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Erdogan: The man who has dominated Turkish politics for 20 years



This weekend, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the man who has dominated Turkish politics for two decades, is seeking to extend his rule for another five years.

Erdogan is vying to secure a third term as president, adding to his three previous spells as prime minister from 2003 to 2014, in presidential and parliamentary elections that are widely billed as the toughest he has yet to face.

The 69-year-old comes from a conservative political tradition and has developed a reputation as a divisive figure in a country that was founded along secularist lines in the 1920s by Mustafa Kemal Ataturk.

Erdogan surpassed Ataturk’s 15 years in Turkey’s top post five years ago, becoming the longest serving leader the country has known. In 2014, he became the first president elected by popular vote, going on to win a referendum that concentrated power in the president’s hands.


Worsening cost-of-living crisis

Sunday’s elections will be held as Turkey is experiencing a series of economic crises that have led to rampant inflation and a deepening cost-of-living crunch.

February’s earthquakes in southeastern Turkey heaped further pressure on Erdogan with many people criticising his government’s response and failure to enforce building regulations, claiming these factors contributed to the loss of more than 50,000 lives.

“He has to go. It is his one-man regime that helped create this disaster,” said Furkan Ozbilgin, a 29-year-old resident of Antakya, the city worst hit by the quakes and a stronghold for the opposition.

“It is through his rule that contractors were allowed to get away with building such poor buildings that collapsed, killing thousands of people,” Ozbilgin charged.

The president, however, has many supporters who point to his successes over the years and see him as the man to tackle Turkey’s current troubles.

“Of course, over 20 years, there are going to be bad periods as well as good,” said Ahmet Gokkaya, a shopkeeper in Istanbul’s conservative Fatih district. “Our president cannot be held responsible for the earthquake disaster. Does he control every building site in Turkey?

“We have seen what he’s done for this country, and we should not abandon him now.”

Erdogan supporters attend a rally in Ankara on May 11, 2023 [Cagla Gurdogan/Reuters]

Rising through the political ranks

Erdogan’s political career can be traced back to the 1970s in Beyoglu, the Istanbul district that includes his childhood home in Kasimpasa, a working class neighbourhood on the slopes leading from the glitzy shops of Istiklal Avenue to the waters of the Golden Horn.

His first political role came in 1976 as the head of the Beyoglu youth branch of the National Salvation Party, led by Necmettin Erbakan, a future prime minister widely viewed as Erdogan’s mentor.

He rose through the ranks, in 1994 becoming mayor of Istanbul, where he addressed many of the problems facing the city’s rapidly growing population, such as air pollution, rubbish collection and a lack of clean water.

But four years later he attracted the attention of the courts for reciting a controversial poem. This led to a four-month jail term for inciting religious discrimination.

Emerging from prison in July 1999 with a ban from politics still in place, Erdogan went on to form the Justice and Development Party (AK Party) two years later.

Fifteen months after the party’s founding, it won the 2002 elections against the background of a financial crisis. Due to his ban from politics, Erdogan was unable to take office as prime minister until the following March.

So began two decades of power that many observers said have seen a dramatic change in Erdogan’s politics.

Interative_Turkey_elections_2023_5_Voting at a glance

Changes over 20 years

Most commentators see the first decade of AK Party rule as one in which the government embraced democratic reforms as Turkey sought to join the European Union. Erdogan was heralded by liberals at home and abroad for loosening the military’s grip on the country and addressing the rights of women and minorities.

In the past 10 years, however, Erdogan has been criticised for adopting a more authoritarian outlook that many said has further polarised Turkey, particularly in the wake of nationwide anti-government protests 10 years ago and a 2016 coup attempt, during which he narrowly escaped with his life.

Purges after the failed coup saw tens of thousands of people jailed or dismissed from their jobs as the government went after the supporters of US-based Muslim leader Fethullah Gulen, whom the Turkish government blamed for orchestrating the putsch attempt with his followers.

Critics said the clampdown was used as a cover to target wider political dissent and the term “Gulenist” had become a brush to tar any opponent.

Erdogan’s success in national elections hit a bump in 2015 when the AK Party lost its parliamentary majority, leading the president to ally with ultra-nationalists and abandon the Kurdish peace process.

Four years later, Erdogan suffered his first electoral defeat when local elections saw major cities, including Istanbul and Ankara, elect the opposition. A rerun of the vote in Istanbul, held after the AK Party protested the outcome, led to the opposition candidate for mayor winning by an even wider margin.

Erdogan now promises future economic prosperity and has sought in the run-up to the election to relieve rising living costs by introducing subsidised energy bills and hikes to pensions, public workers’ salaries and the minimum wage.

