- Erdogan’s Narrow Victory Lays Bare Turkey’s Divisions
Supporters of Tayyip Erdogan waved flags in the streets while opponents banged pots and pans in protest in their homes, after a narrow referendum victory gave the Turkish president sweeping powers and laid the nation’s divisions bare.
The referendum will bring the biggest overhaul in Turkish politics since the founding of the modern republic, abolishing the post of prime minister and concentrating power in the hands of the president. Unofficial results, which the opposition said it would challenge, showed a narrow victory with 51.4 percent of votes cast in favor.
Erdogan, a populist with a background in once-banned Islamist parties, has ruled since 2003 with no real rival, while his country emerged as one of the fastest-growing industrial powers in both Europe and the Middle East.
He has also been at the center of global affairs, commanding NATO’s second biggest military on the border of Middle East war zones, taking in millions of Syrian refugees and controlling their further flow into Europe.
Erdogan survived a coup attempt last year and responded with a crackdown, jailing 47,000 people and sacking or suspending more than 120,000 from government jobs such as schoolteachers, soldiers, police, judges or other professionals.
The changes could keep him in power until 2029 or beyond, making him easily the most important figure in Turkish history since state founder Kemal Ataturk built a modern nation from the ashes of the Ottoman empire after World War One.
In a signal of the direction he now plans for his nation, Erdogan said he would call a referendum to restore the death penalty, ending once and for all Turkey’s decades-long bid to join the European Union, the impetus for years of reforms.
Erdogan has long said the changes to the constitution were needed to end the chronic instability that plagued the country over decades when the military repeatedly tried to seize power from weak civilian governments.
“For the first time in the history of the Republic, we are changing our ruling system through civil politics,” he said in a victory speech.
But the narrow referendum result could itself be a sign of more instability to come. The changes won strong backing in conservative rural areas, but were strongly opposed in Istanbul and other cities, as well as in the restive Kurdish southeast.
Thousands of supporters waved flags and blasted horns into the early hours on Monday in celebration of a man who they say has transformed the quality of life for millions of pious Turks marginalized for decades by the secular elite.
There were scattered protests against the result, but these were more sporadic. In some affluent, secular neighborhoods, opponents stayed indoors, banging pots and pans, a sign of dissent that became widespread during anti-Erdogan protests in 2013, when the police crushed demonstrations against him.
The main opposition said the vote was marred by irregularities and it would challenge the result.
“The referendum is won but it is no victory. The results did not yield a meaningful ‘Yes’,” Abdulkadir Selvi, a pro-government columnist wrote in the Hurriyet newspaper.
The High Electoral Board (YSK) confirmed late on Sunday the results had shown the “Yes” campaign with 1.25 million more votes than the “No” camp. The official results are expected within 12 days.
The main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) demanded a recount of up to 60 percent of the votes. It cited a last minute decision by the electoral board to count ballots that had not been stamped by officials as a potential irregularity.
Erdogan said 25 million people had supported the proposal, which will replace Turkey’s parliamentary system with an all-powerful presidency. That was a smaller margin of victory than the decisive result for which he and his ruling AK Party had aggressively campaigned.
Nevertheless, by ending uncertainty the result triggered a two percent rally in the Turkish lira TRYTOM=D3 from its close last week. It traded at 3.6380 against the U.S. dollar early on Monday, firming from 3.7220 on Friday.
‘NO EARLY ELECTIONS’
Under the changes, most of which will only come into effect after the next elections due in 2019, the president will appoint the cabinet and an undefined number of vice-presidents, and be able to select and remove senior civil servants without parliamentary approval.
There has been some speculation that Erdogan could call new elections so that his new powers could take effect right away. However, Deputy Prime Minister Mehmet Simsek told Reuters there was no such plan, and the elections would still be held in 2019.
“Yesterday the president made it very clear that elections will be held in November 2019,” he said. “It is very clear. We have work to do.”
Erdogan served as prime minister from 2003 until 2014, when rules were changed to hold direct elections for the office of president, previously a ceremonial role elected by parliament. Since becoming the first directly elected president, he has set about making the post more important, like the executive presidencies of France, Russia or the United States.
