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.

Chinese President Xi Jinping will arrive in Rome tomorrow ready to plant a flag in the heart of Europe. Italy is expected to break with most other advanced economies by formally signing onto Beijing's $1.3 trillion global Belt and Road (BRI) infrastructure initiative.

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China's Belt and Road infrastructure initiative is one of the most ambitious geopolitical projects ever. By 2027, it aims to dish out an estimated $1.3 trillion in loans, around ten times what the US spent on the Marshall Plan in the aftermath of World War II. As China increases its investment in the West, will countries' loyalty shift toward Beijing? Here's a look at the already staggering scope of Beijing's agenda.

As you read this, US-backed Syrian and Kurdish forces are killing or capturing the last few Islamic State militants holding out in a fingernail-shaped sliver of riverbank in eastern Syria. It's all that remains of the caliphate declared by the Islamist extremist group across a swath of Syria and neighboring Iraq in 2014.

Despite being on the back foot territorially, here are three ways that ISIS will continue to rile global politics:

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What we are watching

A retiring strongman in Kazakhstan – Since 1989, one man has ruled the massive, oil-rich Central Asian republic of Kazakhstan. That is, until yesterday, when Nursultan Nazarbayev resigned as president and put a close ally in charge until new elections are called. The 78-year old Kazakh leader was rumored to have been planning a transition for more than two years, putting allies in key posts, weakening the power of the presidency, and bolstering the clout of the country's Security Council, which he will still head. But the exact timing came as a surprise. We're watching this story – not just because it's a rare example of a strongman leaving power of his own will, but because we suspect Vladimir Putin is watching, too. The hardy 66-year-old Russian leader needs to figure out what he'll do when his current term expires in 2024. The constitution says Putin can't run again. Is Nazarbayev charting a path that Putin can follow?

A suspicious death in Italy – Italian authorities are investigating the suspicious demise of Imane Fadil, a 34-year-old Moroccan model who died in Milan earlier this month – apparently with high levels of toxic metals in her blood that could indicate poisoning. Fadil was a frequent guest at ex-Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi's infamous bunga-bunga sex parties, and was a key witness in his 2013 trial on underage sex allegations. Adding to the intrigue, Fadil was due to testify at another upcoming court case. Apart from all of this, her death could have an immediate impact on Italian politics: Italy's right-wing Lega party is now less likely to call a snap election this summer, because the Fadil case taints Berlusconi's Forza Italia party, the group that Lega would ideally like to team up with in order to gain a majority in parliament.

What we are ignoring

The Scent of Fascism – In a new commercial out of Israel, a beautiful woman glides through arty black and white scenes like a model, purring about putting new limits on the judiciary, and spritzing herself with a perfume called "fascism." Hot stuff, right? But this isn't just a sultry model hawking a designer fragrance – it's the country's right-wing Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked, who has incensed the left with her bid to curtail the power of courts, which she says are too liberal. At the end of the spoof ad, which is meant to promote her New Right party ahead of upcoming elections, Skaked takes whiff of the perfume and tells viewers: "Smells like democracy to me." We are ignoring this bid to put her party's name back in the headlines because the fascism joke just isn't funny.

Devin Nunes' Mom – Devin Nunes, a Republican Congressman from California, has filed a lawsuit seeking $250 million in damages against a Twitter personality who goes by the handle @DevinNunesMom, other users of the popular messaging platform, and Twitter itself. According to a copy of the complaint uploaded by Fox News, Nunes, the ardent Trump supporter who used to chair the House Intelligence Committee, says @DevinNunesMom engaged in slander by calling him "presidential fluffer and swamp rat," and claiming he was "voted Most Likely To Commit Treason in high school," among other digital insults. The suit also accused Twitter of suppressing conservative viewpoints – an argument that other Republicans have used to put political pressure on the company. We'll be watching how that argument plays out, but we are ignoring @DevinNunesMom. Judging by the massive jump in followers that @DevinNunesMom has received since the case was filed, by the time this is all over, we're pretty sure Congressman Nunes will wish he had done so, too.