface of Turkish censorship.

With that in mind, we are nonetheless coming up on an election in Turkey this Sunday that promises to be close, despite the competition being hobbled by censorship:

And with that election looming, Twitter has caved to Turkish demands of censorship:

Taking them at face value, they are saying they have prevented certain accounts from being heard in Turkey. They are available in the rest of the world, but for some reason, people in Turkey are not allowed to see … whoever these people are and whatever they are saying. Twitter seems to be saying that some kind of legal process had been initiated and there was a belief that if they didn’t censor these people, then all of Twitter might have been prohibited. So, we can see what the people in Turkey are not allowed to see.

Of course, one person has a theory about how people in Turkey could get around this problem:

We have no idea if that would work.

Naturally, this got some pushback:

We should find out what exactly the people of Turkey are not allowed to see.

For making your country less democratic?

We don’t know if that would work, but censors tend to be dumb, so … maybe?

And of course, a great deal of it involved calling out Musk himself:

We have some sympathy for the difficult position Musk finds himself in. If we take Twitter at face value, it was either allow the entire platform to be censored, or censor a few voices. They might have also deduced that if Twitter was available in their country, that the messages might get through. Further, you might hope that the fact that Turkey was demanding censorship on the eve of the election might create something similar to the Streisand Effect, making people turn against Erdogan even more.

Still, we can’t help but think that the ideal answer would be to tell the government of Turkey to pound sand and then do something like offer free Starlink in the country, just to take a stand.

But Twitter might not be able to afford that, these days, in part because of the liberal campaign to degrade it, motivated by their own hostility to free speech. The ugly truth is tyrants don’t like free speech, and tyrants will not confine their censorship to their own borders. If they think they can use their economic power to censor the world—as China has—they will do it.

It’s not a cheerful thought, but it is the reality we deal with.

Update: via @filmladd, we discovered that we missed Musk’s response to Mr. Yglesias’ tweet above:

He also promised further transparency:

Still, we think the ideal response is to tell the world’s censors to pound sand.

***

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Morning Digest: April 30, 2023

Home Ministry prepares Model Prisons Act 2023 to replace British-era law

The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) has prepared the ‘Model Prisons Act 2023’ that will replace a British-era law to overhaul the prison administration that will focus on the reformation and rehabilitation of inmates, it said on May 12. Among the salient features of the model Act are provisions of punishment for prisoners and jail staff for use of prohibited items such as mobile phones in jails, establishment and management of high security jails, open jail (open and semi-open), and provisions for protecting the society from the criminal activities of hardened criminals and habitual offenders.

Welfare without discrimination is true secularism: Modi

Giving a thrust to his welfare model, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Friday said that his government does not look at the religion or caste of beneficiaries while reaching out to them with various schemes and welfare programmes and there is no greater social justice than working for the happiness and convenience of the masses. He was in his home state Gujarat on Friday, for a day, to inaugurate and lay foundation stones for projects worth around ₹4,400 crore.

Indo-Pacific is a reality: S. Jaishankar in Dhaka 

The vision of the Indo Pacific Is reality in the 21st century External Affairs Minister Dr S. Jaishankar said on Friday in Dhaka. Addressing the 6th Indian Ocean Conference-2023 in the Bangladeshi capital Mr. Jaishankar noted the “Indo Pacific Outlook” of Bangladesh that was announced recently and cautioned against countries that do not want the region to become dynamic.

Supreme Court flags ‘serious lapses’ in implementation of Protection of Women from Sexual Harassment Act

The Supreme Court on May 12, in a judgment, said there are “serious lapses” and “uncertainty” in the implementation of the Protection of Women from Sexual Harassment (PoSH) Act, leaving many working women no choice but to leave their jobs. A Bench of Justices A.S. Bopanna and Hima Kohli, in a 62-page judgment, said the “sorry state of affairs” concerning the anti-sexual harassment at workplace law even after a decade of its introduction was “disquieting”, and it was time for the Centre and States to take affirmative action.

Air India fined ₹30 lakh after pilot invites lady friend into cockpit

The DGCA on Friday imposed a fine of ₹30 lakh on Air India and suspended a pilot-in-command for a period of three months after he entertained a lady friend in the cockpit and demanded that she be served alcohol and snacks. “The CEO of Air India received a complaint from one of the operating crew members of the flight. However, the organisation did not take prompt corrective action despite this being a safety sensitive violation. Anticipating delayed response, the complainant approached the DGCA,” the regulator said in a press statement.

