The last parliamentary elections in Turkey mark a political and an institutional turning point in the country’s history. The importance of the vote derives from two main factors.
Firstly, Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu’s Party of Justice and Development (AKP) has lost its parliamentary majority, although it remains the largest party in the Parliament with 258 seats and 40.9% of the votes. This is the first time that the party has been in this position since 2002, when the AKP swept to power and retained a majority in the Turkish Parliament. However, the AKP failed to achieve its objective of 350 seats, as the party leader and president of the Republic since August 2014, Recep Tayyp Erdogan, had hoped.
This 350 seats threshold would have allowed Erdogan to introduce a series of constitutional reforms leading to a reinforcement of the presidential system. However, Turkish voters would appear to have baulked at this prospect and have opted to maintain the existing balance of institutional power. The elections were an indirect referendum on Erdogan’s constitutional intentions.
Indeed, the electoral campaign went ahead amidst a degree of tension given the issues at stake. Galip Dalay, a senior fellow with the Al Jazeera Center for Studies on Turkey and Kurdish affairs, points out that the main factor contributing to the heated atmosphere remained, above all, the future of the political system: “The whole struggle involves the central question of whether Turkey should have a parliamentary or a presidential system. Unfortunately, all other items on the agenda have taken a back seat with regard to this central electoral question”. 
Secondly, the entry of the left-wing pro-Kurdish party, the People’s Democratic Party (HDP), into the Grand National Assembly represents a development of marked significance. The HDP, led by Selahattin Demirtas, received 6.5 millions of votes (13%) and 80 seats in the Parliament. This political shift opens the door of Parliament to an overtly Kurdish party for the first time in Turkish history and constitutes a strengthening of Kurdish political influence.
As for the other major electoral figures, the Republican People’s Party (CHP), gained 132 seats with 25% of votes and has worsened its 2011 result. By contrast, the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) increased its share of the popular vote to 16.5% and 80 MPs. Institutionally, the new political landscape inevitably entails a period of instability and the country will undoubtedly be confronted with one of three options: a coalition government, a minority government or early elections.
With regard to the Kurdish question, the emergence of the HDP might provide a stimulus for renewed dialogue. In its electoral manifesto, among other measures, the party had pledged to back up self-rule with the introduction of regional assemblies. Since the 1920 Treaty of Sèvres – calling for autonomy for the Kurdish people; a call that remained unheeded –the Kurdish question remains unresolved. After decades of failed attempts at greater self-government, the official opening of negotiations with regard to Turkey’s accession to the European Union represented a shift in perspective and, with it, the potential for greater recognition of Kurdish cultural identity.
The latest elections might possibly induce greater momentum towards a definitive settlement as this involves the continued pursuit of peace talks with the outlawed armed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK). Only hours after the official announcement of the election results, Selahattin Demirtas, HDP leader and human rights lawyer, declared: “We, as the oppressed people of Turkey, who want justice, peace and freedom, have achieved a tremendous victory today. It’s the victory of workers, the unemployed, the villagers, the farmers. It is the victory of the left”.
The possibility of further progress over the Kurdish question is also, it would appear, intimately linked to a series of regional developments, with the Kurds being directly involved in the armed struggle with the Islamic State (IS). Kurdish resistance – alongside contacts with the United States with a view to combating IS – have contributed directly to the growing legitimacy and visibility of the Kurds, a factor that has not yet been recognized by the Turkish government.
At the same time, the fundamental question of Turkey’s economic future continues to attract a great deal of attention. The main focus has been the question of how best to reboot the economy, on one hand, and the relations between the government and the central bank, on the other hand.
After a period of sustained growth, Turkey has emerged as something of a model in terms of economic policies and development strategies. In a recent report, The World Bank stated: “Turkey’s economic success has become a source of inspiration for a number of developing countries, particularly, but not only, in the Muslim world. The rise of Turkey’s economy is admired, all the more so because it seems to go hand in hand with democratic political institutions and an expanding voice for the poor and lower middle classes”. 
This being said, closer examination of the figures points to a less rosy picture. Economic growth has been slowing since 2008 and it is predicted that it will fall to 2 percent this year. Unemployment is at its highest level in five years and, with growth stagnating, the economy will undoubtedly remain something of a thorn in the side of the new government. Nevertheless Abbas Ameli-Renani – a strategist specialising in global emerging-markets at Amundi in London – remains relatively up beat. As he pointed out on the eve of the vote, “if the AKP fails to win a majority and is forced into a coalition with other parties, the markets’ reaction is unlikely to be negative for a sustained period. After 13 years of absolute majorities for the AKP, a weaker vote of confidence by the electorate may be exactly what is needed to refocus the party’s attention on the economic reform agenda that defined its earlier years in power.” 