In a sign of his authority, he was set to chair a cabinet meeting later on Monday, a role traditionally carried out by the prime minister although he has chaired such meetings before.
Pro-government media painted the result as a victory for the Turkish people, transforming a constitution left over from a 1980 military coup. The Sabah daily hailed “The People’s Revolution”. The Star’s headline was “The People’s Victory”.
However, the opposition daily Cumhuriyet’s headline said “The ballot box is overshadowed”, reporting opposition objections to what they said were irregularities in the voting.
European politicians who have had increasingly strained relations with Turkey, expressed concern about the divisions revealed by the narrow victory margin.
Chancellor Angela Merkel and Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel of Germany, where an estimated 4 million Turks form one of the largest minorities from a single country in Europe, said in a statement that Berlin respected the right of Turks to change their country’s constitution.
But they added: “The tight referendum result shows how deeply divided Turkish society is, and that means a big responsibility for the Turkish leadership and for President Erdogan personally.”
The European Commission, the executive body of the European Union, said the close result meant that Ankara should seek “the broadest national consensus” in implementing the vote.
Relations came under strain during the referendum campaign when EU countries including Germany and the Netherlands barred Turkish ministers from holding rallies to support the changes. Erdogan provoked a stern German response by comparing those limits on campaigning to the actions of the Nazis.
Lagos State Moves to Completely Ban Okada, Keke, Introduces Minibuses
The Lagos State Government on Monday announced plans to completely ban the use of motorcycles (okada) and tricycles (Keke) due to rising crime and lawlessness across the state.
The announcement was made after a stakeholders’ meeting held at the Adeyemi Bero Auditorium, Alausa Secretariat, Ikeja.
In the meeting attended by Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu, the Speaker of the House of Assembly, Mudashiru Obasa; the Chief Judge, Kazeem Alogba; the Commissioner of Police, Hakeem Odumosu, traditional and religious leaders and members of the civil society, among others, the governor said the string of lawlessness daily witnessed from the confrontation between commercial motorcyclists and law enforcement agencies required urgent action.
“Based on all that we have seen and experienced in the past couple of weeks, as well as the increasing threat posed by the activities of commercial motorcycle operators to the safety and security of lives, we will be announcing further changes to the parameters of motorcycle and tricycle operations in the state in the coming days. No society can make progress amid such a haughty display of lawlessness and criminality,” he added.
Sanwo-Olu said from next week, the state would be inaugurating the First and Last Mile buses next week, which would take the routes the motorcycles were plying.
The state Commissioner of Police, Odumosu, raised the alarm over rising security breaches from the menace of okada operations in the state.
He said between January and early this month, 320 commercial motorcycles were impounded in 218 cases of criminal incidents in which 78 suspects were detained and 480 ammunition recovered.
In the same period, the Lagos police boss said Okada accounted for 83 per cent of 385 cases of avoidable fatal vehicular accidents in Lagos.
At the end of the meeting, a 12-point resolution was reached, among which was a ban on Okada “as a means of transportation in the state.”
2023 Voter’s Registration Will Be Online, Biometric To Be Captured Physically- INEC
The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) yesterday unfolded plans to allow online filing during the continuous voter registration for the 2023 general election.
The National Commissioner and Chairman, Information and Voter Education Committee of INEC, Mr. Festus Okoye, however, said only the biometric would be captured physically by INEC officials.
But the commission suffered another setback yesterday as arsonists torched its office in Ohafia Local Government Area of Abia State.
Okoye, during a stakeholders’ meeting on expanding voter access to polling units in Kano yesterday, said: “On June 28, the voter registration exercise for those above 18 years and those who have not registered before will commence with two new innovations. Those versatile with computer can register online and only visit a registration centre to capture their biometrics.”
Okoye stated that the online registration would be introduced to reduce crowd at registration centres in line with COVID-19 protocols.
The commission called on citizens, especially those willing to contest elections, whose voter cards have been defaced, whose names were wrongly spelt or addresses and locations wrongly captured to present themselves for authentication or correction.
INEC also called for valid data of all those with disabilities or physical challenges to be captured during the continuous registration for proper projections ahead of the 2023 general election.
