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For the latest Turkish politics and election analysis from Michael Daventry redirect your bookmarks to jamesinturkey.com.

Friday, 6 September 2013

Turkey does not deserve the Olympic Games

After a disgraceful summer for Turkish democracy, the government does not deserve an Olympic prize.

On four previous occasions Turkey has tried and failed to bring the Summer Olympics to its largest city. It did not even make the shortlist for the 2012 event, its most recent attempt. The 2020 Games, the host of which will be decided by members of the International Olympic Committee this weekend, could prove different. This could be Istanbul’s year.

The Istanbul candidacy has been a strong one since it was announced two years ago. Bid leader Hasan Arat has been active and enthusiastic: just yesterday, he made a point of invoking the potential of the country’s youth, which is the kind of thing that always goes down well with the IOC. This morning it won the support of The (London) Times, which crooned in an editorial about the “sheer symbolism” of an intercontinental Olympic marathon across the Bosphorus Bridge. It is significant, the paper said, that no Games have ever been held in a Muslim country.


But this author dispenses with symbolism and believes that when IOC members assemble in Buenos Aires at 9.45pm Turkish time on Saturday, they should vote for Madrid or Tokyo.

Wednesday, 4 September 2013

Lessons from the past: Turkey's parliament could veto Syria action too

“Speaking after the government’s motion [in support of military action] was defeated, the prime minister said: ‘It is not right for us to make this a matter of domestic politics. The democratic process has worked. We will follow developments and do what is necessary.’ He added that despite the narrow margin of defeat, he did not look warmly upon asking parliament to vote again.”

As parliaments around the world debate whether or not to bomb Syria, we have become accustomed to stories like the above in the press. But the prime minister in this quotation is not Britain’s David Cameron or Jordan’s Abdullah Ensour, but Abdullah Gül of Turkey.

On 1 March 2003, Turkish MPs voted on a government motion that would add their country to the growing number of coalition countries preparing to invade Iraq. The motion – the product of a deal between President George W Bush and Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, who had not quite yet become prime minister – allowed for foreign (read: American) troops to be stationed on Turkish soil and foreign aircraft (ditto) to use Turkish bases as part of preparations to invade Iraq from the north. The Bush administration had sweetened the deal with a promise of $6 billion in financial aid.