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BUDAPEST-SIZED RALLY: Turkish campaign nearing its end, will there be a second round?

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török választás / Turkish presidential elections

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Olvasási idő: 4 perc

Only a few days remain until the Turkish presidential and parliamentary elections, which will take place on May 14th. According to influential pollsters, Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, who is supported by a six-party coalition and a significant portion of the Kurdish population, holds a three to five percentage point lead over the incumbent president, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. If this situation does not change, history will be made this Sunday, the 100th anniversary of the founding of the Turkish Republic, as Erdoğan’s 20-year rule may come to an end, even if his party remains the largest in the Turkish parliament, albeit without a majority.

A rally the size of Budapest

The election will undoubtedly be closely contested, as the president is doing everything in his power to make up for his slight deficit. He is trying to mobilize his traditional voter base, the religious and conservative masses of Anatolia, but in the current economic situation with record-breaking inflation, this may not be enough.

While months of handouts (minimum wage increases, gifts to the public, free gas, and a recent salary increase for government employees) have measurably boosted the president’s support and may bring surprises on the last day, the campaign is also in full swing, highlighting the ruling party’s successes: they claim to have given and opened everything.

In Turkish public discourse, it is often said that the president is trying to pull a „rabbit out of a hat” like a good magician to impress the public.

In early April, the TCG Anadolu, the state’s first „drone carrier,” was handed over, equipped with domestic TB3 drones, since the US had removed from the F-35 fighter jet project. The 231-meter-long warship is currently anchored in Istanbul and can be visited by the public during the day – the long lines indicate that there is plenty of interest from the population in Turkey’s current pride in the defense industry.

But the list of defense industry achievements is long: the domestically developed „Altay tank” was also introduced, and the Teknofest, an exhibition showcasing the defense industry’s pride and joy, was held with great attendance.

There were plenty of energy successes too: the extraction of black sea gas fields, which were discovered a few years ago, has started, and the first block of the Akkuyu nuclear power plant, built with Russian cooperation, was handed over, which even Vladimir Putin, the Russian president, acknowledged.

Putin’s announcement lends even more weight to Erdogan, as no matter how we look at it, a leader of a nuclear power and one of the permanent members of the UN Security Council is greeting him – but the big foreign policy successes were missing, this campaign was clearly about domestic politics and economic prospects.

The government’s efforts to reach an agreement with Syrian President Assad in the final weeks, which would have helped the already hot issue of Syrian refugees settling back home, have come to nothing.

There is still much to communicate, of course. The fundamentally pro-government media is loud about successes, infrastructure investments, and government promises. All of this is framed by large rallies, such as the epic enumeration of the government’s weekend rally in Istanbul with 1.7 million participants according to the government media.

Kılıçdaroğlu nincs egyedül

On the other hand, the opposition is campaigning less loudly but no less intensively. Compared to Kılıçdaroğlu‘s opponent, he strikes a less divisive, conciliatory tone and seeks to avoid government-sponsored character assassination attempts – mainly accusing him of collusion with the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), if secular Kurds will give him their votes.

The opposition’s vision is to dismantle the presidential system and establish a strengthened parliamentary system, creating a more democratic state – where the situation for the Kurds can improve, at least in the hope of gaining the votes of the Kurdish communities living in southeastern Turkey and in the western part of the country.


Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu bízik a győzelemben (Forrás: Twitter, Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu)

Moreover, Kılıçdaroğlu is not alone against Erdoğan, as the two popular mayors of Ankara and Istanbul, Mansur Yavaş and Ekrem İmamoğlu, respectively, are also campaigning for him. In recent days, İmamoğlu’s events have been disrupted, and his bus was pelted with stones in Erzurum, eastern Turkey (governed by the AKP). However, these actions may ultimately favor the opposition.

In contrast, as usual, Erdoğan is trying to mobilize his voter base alone. In the physically demanding campaign, he had to take a break for a few days – he had to interrupt a television interview at the end of April due to illness, and he had to cancel his daily tour of Central Turkey (Sivas, Yozgat, Tokat) the next day.

Yet, the 69-year-old Turkish president is facing the most intense election in decades. Until today, it seemed that there would be a high chance of a second round in the presidential election: however, one of the two other presidential candidates with 5-6% support, Muharrem İnce, withdrew, and the majority of his voters are likely to give their votes to the opposition candidate. Therefore, it may be possible that Kılıçdaroğlu will win more than 50% of the votes in the first round.


Dodik travels to Moscow, yet receives money from the European Union

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a megjelenés dátuma

Dodik pénzt kap az EU-tól / Dodik travels to Moscow and receives money from the EU

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Olvasási idő: 5 perc

The European Commission has lifted the suspension it imposed last year on the disbursement of EU funds intended for the Bosnian Serb Republic. Milorad Dodik, the president of the Bosnian Serb entity, expressed his gratitude to his coalition partners for their support in this matter, while the entity he leads is experiencing worsening economic conditions. The upcoming repayment of bonds issued on the Vienna Stock Exchange this year may force Dodik to take on additional significant loans. It is possible that he will seek assistance in Hungary as well.

In Brussels, they loosened their grip

Milorad Dodik, the president of the Bosnian Serb Republic, achieved a significant result on Friday, as the EU revoked the suspension of EU-funded development projects in the Serbian entity.

The disbursement of EU funds intended for the Bosnian Serb Republic had been suspended since February last year, as the EU Commission sought to exert pressure on Dodik’s Independent Social Democrats Alliance (Savez Nezavisnih Socijaldemokrata, SNSD) due to their secessionist tendencies.