Above all since the election of Erdogan as President of the Republic in 2014, the question of the most appropriate economic strategies to pursue has tended to turn around the relations between the government and the Turkish Central Bank. In principle an independent entity, the central bank has come into conflict with the powers that be over high interest rates. Whilst the central bank is in favour of high interest rates, this policy has drawn some harsh criticism from Erdogan.
Despite the apparent deadlock and stagnation in Turkish affairs, the elections have been greeted with satisfaction by the European Union. Europe is the largest trading partner of Turkey, providing the greatest amount of foreign direct investment to Ankara. Against this background, the European Union has hailed the existing balance of power as “a clear sign of the strength of Turkish democracy. The fact that all the major political parties have obtained representation in the new parliament is particularly important” 
 Umut Uras, Turkey votes amid debate on presidential system, Al-Jazeera, 7 June 2015.
 Mustafa Kutlay, Turkish economy after the elections: In search of a new paradigm, Turkish Weekly, 30 June 2015.
 Onur Ant, Ali Berat Meric, Erdogan Rivals Frame Economy Debate as Turkey Heads to Polls, Bloomberg, 13 May 2015.
 Joint statement by High Representative/Vice-President Federica Mogherini and Commissioner Johannes Hahn on the General Elections in Turkey, 8 June 2015.
Iranians Will Boycott Iran Election Farce
Iran and elections have not been two synonymous terms. A regime whose constitution is based on absolute rule of someone who is considered to be God’s representative on earth, highest religious authority, morality guide, absolute ruler, and in one word Big Brother (or Vali Faqih), would hardly qualify for a democracy or a place where free or fair elections are held. But when you are God’s rep on earth you are free to invent your own meanings for words such as democracy, elections, justice, and human rights. It comes with the title. And everyone knows the fallacy of “presidential elections” in Iran. Most of all, the Iranian public know it as they have come to call for an almost unanimous boycott of the sham elections.
The boycott movement in Iran is widespread, encompassing almost all social and political strata of Iranian society, even some factions of the regime who have now decided it is time to jump ship. Most notably, remnants of what was euphemistically called the Reformist camp in Iran, have now decided to stay away from the phony polls. Even “hardline” former president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad realizes the extent of the regime’s woes and has promised that he will not be voting after being duly disqualified again from participating by supreme leader’s Guardian Council.
So after 42 years of launching a reformist-hardliner charade to play on the West’s naivety, Khamenei’s regime is now forced to present its one and true face to the world: Ebrahim Raisi, son of the Khomeinist ideology, prosecutor, interrogator, torturer, death commission judge, perpetrator of the 1988 massacre of political prisoners, chief inquisitionist, and favorite of Ali Khamenei.
What is historic and different about this presidential “election” in Iran is precisely what is not different about it. It took the world 42 years to cajole Iran’s medieval regime to step into modernity, change its behavior, embrace universal human rights and democratic governance, and treat its people and its neighbors with respect. What is shocking is that this whole process is now back at square one with Ebrahim Raisi, a proven mass murderer who boasts of his murder spree in 1988, potentially being appointed as president.
With Iran’s regime pushing the envelope in launching proxy wars on the United States in Iraq, on Saudi Arabia in Yemen, and on Israel in Gaza and Lebanon, and with a horrendous human rights record that is increasingly getting worse domestically, what is the international community, especially the West, going to do? What is Norway’s role in dealing with this crisis and simmering crises to come out of this situation?
Europe has for decades based its foreign policy on international cooperation and the peaceful settlement of disputes, and the promotion of human rights and democratic principles. The International community must take the lead in bringing Ebrahim Raisi to an international court to account for the massacre he so boastfully participated in 1988 and all his other crimes he has committed to this day.
There are many Iranian refugees who have escaped the hell that the mullahs have created in their beautiful homeland and who yearn to one day remake Iran in the image of a democratic country that honors human rights. These members of the millions-strong Iranian Diaspora overwhelmingly support the boycott of the sham election in Iran, and support ordinary Iranians who today post on social media platforms videos of the Mothers of Aban (mothers of protesters killed by regime security forces during the November 2019 uprising) saying, “Our vote is for this regime’s overthrow.” Finally, after 42 years, the forbidden word of overthrow is ubiquitous on Iranian streets with slogans adorning walls calling for a new era and the fall of this regime.