Cyclone Mocha to be stronger than expected

Cyclone Mocha, currently located in the eastern Bay of Bengal, is likely to be stronger than initially forecast but poses little threat to India, with all of its fury likely to be concentrated in Myanmar and parts of Bangladesh, suggests the latest forecast from the India Meteorological Department (IMD).

We are keeping a watch on Pilot’s  yatra, says Congress’ Rajasthan in-charge

The Jan Sangharsh Yatra undertaken by senior leader Sachin Pilot is a “personal” one; the party was “keeping an eye on” it and would discuss it once Congress president Mallikarjun Kharge returns from Karnataka, All India Congress Committee’s (AICC) Rajasthan in-charge Sukhjinder Singh Randhawa said on May 12. “It his personal yatra, he is taking out the yatra on his own, we are keeping an eye on that and when Kharge ji comes back from Karnataka, all issues would be discussed,” he said.

No democracy in West Bengal under Mamata: Nadda

BJP national president J.P. Nadda on May 12 targeted West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee for banning the film  The Kerala Story, alleging that there was no democracy under her rule in West Bengal. He was speaking at an event to launch a book, titled  Democracy in Coma: Silenced Voices of Women Victims in Bengal, authored by Sonali Chitrakar, Vijeta Singh Aggarwal, Shruti Maitra and Monika Agarwal Uniyal. Mr. Nadda said that Ms. Banerjee had banned  The Kerala Story despite the fact that the film had “nothing to do with any religion or State”.

Ten Kuki MLAs from Manipur demand ‘separate administration’ 

As many as 10 legislators from the hill districts of Manipur, which includes those from the ruling BJP have demanded a separate administration as the “State miserably failed to protect” them when the violence started on May 3. In a press statement, the 10 MLAs said the Government of Manipur tacitly supported the “unabated violence” by the majority Meitei community against the Chin-Kuki-Mizo-Zomi hill tribals, which has already partitioned the State and effected a total separation from the State of Manipur.

Gyanvyapi mosque case: HC allows revision plea for scientific survey of  Shiv Ling

The Allahabad High Court on May 12 allowed a revision petition demanding a scientific survey to determine the age of the purported Shiv Ling found inside the Varanasi-based Gyanvyapi mosque. The survey will be done by the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) which, in its affidavit submitted in the court, maintained that it cannot do carbon dating of the structure due to technical reasons but offered to do the carbon dating of the embedded portions of the Shiv Ling along with some other ways like Ground Penetration Radar (GPR), excavation to name a few.

Elon Musk picks advertisement executive Linda Yaccarino as Twitter CEO

Elon Musk on May 12 said he has chosen top advertisement executive Linda Yaccarino as CEO of Twitter as he fights to reverse fortunes at the struggling platform he bought for $44 billion last year. In a tweet, Mr. Musk said he would remain in charge of design and technology at Twitter, with Ms. Yaccarino focusing primarily on business operations and turning Twitter into an “everything app” called X.

Fierce Gaza fighting renews as truce hopes fade

Israel and Gaza militants traded heavy fire Friday as hopes faded of securing a truce to end days of fighting that have killed dozens, all but one of them Palestinian. The violence has been met with international calls for de-escalation, with the European Union pushing Thursday for an “immediate comprehensive ceasefire”. Israel announced it was “striking Islamic Jihad targets” in the densely populated Palestinian territory, while AFP journalists saw air strikes hit Gaza City.

Erdogan rival says has evidence of Russia’s online campaign ahead of Turkey vote

Kemal Kilicdaroglu, main challenger of Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan, said on Friday his party has concrete evidence of Russia’s responsibility for the release of “deep fake” online content ahead of Sunday’s presidential elections. Asked why he tweeted on Thursday that Russia was responsible, he told Reuters: “If we did not have it [concrete evidence], I wouldn’t have tweeted.” The party did not contact the Russian embassy in Turkey over the issue, he added.

IPL 2023: MI vs GT | Suryakumar outshines all-round Rashid as Mumbai beats Gujarat

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Turkey elections | Why Europe is watching closely

Turkey’s elections on May 14 are a key moment not just for the country itself but also for its European neighbours.

With President Tayyip Erdogan facing his toughest electoral test in two decades, European Union and NATO members are watching to see whether change comes to a country that affects them on issues ranging from security to migration and energy. Relations between Erdogan and the EU have become highly strained in recent years, as the 27-member bloc cooled on the idea of Ankara becoming a member and condemned crackdowns on human rights, judicial independence and media freedom.

