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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
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 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.
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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