INEC also warned political parties and politicians who have started campaigning to desist from doing so.
Okoye said: “There is a ban on political campaigns which has not been lifted yet. And I find it necessary to draw your attention for you to understand the legal implication of violating this ban.
“I have listened to comments on radio stations, which are capable of heating the polity. Media organisations should avoid providing platforms for such comments. The media should try to curtail such tensions.
“Political parties, politicians and their supporters should understand there is a legal framework for campaigns and it has not commenced yet.”
No Plans To Relocate AFRICOM HQ To Nigeria Or Any Part Of Africa- U.S. Replies Buhari
The United States has said there is no plan to relocate its Africa Command from its current base in Germany to Nigeria or any other part of Africa despite the worsening state of insecurity in the region.
The US gave the response barely two weeks after President Muhammadu Buhari appealed to the US government to consider relocating AFRICOM to Africa to assist Nigeria and other adjoining countries to combat worsening terrorism, banditry and other security crises.
The President made the plea in a virtual meeting with the US Secretary of State, Antony Blinken, on April 27.
Germany-based Africa Command (AFRICOM) is the US military headquarters that oversees its operations in Africa.
Buhari’s request followed a series of recent military casualties in Nigeria’s decade-long fight against Boko Haram terrorists, fresh expansion of the insurgents’ bases to Niger and Nasarawa States, and heavy waves of abductions and killings by bandits in the North.
Buhari said, “The security challenges in Nigeria remain of great concern to us and impacted more negatively, by existing complex negative pressures in the Sahel, Central and West Africa, as well as the Lake Chad Region.
“Compounded as the situation remains, Nigeria and her security forces remain resolutely committed to containing them and addressing their root causes.
“The support of important and strategic partners like the United States cannot be overstated as the consequences of insecurity will affect all nations, hence the imperative for concerted cooperation and collaboration of all nations to overcome these challenges.
“In this connection, and considering the growing security challenges in West and Central Africa, Gulf of Guinea, Lake Chad region and the Sahel, weighing heavily on Africa, it underscores the need for the United States to consider relocating AFRICOM headquarters from Stuttgart, Germany to Africa and near the Theatre of Operation.”
However, the US government on Thursday ruled out any plan to relocate AFRICOM from its current base in Germany to Nigeria or any part of Africa.
According to the United States Department of Defence’ Pentagon, previous studies have shown that the cost of relocating AFRICOM from Germany to Africa is very huge.
In an emailed response to The PUNCH, the Pentagon said although it would continue to value Nigeria and other countries in Africa as important partners, the American government would not consider relocating AFRICOM to any part of the African continent at the moment.
This newspaper had asked if the US would consider Nigeria’s request to relocate AFRICOM to the continent.
“It would be inappropriate to speculate on any future actions. However, at this time, moving this headquarters (AFRICOM HQ) to Africa is not part of any plans, but USAFRICOM’s commitment to their mission, our African and other partners, remains as strong today as when we launched this command more than a decade ago,” US Pentagon spokesperson, Ms. Cindi King, said.
King also ruled out any plan to consider Buhari’s request in an ongoing global US defence review.
She said, “Although there is an ongoing Global Posture Review, the relocation of Combatant Command headquarters is outside the scope of its assessment. In the case of AFRICOM, previous studies have concluded that the cost associated with the relocation of this headquarters is significant and likely to incur the expense of other engagement opportunities and activities that more directly benefit our valued African partners.
“We greatly value the partnership with Nigeria and appreciate President Buhari’s recognition of the United States’ positive contribution to African peace and security, as well as other regional partners that have made similar past pronouncements. The United States remains committed to continuing our close partnership with African countries and organisations to promote security and stability.”
It’s ‘near impossible’ for America to accept Buhari’s invitation –Campbell, ex-US ambassador
Meanwhile, a former United States Ambassador to Nigeria, John Campbell, has listed reasons why it is “unlikely or near impossible” for the US government to relocate AFRICOM from Stuttgart in Germany to Nigeria or any part of the continent.
He said aside from the fact that the cost of doing so is very huge, the Nigerian military had proved to be a difficult partner for the US over the years.
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