Focusing on the AK Party’s record of building bridges, roads and hospitals, Erdogan has also highlighted the improvements made to Turks’ everyday lives while also heralding prestigious projects, many in the military sphere, such as the development of drones.



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Mechanical podium, playfully dubbed 'explodium,' aims to even B.C.'s political field – Times Colonist



VICTORIA — It was a sizable British Columbia political issue that called for a one-size-fits-all solution, says Premier David Eby, who at six-foot-seven is the province’s tallest leader.

The tall and the short needed evening out as matters of perception and fairness, he said.

Eby towers over most people at news conferences but is juxtaposed with Selina Robinson, minister of post-secondary education and future skills, who at four-foot-11 often needs to stand on boxes to reach the microphone.


The solution: a mechanical podium, which debuted shortly after Eby took office late last year. It can be moved up or down with the flick of a switch to suit the size of the person delivering remarks at a political event.

“You might describe me as an unusually tall person, or disturbingly tall person to some people,” Eby told reporters last week. “My colleague Selina Robinson is a much tinier person and we have a whole range of people in between, so the podium moves up and down to accommodate everybody’s ability to speak.” 

The premier said people have expressed surprise — and thanks — as the podium lifts or lowers to accommodate their height.

One such person was Tracy Redies, chief executive officer at Vancouver’s Science World, who joined Eby for a news conference last month where the province announced $20 million to repair the iconic domed building’s leaky roof. 

“This pulpit’s amazing,” she said. “The science, the technology.”

Eby said the podium, which has gained the nickname “explodium” at the legislature, is a functional success.

“It’s an important innovation in B.C. where we are never short of innovations or remarkable ways to solve problems,” he said with a chuckle. “When we go to events around the community, it does draw attention from speakers who aren’t used to it, especially when it moves unexpectedly. I think everybody enjoys it. It’s fun and it works.”

But, some concerns about the podium have been raised by the Opposition BC United and a communications expert who suggests the structure reinforces old-school political traditions.

BC United finance critic Peter Milobar said the Opposition has questions about the cost of the podium, but the government hasn’t provided answers.

“We all understand the premier is tall, but the fact we need these extra-wide, telescopic-type podiums just seems to be a potentially expensive thing for the taxpayer,” he said.

Milobar said it appears the podium is more of a political prop used to enhance Eby’s image.

“It’s fair to say I’m not an average-sized person, but I’m not too worried about which podium I’m standing behind to make important political announcements,” he said.

While Eby’s podium is not the biggest news story at the legislature, it symbolizes the stereotyped visual culture of politics, said David Black, a political communications expert at Victoria’s Royal Roads University.

“I think the podium, where you want to adjust for a tall person like David Eby or a shorter person like Selina Robinson, is all about just creating this necessary visual conformity so that no one is stepping on the message,” he said.

B.C.’s development of a podium that fits all sizes is a metaphor for a political culture that is resistant to change, Black said.

“When you break the visual code or political style or tamper with conservative visual culture when it comes to politics, you step on the message,” he said. “It becomes, fairly or not, read as a gaffe, sometimes a career-ending gaffe.”

Former Canadian Alliance leader Stockwell Day was widely criticized more than two decades ago for arriving at a B.C. lakeside news conference riding a Jet Ski, Black said.

Former U.S. president Barack Obama faced fierce criticism for wearing a tan-coloured suit, he said.

“He wore a tan-coloured suit and it was the end of American democracy,” Black said.

But federal Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre’s backyard neighbourhood video statements are signs of a politician looking to break visual codes, as was former Toronto mayor Rob Ford’s “everyman” appearance, said Black.

“My question is, in some sense, do we need to rethink the language of politics, the visual style of politics, because is it exhausted?” he said. “Is it obsolete? Has it exhausted its reassuring quality?”

Robinson said she’s pleased with the fairness of the podium, especially after years of standing on crates to raise her profile.

“Having a podium that actually fits me is great, and one that fits the premier is great,” she said.

“This is an accessibility piece of furniture and I think it works the way it’s supposed to. It’s recognizing we all come in different shapes and sizes and having furniture that fits us regardless of how tall or small we are is a good thing.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 28, 2023.

Dirk Meissner, The Canadian Press

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Trump, DeSantis battle for Republican nomination turns race into political trench warfare – The Globe and Mail



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Then-U.S. President Donald Trump introduces Florida Governor Ron DeSantis during a homecoming campaign rally at the BB&T Center on November 26, 2019, in Sunrise, Fla.Joe Raedle/Getty Images

It’s bombs away in the American presidential race.

There was no pause for mobilization, no early ceasefire, no “phony war,” in the struggle for the Republican campaign for the party’s 2024 presidential nomination. In only a few days’ time, the battle between former president Donald Trump and Governor Ron DeSantis has developed into total warfare.

