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Turkey: Hometown Blues for Erdogan

Turkey: Hometown Blues for Erdogan

When Istanbul elected a young, Islamist mayor in 1994, it sent a shockwave through Turkey's secular political establishment and marked the beginning of a sea change in the country's politics. Recep Tayyip Erdogan would use the mayoralty of Turkey's largest city as a springboard to national power, which he has now dominated for 16 years.

But on Sunday, his hometown turned its back on him.


In nationwide municipal elections, the coalition led by Erdogan's ruling AK Party (AKP) lost control of a number of key cities, including the nation's capital, Ankara, as well as several coastal centers.

But the biggest loss was Istanbul, which has been under the control of parties aligned with Erdogan since he was mayor. This is a significant setback for a leader, and a party, who have won every major election in Turkey since 2002.

The election was above all a referendum on Erdogan's increasing authoritarianism and his handling of the economy.

Over the past several years, Erdogan has vastly expanded his power. After a failed coup against his government in 2016, he purged more than 100,000 state employees and threw a number of journalists in jail. In 2017, he narrowly won a controversial referendum that permitted him to increase the power of the presidency, a position he then won in an election last summer.

In recent weeks, Erdogan campaigned furiously for his party, suggesting to Turkish voters that voting for the AKP was a matter of national survival and sovereignty.

But those voters went to the polls amid an economic recession spurred in part by Erdogan's disastrous economic policies: his approach of spouting conspiracy theories and pumping cash into the economy without worrying about inflation spooked foreign investors last year, leading to a currency crisis that affected the broader economy. What's more, urban voters have become increasingly frustrated with poor management and corruption at the local level in cities controlled by the AKP and its affiliates.

Yesterday wasn't all bad news for Erdogan: the AKP still won far more votes than any other party nationally, and it remains strong in the country's rural heartlands. For tens of millions of conservative Turks, Erdogan is still the man who made their voices heard in Turkish politics for the first time. And they still remember fondly the economic boom years over which he presided.

But losing the big cities means losing control over the country's major population centers and economic hubs, and with them a huge source of cash and patronage that can be doled out to supporters and cronies in the future.

Will Erdogan seek to win those cities back, or will he double down on an even more divisive politics now?

Elsewhere in the world of "throw the bums out": Turkey wasn't the only place where voters flipped on those in power this weekend. Across the Black Sea in Ukraine, comedian Volodymyr Zelenskiy, who plays a president on TV, rang up nearly twice the vote share of the actual president, Petro Poroshenko, in the first round of that country's presidential balloting. Zelenskiy and Poroshenko – a chocolate industry tycoon who won the presidency after Ukraine's 2014 uprising – now head to a Comedian vs Candyman runoff on 21 April.

And next door in Slovakia, pro-EU anti-corruption crusader Zuzana Caputova won the presidency, amid a campaign shaped in part by the murder last year of an investigative journalist who'd unearthed ties between government officials and organized crime. Although Slovakia's presidency is a largely ceremonial office, the triumph of Caputova, a political newcomer and the country's first female president, flies in the face of recent gains for macho right-wing Euroskeptic parties elsewhere in Central Europe.

Meet Alessandra Cominetti, a recipient of MIT Technology Review Magazine's Innovators Under 35 award. As a lab technician at Eni's Research Centre for Renewable Energy in Novara, Alessandra has devoted her career to finding new solutions and materials to optimize solar energy. Much like the serendipitous encounter that resulted in her employment, her eagerness and willingness to try new things allowed her to stumble upon a material for the creation of portable solar panels.

Watch her remarkable story on the latest episode of Faces of Eni.

Joe Biden has vowed to radically change the US' approach to foreign policy and international diplomacy should he win next week's election.

But a lot has happened in four years under Donald Trump that could impede Biden's ability to simply return to the status quo ante. How different would US foreign policy really be under a Biden presidency? What will the two-term former vice president likely be able to change, and what's bound to remain the same, at least for now?

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Kevin Sneader, Global Managing Partner at McKinsey & Company, provides perspective on what corporate business leaders are thinking during the global coronavirus crisis

Should big business care about small business in these times?

The answer is yes and for many reasons. First, small business is the lifeblood of our economies. 45% of employment in emerging countries and 70% in the OECD comes from small and medium enterprises. Moreover, these enterprises have been badly hit by the crisis. Surveys indicate as many as 50% of European small to medium enterprises feel they may not survive over 12 months. While SMEs are relying on government support, larger companies do have a role to play. After all, this includes prioritizing small business and procurement by locking in demand for multiple years, thus facilitating access to good credit, paying receivables to small business in time and where possible, ahead of schedule. Cash flow matters most when you're small. Looking out for small businesses that have lower resilience. For example, financial institutions can lend more and in doing so, ensure deeper customer relationships in the future.

In his latest Financial Times op-ed, Martin Wolf argues that the US global role is at stake in this election and that a Trump re-election would undo America's legacy of democratic leadership in the world. Ian Bremmer and Eurasia Group's Jeffrey Wright grabbed the Red Pen to argue that a Trump presidency exists in part because of Americans' rejection of the US's post-war leadership role, and these feelings run deeper than the article suggests.

Today, we're taking The Red Pen to a recent op-ed published in The Financial Times from my good friend, the chief economics commentator Martin Wolf. Martin argues the global role of the United States is at stake on November 3rd, and that a Trump reelection would undo America's legacy of democratic leadership in the world. There's been a lot of this sort of thing recently. I know, we did it once, but if we do it twice, it's all over and I'm not there. To be clear, we don't totally reject what Martin is presenting in this piece. Rather, we'd argue that a Trump presidency exists because there were feelings that were present in the United States before he came along and they run a lot deeper than the article suggests. In other words, it's really not all about Trump.

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"The top priority will be to announce to the world that the United States they've known for decades is back." Former top Obama diplomat and current CEO of the think tank New America Anne-Marie slaughter predicts an American revival on the global stage if Joe Biden wins the presidency. But at a time when the United States has never been more divided, can any nation, even the world's most powerful, be a global leader if it cannot even keep its own house in order? Ian Bremmer's conversation with Slaughter is part of a new episode of GZERO World.

Watch the episode: How a "President Biden" could reshape US foreign policy

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