“Hearts of Stone”
Turkish daily, Cumhuriyet, reported on a striking corruption scandal involving Agriculture Minister, Bekir Pakdemirli, and the exploitation of ministerial assets for both personal and partisan services.
A public servant, according to the newspaper, had requested access to ministerial accommodation in Ankara while receiving medical treatment but was met with rejection by Pakdermirli, who had apparently booked the ministry’s lodging for lawmakers from the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP).
“60% of rooms were reserved for (AKP) deputies over a year by decree from the minister (Pakdermirli)… they often do use these accommodations,but the keys to the rooms are in their possession nonetheless,” Cumhuriyet cited the head of the country’s union for agriculture and forestry civil servants as saying.
AKP lawmakers, who rank higher in terms of public service salaries, were also denounced for the holdup of public accommodations when they can afford to rent other spaces.
“CHP Istanbul Candidate Vows Surprises in Upcoming By-elections”
Speaking at an election campaign rally, Istanbul’s ousted opposition mayor vowed a strong comeback and victory against Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s ruling Justice and Development Party in next month’s re-run of the mayoral election. According to Turkish daily Cumhuriyet, the Republican People’s Party (CHP) candidate, Ekrem Imamoglu, said, “These bad boxers want to fight with me but I will leave them alone in the ring.” “I have surprises for you, I will tell you things that will please you but I will leave them for the last week before the elections,” he promised.
Authorities annulled the result after AKP complained of irregularities, ending Imamoglu’s mayoral term after less than three weeks and calling a new election for June 23rd.
On the other hand, Turkish daily Yeni Şafak, known for its hardline support for the AKP and Erdogan, covered a ultra-conservative rally shouting anti-Imamoglu slurs in Istanbul’s Esenler distric. Rally attendees had shouted slogans implicitly yet baselessly accusing the opposition mayoral candidate of affiliation with the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party.
“Austerity Measures Target Citizens Only”
Documenting the luxurious lifestyle enjoyed by ultranationalist officials, such as the governor of Samsun district, who was spotted ordering a new luxury car despite owning a collection of three, Sözcü daily speculated whether the government was serious or not about implementing austerity measures.
In parallel, a study conducted by the Confederation of Turkish Trade Unions (TÜRK-İŞ) showed that 61% of the Turkish population, around 50 million people, have slipped below the poverty line and that 22%, or 18 million people, are ravaged by food insecurity.
“An Intricate Meeting”
The fundamentalist Turkish daily, Yeni Akit, reported Turkish President, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, meeting with his Iraqi counterpart Barham Salih, in Istanbul and discussing bilateral ties. According to the paper, counterterrorism and intra-relations management figured highest on the list of topics discussed between the two leaders. The Iraqi president’s visit to Turkey coincided with the latter launching a sweeping cross-border military operation in northern Iraq in the name of striking Kurdistan Workers' Party PKK targets.
Yeni Akit cited anonymous Defence Ministry sources as saying that the operation was launched with Iraqi and Iranian consent. Dubbed “Operation Claw”, the offensive will strike PKK targets in the Qandil Mountains, which are located roughly 40 kilometres southeast of the Turkish border in Iraq's Irbil province and are being used as a headquarters by the PKK. Last year, however, Iraq’s foreign ministry summoned the Turkish ambassador in Baghdad and handed him a letter of protest over “repeated air(space) violations,” causing civilian casualties.
“Russia’s S-400 missile system for Iraq?”
Also reporting on Turkey-Iraq developments, an op-ed published by Turkish newspaper Esenyurt predicted that Iraq could be the answer to Ankara’s S-400 anti-missile defence systems dilemma. Saying that Iraq may provide Turkey with a backdoor solution for its fallout with NATO over purchasing the Russian made system, Turkish International Relations expert Anil Chachen said, “It is said that Turkey will pass the S-400 missiles to Iraq and that is why Iraqi President Saleh Barham came to visit.”
Chachen also said that the S-400 deal has put Turkey in a very tight spot, saying that it has, “jeopardised its future with NATO,” an organisation which, if Turkey leaves, could leave it defenceless against geostrategic threats.
US officials advised Turkey to buy the US Patriot missile system rather than the S-400s from Moscow, arguing the Russian system would be incompatible with NATO systems and expose the F-35 to possible Russian manoeuvres.