TURKEY BETWEEN EMERGENCY LAW AND SON-IN-LAW

TURKEY BETWEEN EMERGENCY LAW AND SON-IN-LAW

On Thursday, the Turkish government lifted a state of emergency that has been in force for two years. First imposed after a failed coup against President Erdogan’s government back in 2016, the measure has facilitated the arrest or purge of roughly a quarter of a million state officials.


But if Erdogan is comfortable letting the emergency law go, it’s because conventional laws now give him all the clout he needs. Having narrowly won re-election last month, he takes office with vastly expanded new powers to appoint officials in the government, judiciary, military, central bank, universities, and even at the local level, all with little parliamentary oversight. A tough new anti-terrorism law will grant him additional tools to silence or sideline his opponents.

One of Erdogan’s first moves after being sworn in for his second term was to put his 40-year-old son-in-law Berat Albayrak in charge as treasury and finance minister, a position of immense influence over Turkey’s economy.

There are two big questions surrounding Albayrak. First, although he has a background in business and an MBA from a US university, there’s little to suggest that he’ll push back against his headstrong father-in-law’s increasingly ruinous economic policy. To keep his base happy, Erdogan has flooded the country with government cash and kept interest rates artificially low. While that approach worked for a time, international investors whose support helps to keep the debt-ridden economy afloat are increasingly spooked. With crucial municipal elections set for next spring, it’s hard to see Erdogan changing course, and even harder to see Albayrak pushing back – his appointment alone caused the lira to shed 3.5% of its value against the dollar, its biggest one-day slide in two years.

The second question is a broader one: is Erdogan, who has elevated Albayrak with stunning speed over the past several years, grooming a successor? One of the challenges of strongman politics, after all, is that after concentrating so much power in the presidency, you want to be sure that the next guy doesn’t turn around and use it against you. (In 1999, for example, a sickly Boris Yeltsin shrewdly entrusted the vast legal powers of his office to a young ex-spy known for his loyalty, if not for his scruples.) While the 64-year-old Erdogan can still legally serve at least 10 more years, it’s never too early for the aging authoritarian retirement plan to kick in.

Microsoft announced earlier this year the launch of a new United Nations representation office to deepen their support for the UN's mission and work. Many of the big challenges facing society can only be addressed effectively through multi-stakeholder action. Whether it's public health, environmental sustainability, cybersecurity, terrorist content online or the UN's Sustainable Development Goals, Microsoft has found that progress requires two elements - international cooperation among governments and inclusive initiatives that bring in civil society and private sector organizations to collaborate on solutions. Microsoft provided an update on their mission, activities for the 75th UN General Assembly, and the team. To read the announcement from Microsoft's Vice President of UN Affairs, John Frank, visit Microsoft On The Issues.

News broke across the United States on Friday evening that Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg had died, ending her long and distinguished career as a jurist. Tributes poured in quickly from men and women on both sides of the political spectrum. But just as quickly, her death has sharply raised the stakes for the upcoming US elections for president and the Senate, as well as the longer-term ideological balance of the nation's top court.

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Jon Lieber, Managing Director of the United States for the Eurasia Group, shares his insights on the biggest development in US politics this week:

So, the scriptwriters for 2020 have thrown as a real curveball, introducing the most explosive element in US politics, just six weeks before the election. The tragic death of Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who will be remembered as a trailblazing jurist, but also a reliably liberal vote on a court that was divided along ideological lines with a five-four conservative majority. This has the potential to upend the presidential election. And likely will motivate turnout on both sides. But also, importantly for president, Trump could remind some Romney voting ex-Republicans who were leaning towards Biden why they were Republicans in the first place. Which means that it has the potential to push some persuadable voters back towards the president.

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(Some) Thais fed up with royals: In their largest show of force to date, around 18,000 young Thai activists took to the streets of Bangkok on Saturday to rally against the government and demand sweeping changes to the country's powerful monarchy. The protesters installed a gold plaque declaring that Thailand belongs to the Thai people, not the king — a brazen act of defiance in a country where many view the sovereign as a god and offenses against the royal family are punishable by up to 15 years in prison. Activists also got the royal guards to accept a letter addressed to King Vajiralongkorn with their proposed reforms. We're watching to see if the Thai government — made up mostly of the same generals who took over in a 2014 coup and then stage-managed last year's election to stay in power — continues to exercise restraint against the activists. So far, some protest leaders have been detained but they are growing bolder in their defiance of the military and the royal family, the two institutions that have dominated Thai politics for decades. Prime Minister and former army chief Prayuth Chan-ocha is in a tough spot: many young and liberal Thais will hate him if he cracks down hard on the peaceful protesters, but not doing so would make him look weak in the eyes of his power base of older, more conservative Thais who still venerate the monarchy and are fine with the military calling the shots in politics.

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32: Peruvian President Martín Vizcarra survived an impeachment vote on Friday after only 32 out of 130 lawmakers supported his removal for allegedly trying to block an investigation into misuse of public funds. Vizcarra was in peril just a week ago, but the case for impeachment lost steam after the president was backed by the military and influential opposition leaders who insist the country needs stability to fight COVID-19.

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