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Leading members of NATO, to which Turkey belongs, have expressed alarm at Mr. Erdogan’s close relations with Russian President Vladimir Putin and concern that Turkey is being used to circumvent sanctions on Moscow over its war in Ukraine.

Erdogan’s challenger, Kemal Kilicdaroglu, has pledged more freedom at home and foreign policies hewing closer to the West.

Whatever the outcome, Turkey’s European neighbours will use the election and its aftermath to assess their relationship with Ankara and the degree to which it can be reset.

Here are some key issues that European countries will be watching, according to officials, diplomats and analysts:

Election conduct

EU officials have been careful not to express a preference for a candidate. But they have made clear they will be looking out for vote-rigging, violence or other election interference.

Pedestrians walk past a giant banner of Turkish President and People’s Alliance’s presidential candidate Recep Tayyip Erdogan, left, and Turkish CHP party leader and Nation Alliance’s presidential candidate Kemal Kilicdaroglu, background right, at Taksim square in Istanbul on May 10, 2023.
| Photo Credit:
AP

“It is important that the process itself is clean and free,” said Sergey Lagodinsky, a German member of the European Parliament who co-chairs a group of EU and Turkish lawmakers.

Peter Stano, a spokesman for the EU’s diplomatic service, said the bloc expected the vote to be “transparent and inclusive” and in line with democratic standards Turkey has committed to. A worst-case scenario for both Turkey and the EU would be a contested result – perhaps after a second round – leading the incumbent to launch a crackdown on protests, said Dimitar Bechev, the author of a book on Turkey under Erdogan.

Sweden and NATO

“Five more years of Erdogan means five more years of Turkey being with one weak foot in NATO and one strong foot with Russia,” said Marc Pierini, a former EU ambassador to Turkey who is now a senior fellow at the Carnegie Europe think tank.

Erdogan has vexed other NATO members by buying a Russian S-400 missile defence system and contributing little to NATO’s reinforcement of its eastern flank.

An early test of whether the election winner wants to mend NATO ties will be whether he stops blocking Swedish membership. Erdogan has demanded Stockholm extradite Kurdish militants but Swedish courts have blocked some expulsions.

Analysts and diplomats expect Kilicdaroglu would end the block on Sweden joining NATO, prompting Hungary – the only other holdout – to follow suit. That could let Sweden join in time for a NATO summit in Lithuania in July.

Some analysts and diplomats say Erdogan might also lift his objections after the elections but others are unconvinced.

Relations with Russia

Although Mr. Erdogan has tried to strike a balance between Moscow and the West, his political relationship with Mr. Putin and Turkey’s economic ties to Russia are a source of EU frustration. That will likely continue if Erdogan wins another term.

If Kilicdaroglu triumphs, European officials would likely be content with a gradual shift away from Moscow, recognising that Turkey is in the midst of a cost-of-living crisis and its economy depends on Russia to a significant extent.

“With Russia, a new government will be treading very carefully,” Mr. Bechev said. However, Kilicdaroglu showed this week he was willing to criticise Russia, publicly accusing Moscow of responsibility for fake material on social media ahead of Sunday’s ballot.

Rule of law, Cyprus

If Kilicdaroglu and his coalition wins, the EU will be keen to see if they keep promises to release Mr. Erdogan critics from jail, in line with European Court of Human Rights rulings, and generally improve rule-of-law standards.

“You’re going to have a wait-and-see attitude from the EU,” said Mr. Pierini.

If there is a crackdown on graft, European companies may be ready to make big investments in Turkey once again, perhaps with backing from the EU and its member governments, he said.

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Efforts to expand an EU-Turkey customs union to include more goods and grant Turks visa-free EU travel could also be revived.

But neither would be easy – not least because of the divided island of Cyprus. Its internationally recognised government, composed of Greek Cypriots, is an EU member, while the breakaway Turkish Cypriot state is recognised only by Ankara.

“This is of course the big stumbling block in our relations,” said European Parliament member Lagodinsky.

However, EU officials see little sign that Kilicdaroglu would change much on Cyprus.

“The big game changer for EU-Turkey relations would be Cyprus. Here the candidates’ agenda, however, does not seem fundamentally different,” said a senior EU official, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Cyprus is one of many factors that make a revival of EU membership negotiations unlikely, officials and analysts say. EU leaders designated Turkey as a candidate to join the bloc in 2004 but the talks ground to a halt years ago.

“There are many other ways to strengthen the relationship, build confidence. There is already a lot of European money that has made its way to Turkey,” said a European diplomat. “I don’t know anyone in Europe who wants to revive EU membership talks.”

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