For months, the two shadow-boxed with each other – Mr. Trump lobbing talking-point grenades into the DeSantis camp; the Florida chief executive ignoring them, as if the attacks lacked the potential to detonate.


That phase is over now, with – if you permit the expression – a bang.

The pins have been pulled, the two sides are engaged in explosive exchanges, and the political landscape of the Republican Party – as recently as two decades ago resembling nothing so much as the manicured green of the 13th hole at the Augusta National Golf Club, home of the fabled Masters Tournament – has been transformed into a battlefield.

It is well to recall that the Iowa caucuses, the first tests of the campaign, are seven months away.

And yet the campaign rapidly has assumed the character of trench warfare. Mr. Trump’s high command is accusing the DeSantis camp of political plagiarism, stealing the main themes of the 45th president. The DeSantis campaign is arguing that Mr. Trump’s time has passed and that, in any case, he failed to pass into law the principal elements of the new Republican agenda.

And like the fixed battle positions of the First World War, the two sides are settling into a situation where they may be engaged in an endless set of explosive exchanges. In terms of ideology, it resembles a race to the right. In terms of manners, it may be a race to the bottom.

Mr. DeSantis accused Mr. Trump – who, in three presidential campaigns and four years in the White House, has cultivated the Republican right – of abandoning his onetime political profile. “It seems like he’s running to the left, and I have always been somebody that’s just been moored in conservative principles,” he said.

A Trump spokesman, Steven Cheung, referred to Mr. DeSantis’s botched Twitter Space campaign debut, saying, “He can’t run away from his disastrous, embarrassing, and low-energy campaign announcement. Rookie mistakes and unforced errors – that’s who he is.”

And so it went in the first days of this new phase in the campaign.

Never in contemporary American politics has a nomination race devolved into so much bitterness so quickly.

Republican Senator Bob Dole of Kansas barked at Vice-President George H.W. Bush, demanding, “Stop lying about my record,” but that outburst occurred after the 1988 New Hampshire primary, not months before it.

Senator Bob Kerrey of Nebraska, a navy veteran of the Vietnam War, once warned that the Democrats should not nominate Bill Clinton in 1992 because the Arkansas governor had manoeuvred to avoid the draft in those years; Mr. Kerrey said the Republicans would “open him up like a soft peanut” – a tough riposte, but it didn’t occur until the last week of February, not, like the Trump-DeSantis fray, in May the year before voters get into the act.

“You can thank social media for this atmosphere,” said David Carney, a veteran Republican strategist not affiliated with either campaign and with deep roots in New Hampshire, site of the first presidential primary. “It’s easy to do, it gets coverage and it fast-forwards a back-and-forth that in other times would take a few weeks to conduct. Candidates today think they will be rewarded for this, but undecided voters are not watching Twitter.”

All this raises two vital questions: Can these two keep up the passion and decibel level of their confrontation for several more months? And will the hostilities between them create an opening for another contender, or maybe two?

If, for example, the bombardment between the two candidates leaves one of them mortally wounded, nature (and the nature of American presidential politics) abhors a vacuum. One of the other candidates – perhaps one of the South Carolinians, former governor Nikki Haley or Senator Tim Scott, or perhaps one of the sitting governors who has not declared a candidacy, Chris Sununu of New Hampshire or Glenn Youngkin of Virginia – might emerge.

And a contest that is marked by bombast and explosions might welcome the entry of former governor Chris Christie of New Jersey, famous for his debilitating attack on Senator Marco Rubio eight years ago, when he accused the Florida lawmaker of being the practitioner of a “memorized 25-second speech” that was “exactly what his advisers gave him.”

Mr. Sununu has a touch of the caustic in him, as he once said of Mr. Trump, “I don’t think he’s so crazy that you could put him in a mental institution. But I think if he were in one, he ain’t getting out.” No one wonders whom former governor Asa Hutchinson of Arkansas was speaking of when he said the GOP needs “somebody that brings out the best of our country and doesn’t appeal to our worst instincts.”

And in a contest where the charges of plagiarism are being tossed around – charges that forced Joe Biden out of his 1988 presidential race before the first contests of the political season – Mr. Youngkin has the moral high ground. It was his 2021 gubernatorial campaign that pioneered the notion of “parental rights” in public schools that now is part of every candidate’s portfolio.

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Analyst says pressure is on Kevin McCarthy to deliver. Hear why – CNN



Analyst says pressure is on Kevin McCarthy to deliver. Hear why

CNN’s David Gergen and Manu Raju say that the pressure is on House Speaker Kevin McCarthy to deliver a divided Republican conference to support an agreement on the debt ceiling.


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