Although the European Union did not impose sanctions on Bosnian Serb political leaders at that time, the Commission ordered the freezing of all projects receiving EU support.

It was already known at the time of the halt in investments, mostly related to infrastructure development, that the Serbian entity, burdened by significant debt due to bonds issued on international stock exchanges, would not be able to compensate for the resulting shortfall from its own budget.

In May of this year, several Bosnian newspapers reported that the leadership of the Bosnian Serb Republic could be in trouble if they do not find new external funding to finance their accumulated external debt.

While the risk of technical bankruptcy is not discussed in Banja Luka, it can be assumed that the EU, in plain terms, „didn’t let Dodik off the hook” and resumed the disbursement of previously frozen financial assets.

According to experts knowledgeable in the Bosnian financial sector, the EU’s restart of programs has provided a lifeline to the otherwise grim state of the Bosnian Serb economy.

However, experts agreed that the influx of EU funds alone will not be sufficient to ensure the necessary growth for financing external debt. This is because its impact does not generate enough additional GDP growth in the Bosnian Serb Republic to break free from the debt spiral.

One may ask, why did Brussels yield?

The answer, according to many, is that this step was a significant gesture towards the Bosnian Serb region on the brink of international isolation and economic collapse.

Dodik, in turn, has only earned this by fulfilling the coalition agreement he made with the Croatian Democratic Community of Bosnia and Herzegovina (Hrvatska Demokratska Zajednica Bosne i Hercegovine, HDZ BiH) and the left-wing Bosnian party alliance known as the „troika” until now.

Troubles within the coalition arise

The importance of restarting EU programs is also reflected in Dodik himself expressing gratitude, in front of the press, to Elmedin Konaković, the Bosnian Minister of Foreign Affairs, for consistently keeping the issue of restarting frozen projects in the Serbian entity on the agenda during his visits to Brussels this year.

elmedin konakovic milorad dodik 1

On the right, Elmedin Konaković, the Bosnian Minister of Foreign Affairs, plays the role of a helpful lobbyist, while on the left, Milorad Dodik, the president of the Bosnian Serb Republic, needs to be connected to a financial infusion

Simultaneously with the announcement of the financial good news, Denis Bečirović, the Bosnian member of the Bosnia and Herzegovina Presidency, also held negotiations with members of the Western Balkans Working Group of the European Parliament in Brussels.

Bečirović’s participation in the meeting caused significant disruption within the communication machinery of the Bosnian government coalition. This was because the member of the presidency asked the present EU representatives to impose further sanctions against Dodik, and he described the continuation of the disbursement of EU financial assets as a „terribly bad step.”

Regarding Bečirović’s stance against Dodik, it is worth noting that in previous years, he has repeatedly accused the top Bosnian Serb leader of separatist tendencies and violating the principles of the Dayton Agreement.

His recent actions were particularly uncomfortable for his own party, the Social Democratic Party (Socijaldemokratska Stranka, SDP), as this position completely contradicted the coalition government’s stance, including that of his own party, regarding EU funds.

Although there haven’t been similar levels of communication discord among some players within the five-party government coalition in the past, and the government seemingly continued its work uninterrupted, strong figures within the coalition parties often make comments that indicate underlying tension.

When it comes to separate communication, the SDP takes the lead, as several prominent members sharply criticize the work of the coalition partners organized on the basis of two ethnicities, the Bosnian Serb SNSD and the Croatian HDZ BiH.

The ‘unique word scattering’ observed in the communication of the SDP can be traced back to the fact that the Yugoslav state party’s successor organization in Bosnia, in addition to its traditional center-left orientation, has sought to broaden its support among progressive and neo-Marxist youth groups. These groups find it difficult to accept that the SDP, which represents a multiethnic and atheist approach they support, formed an alliance with the Bosnian Serb and Croatian conservative political forces that were continuously criticized in the previous cycle.

Dodik needs to pay (or should pay)

Regardless of the opening of EU funds, the economic situation of the Bosnian Serb Republic is difficult to assess positively.

The maturity dates of entity bonds issued on the London and Vienna stock exchanges are approaching, and their repayment will pose a significant burden on the budget of the Serb entity.

The numbers speak for themselves.

This year, the Serb entity has a bond-based debt obligation of approximately 1,099 million BAM (convertible mark), which amounts to 208 billion Hungarian forints. In addition, the government of the Bosnian Serb Republic has to pay an additional 900 million BAM (170 billion Hungarian forints) this year based on other commitments.

A significant portion of these obligations is related to certain infrastructure investments. From this year’s upcoming debt pile, a portion of the Bosnian Serb bonds issued on the Vienna Stock Exchange in previous years will mature in June. After this, the Serb entity will have to pay approximately 400 million BAM (75 billion Hungarian forints).

To ensure the financing of the mentioned debt, the Bosnian Serb Republic received a loan of 180 million BAM (34 billion Hungarian forints) from Hungary.

We have previously reported in detail about this transaction and the support program provided by the Hungarian government to Bosnian Serb agricultural entrepreneurs.

According to news reports in the Bosnian press, in order to continue rolling over the high external debt, Dodik may be preparing, or rather, be forced to take on another loan of approximately 2 billion BAM (380 billion Hungarian forints) in the near future.

Most analysts link this future transaction, which has so far been only speculation, to the Chinese development funds that are still leading in the Western Balkans region, due to the drying up of Russian resources. However, it is also possible that Dodik may once again knock on ’s door for a little injection of funds.

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