The public agenda was quite intense in Türkiye last week.
The meeting between the Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu and his American counterpart Antony Blinken was at the top of the public agenda.
Another topic was the rising tensions with Sweden, which was about the protests against the President Erdoğan, and then with the disrespectful attack on the Muslim holy book Qur’an.
The last agenda item was the Erdoğan finally announcing the election date as 14th of May, and the questions about the candidate of the opposition coalition made up of six parties.
Positive messages from Foreign Minister Çavuşoğlu to the U.S.
The Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu and a delegation paid an official visit to the United States on January 18th.
Çavuşoğlu met with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken at Washington DC, as part of the Second Meeting of the US-Türkiye Strategic Mechanism.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken has said he looks forward to “continued coordination” with Türkiye on various issues after the meeting in Washington.
Noting that they discussed many important issues as part of the US-Türkiye Strategic Mechanism, Blinken said on Twitter on Thursday: “I look forward to continued coordination on @NATO’s response to Russia’s unprovoked war against Ukraine, Syria, and other challenges.”
Çavuşoğlu and Blinken “reiterated their commitment to a concrete and results-oriented positive bilateral agenda,” said the statement, adding they discussed strengthening the Türkiye-US defense partnership, including modernization of Türkiye’s F-16 fleet.
He said the sale of the jets is not just important for Türkiye but also for NATO and the US.
“So we expect approval (of the sales) in line with our joint strategic interests,” said Cavusoglu.
A day before Çavuşoğlu’s meeting, Turkish Deputy Foreign Minister Sedat Önal and US Under Secretary of State Victoria Nuland held consultations within the framework of the mechanism.
During their meeting, the two top diplomats were expected to discuss Türkiye’s request for the sale of new F-16 jets and modernization kits, Finland and Sweden’s NATO membership bids, the Ukraine war, and the latest developments in Syria.
Last October Ankara made a request to Washington for 40 F-16 jets and modernization kits, while the State Department last week informally notified the Congress of the potential sale.
In recent months, top US officials have praised Türkiye’s mediation efforts between Russia and Ukraine, and its role in brokering last summer’s landmark grain deal, which allowed millions of tons of Ukrainian grain to be transported to many countries, easing the global food crisis.
Çavuşoğlu’s positive messages to the United States have drawn reactions from Vatan Party.
The Vatan party leader Doğu Perinçek made the following statement about Çavuşoğlu’s visit and his positive messages:
Perinçek has reminded Turkiye that the actual threat comes from the US and NATO, while also criticizing the government that advocated NATO expansion.
Vatan Party leader Perinçek noted that the AK Party is now in a political deadlock. He pointed out that threats that come from the United States were largely ignored.
Perinçek stated: “The strategy that the AKP administration calls a “balance policy” has entered a stage that costs very heavily for Türkiye. For one thing, there can be no such thing as a “balance strategy”. Let’s look at the nature, the nature does not apply “balance”, it applies “movement”. The strategy is the identification of the main threats, the national power against these threats, and the allies under certain historical conditions. Determining the correct position is a priority condition to neutralize the national threats. The AKP refuses to take sides in the struggle between the US imperialism, and the rest of the humanity”.
The growing crisis with Sweden
A new chapter is added to the ongoing political crises between Türkiye and Sweden.
The Swedish government, which has allowed demonstrations targeting the Turkish President Erdoğan in recent weeks, gave permission for the protester named Rasmus Paludan to burn the holy Islamic book of Qur’an in front of the Turkish Embassy in Stockholm.
It is also worth mentioning that Türkiye has some prerequisites for the NATO membership of Sweden and Finland, mainly about cutting the support to the PKK and FETO terrorist organizations.
In a statement on his Twitter account, the AKP spokesperson Omer Çelik said: “Sweden has allowed a puny act that is a crime against humanity today. This is not the freedom of expression; it is a hostile action to all human values. The Swedish authorities have been part of an act that is a crime against humanity.”
The main opposition leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu said “The inhumane attack on the Holy Quran in front of our embassy in Stockholm, is unacceptable. We know the purpose and the goal of this action that will hurt billions of Muslims. I condemn this form fascism, that is the pinnacle of the hate crimes”.
IYI Party Spokesperson Kürşat Zorlu has reacted to the provocations “It is unacceptable that the demonstration that took place in front of the Turkish Embassy in Sweden, where a protester burned the Holy Quran. This attitude, which cannot be explained by the concepts of human rights and freedom of speech, is wrong for the future of the relations between the two countries.
Regarding Sweden’s authorization before the protest Foreign Minister Çavuşoğlu said, “No one can call it freedom of speech. They do not allow any other holy book to be burned, but when it comes to the Holy Qur’an, or when it comes to Islamophobia, they start to talk about freedom of speech”.
The Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar has cancelled the meeting planned with his Swedish counterpart, “At this point, the Swedish Defense Minister Jonson’s visit to Türkiye on January 27th has no meaning. That is why we cancelled the visit”.
Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) leader Devlet Bahçeli said “Shortly after the puny attempt to protest our President in Stockholm, another despicable act against our Holy Qur’an, has caused an outrage in the Turkic-Islamic world and became the last straw that broke the camel’s back”.
Finally the Vatan Party Leader Doğu Perinçek said: “Hitler, who is the ancestor of these creatures, also used to burn books. Now they are attempting to burn the Holy Qur’an. But they cannot burn it. The Holy Qur’an is not just paper. The so-called freedom of imperialism is the freedom to burn the sanctities of humanity. The freedom of imperialism is the freedom of attacking the values of humanity. The freedom of imperialism is the freedom to burn down nation-states.
In such cases, it is seen as very probable for Türkiye to veto Swedish application of NATO.
Erdogan announces election date
The most important development of the week in Türkiye regarding domestic politics, was the President Erdoğan’s announcement of the presidential election date as May 14th.
President Erdogan spoke at his party meeting: “The dear former Prime Minister Adnan Menderes came out victorious from the ballot box on May 14th by saying ‘Enough, now it is the time of the people’. In the same way, the dear former President Turgut Özal has won a great victory in the election he entered in the shadow of the 1980 coup. We also came into office by saying, ‘Nothing will be the same again’. Now we seek the support of the nation by saying, “Both now and the future belongs to the people”. After 73 years, our nation will once more respond to the opposition alliance on the exact same day. Despite the eagerness of authoritarianism, we will begin the Turkish Century”.
MHP leader Devlet Bahçeli, who had previously pointed to May regarding the election date, also made a statement on the subject;
MHP leader Bahceli said, “Our Türkiye has entered the election campaign process in practice, if not legally. Based on the decision of our President, it has been concluded to hold the Presidential and General Elections on May 14th 2023, and the date of the election was announced unofficially”.
Bahçeli said Türkiye had entered in a “de facto the election process” and announced that their election slogan was “My dear nation, it is now your turn to vote”.
Meanwhile the opposition had begun discussing whether Erdoğan could legally run as a presidential candidate;
Some opposition law specialists began to argue “President Erdoğan has already been elected twice. He cannot be re-elected. He should be stuck with the term limit”. CHP and IYI Party commented, “They will violate the Constitution, he cannot run for a third time”.
Meanwhile the Parliament Chairman Mustafa Şentop stated that the constitutional article that allowed Erdoğan to be elected in 2014 was repealed in April 2018, and said, “A new article came into force on April 2018. That article clearly states a ‘two term limit’. He was elected once according to that article on April 2018. The renewal of this amendment has given the right to run and be re-elected in office, to any Turkish citizen”.
And so far, the fact that opposition alliance of six parties, failing to come up with a candidate has created a public controversy…