Europe should stand with the Iranian Resistance and people to call for democracy and human rights in Iran and it should lead calls for accountability for all regime leaders, including Ebrahim Raisi, and an end to a culture of impunity for Iran’s criminal rulers.
Powershift in Knesset: A Paradigm of Israel’s Political Instability
The dynamics of the Middle East are changing faster than anyone ever expected. For instance, no sage mind ever expected Iran to undergo a series of talks with the US and European nations to negotiate sanctions and curb its nuclear potential. And certainly, no political pundit could have predicted a normalization of diplomacy between Israel and a handful of Arab countries. The shocker apparently doesn’t end there. The recent shift in Israeli politics is a historic turnaround; a peculiar outcome of the 11-day clash. To probe, early June, a pack of eight opposition parties reached a coalition agreement to establish Israel’s 36th government and oust Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel’s longest-serving prime minister. While the political impasse has partly subsided, neither the 12-year prime minister is feeble nor is the fragile opposition strong enough to uphold an equilibrium.
Mr. Netanyahu currently serves as the caretaker prime minister of Israel. While the charges of corruption inhibited his drive in the office, he was responsible to bring notable achievements for Israel in the global diplomatic missions. Mr. Netanyahu, since assuming office in 2009, has bagged several diplomatic victories; primarily in reference to the long-standing conflict with Palestine and by extension, the Arab world. He managed to persuade former US President Donald J. Trump to shift the American embassy from Tel Aviv to the contentious city of Jerusalem. Furthermore, he managed to strike off the Palestinian mission in Washington whilst gaining success in severing US from the nuclear agreement with Iran. To the right-wing political gurus, Mr. Netanyahu stood as a symbolic figure to project the aspirations of the entire rightest fraction.
However, the pegs turned when Mr. Netanyahu refused to leave the office while facing a corruption trial. What he deemed as a ‘Backdoor Coup Attempt’ was rather criticized by his own base as a ruse of denial. By denying the charges and desecrating the judges hearing his case, Mr. Netanyahu started to undercut the supremacy of law. While he still had enough support to float above water, he lost the whelming support of the rightest faction which resulted in the most unstable government and four inconclusive elections in the past two years.
While Mr. Netanyahu was given the baton earlier by President Reuven Rivlin, he failed to convince his bedfellow politicians to join the rightest agenda. Moreover, Mr. Netanyahu probably hoped to regain support by inciting a head-on collision with the Palestinians. The scheme backfired as along with the collapse of the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, the tremors overtook Israel’s own Arab-Jewish cities resulting in mass chaos. The burning of Mosques and local Synagogues was hardly the expectation. Thus, both the raucous sentiment pervading the streets of Israel as well as the unstable nature of the Netanyahu-government led the rightest parties to switch sides.
As Mr. Netanyahu failed to convince a coalition government, the task was handed to Mr. Yair Lapid, a centrist politician. While the ideologies conflicted in the coalition he tried to forge, his counterparts, much like him, preferred to sideline the disputes in favor of dethroning Netanyahu. Mr. Lapid joined hands with a pool of political ideologies, the odd one being the conservative Yamina party led by the veteran politician, Mr. Naftali Bennett. While Mr. Lapid has been a standard-bearer for secular Israelis, Mr. Bennett has been a stout nationalist, being the standard-bearer for the rightest strata. To add oil to the fire, the 8-party coalition also includes an Arab Islamist party, Raam. A major conflict of beliefs and motivations.
Although the coalition has agreed to focus on technocratic issues and compromise on the ideological facets, for the time being, both the rightest and the leftish parties would be under scrutiny to justify the actions of the coalition as a whole. Mr. Bennett would be enquired about his take on the annexation of occupied West Bank, an agenda vocalized by him during his alliance with Mr. Netanyahu. However, as much as he opposes the legitimacy of the Palestinian state, he would have to dim his narrative to avoid a fissure in the already fragile coalition. Similarly, while the first independent Arab group is likely to assume decision-making in the government for the first time, the mere idea of infuriating Mr. Bennett strikes off any hope of representation and voice of the Arabs in Israel.
Now Mr. Netanyahu faces a choice to defer the imminent vote of confidence in Knesset whilst actively persuading the rightest politicians to abandon the coalition camp. His drive has already picked momentum as he recently deemed the election as the ‘Biggest Fraud in the History of Israeli Politics’. Furthermore, he warned the conservatives of a forthcoming leftist regime, taking a hit on Naftali colluding with a wide array of leftist ideologies. The coalition is indeed fragile, yet survival of coalition would put an end to Netanyahu and his legacy while putting Naftali and then Lapid in the office. However, the irony of the situation is quite obvious – a move from one rightest to the other. A move from one unstable government to a lasting political instability in Israel.
The Gaza War
On May 22, 2021, Iran’s Supreme Leader, Ali Khamenei’s website, posted a congratulatory message from one of the Hamas group’s leaders, Ziad Nakhaleh. In his message, Ziad Nakhaleh addresses Khamenei and says, “Qasem Soleimani’s friends and brothers, especially Ismail Ghani (Iran’s IRGC commander) and his colleagues, led this battle and were present with us during our recent conflict with Israel. … We pray for the preservation of the Islamic Republic of Iran and its brave soldiers.”
Since the regime’s establishment 42 years ago, Iran has been instrumental in inflicting war and chaos regionally. When Iran finds itself cornered and entangled with its internal problems or facing an impasse, a war or bloody conflict gets ignited by the regime to divert the Iranian people’s attention. This undeclared policy of the Iranian regime frees itself from the most pressing internal issues, even temporarily.
Today’s Iranian society is like a barrel of gunpowder ready to ignite. Last year, the Iranian parliament declared that more than 60 percent of Iranians live below the poverty line. According to the media close to the regime, close to 80% of the population below the poverty line this year. It is worth mentioning that Iran is one of the top 10 wealthiest countries globally, despite the challenges of the current sanctions.
This poverty is mainly the result of rampant institutionalized government corruption. According to Qalibaf, the current speaker of Iran’s parliament, only 4 percent of the population is prosperous, and the rest are poor and hungry. The two uprisings of 2017 and mid-November 2019 that surprised the regime were caused mainly by extreme poverty and high inflation. The regime survived the above widespread uprisings by opening direct fire at the innocent protestors, killing more than 1500 people. There is no longer any legitimacy for the regime domestically and internationally.
The explosive barrel of the Iranian discontent is about to burst at any given moment. To delay such social eruption, Khamenei banned the import of COVID-19 vaccines from the US, Britain, and France, hoping the people will be occupied with the virus and forget about their miserable living conditions.
On the other hand, the Iranian regime is in the midst of new negotiations with the western countries regarding its nuclear program. These negotiations may force the regime to abandon its nuclear plans that have cost billions of dollars, its terrorist activities in the region, and its ballistic missiles stockpile. This retreat will inevitably facilitate the growth and spread of the uprisings and social unrest across Iran.
The Deadlock of the Regime
The regime is facing an election that could ignite the barrel of gunpowder of the Iranian society. In 1988, when Khamenei wanted to announce Ahmadinejad as the winner of the presidential ballot boxes but faced opposition from former Prime Minister Mousavi. Widespread demonstrations were ignited. The same scenario is repeating itself in this year’s presidential election, where Khamenei intends to announce Raisi as the next president of Iran. There is a legitimate fear that demonstrations will ignite once again.
To avoid the happening of the same experience, Khamenei is forced to make an important decision. Like any other dictator, he pursues a policy of contraction during these challenging and crucial times, deciding to favor those loyal to him and his policies. Khamenei needs a uniform and decisive government to exert maximum repression on the Iranian people.
By disqualifying the former president (Ahmadinejad), the current vice president (Jahangiri), and most importantly, his current adviser and speaker of the two parliaments (Larijani), he has cut loose a large part of his regime. One way or another, Khamenei’s contraction policy is going to weaken his grip on power.
On the other hand, the Iranian regime must comply with the West’s demand for nuclear talks. In 2021, the political landscape is entirely different from 2015 in the balance of regional and global forces. The regime’s regional influence in Iraq, Lebanon, and Syria has been severely weakened.
There is an explosive situation inside Iran. The resistance units spread throughout Iran after the 2019 uprising and have rapidly increased in recent months. They are spreading the message of separation of religion from the government, plus equality between men and women in a society where women do not have the right to be elected as president or a minister. The resistance units call themselves supporters of Maryam Rajavi, the Iranian regime’s sworn enemy. These units can direct a massive flood of people’s anger towards the Supreme Leader’s establishments with every spark and explosion.
Khamenei wanted to force the West to lift all sanctions and demonstrate a show of force within Iran and the region by initiating the Gaza war. The Gaza war was intended to divert the attention from Khamenei’s decisions on Iran’s presidential election. In this situation, the regime wanted to break its presidential deadlock by firing rockets through Hamas and carrying out a massacre in Israel and Palestine.
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