TIME Turkey

Here Are 3 Good Things That Happened in the World This Week

TURKEY-VOTE-RESULTS kurdish
Bulent Kilic—AFP/Getty Images Young supporters of pro-Kurdish Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP) celebrate in the streets the results of the legislative election, in Diyarbakir on June 7, 2015.

Turkey, Nigeria and the E.U. all saw positive stories in a week when most of the news was depressing

Follow the news these days, and it’s hard to be an optimist. Ukraine’s ceasefire is a fiction. ISIS is capturing new ground and drawing new followers. The U.S. and China seem at odds in the South China Sea. The Greeks sometimes seem determined to stumble their way out of Europe. The list goes on. But with the real exception of Ukraine, these risks are exaggerated, and there are positive stories out there that deserve more attention. Here are three:

1. Turkey

Start with last weekend’s election results in Turkey. Not so long ago, this country was considered a major emerging market success story. That’s mainly because then-prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan had helped unlock much more of the country’s growth potential by empowering development and entrepreneurship in the country’s Anatolian heartland. Under his leadership, per capita income tripled in a decade.

Unfortunately, Erdogan, now president, has drawn comparisons with Russia’s Putin by shifting focus from economic gain to a bid for lasting political dominance. To corner his enemies and expand his power, he has compromised the independence of Turkey’s courts, police forces, and central bank. His foreign policy has become a mix of nationalist paranoia and anti-Western resentment. He has also polarized his country.

But Turkish voters reminded us on June 7 that Turkey is not Russia, and Erdogan can’t become Putin. His Justice and Development Party, known by its Turkish initials AKP, earned another victory, but not the supermajority Erdogan needed to rewrite Turkey’s constitution to give himself more power. In fact, for the first time in 13 years, the AKP didn’t even win a simple majority and will now have to form a coalition government.

Make no mistake: Turkey will be a mess for some time to come. Expected intensified political infighting over the next couple of years, but the big news is that there are still checks on Erdogan’s ambitions, even within his own party. It’s a step back for Erdogan–and a step forward for his country.

2. Nigeria

After years of corruption and stagnation, Africa’s largest economy needed new political energy. March’s presidential election provided exactly that. After 16 years of one-party rule following the country’s shift from military control to democracy in 1999, opposition leader Muhammadu Buhari won a clear victory and a strong mandate. The incumbent accepted defeat, and power changed hands peacefully. That’s crucial in a country where stability depends on a delicate political balance between Christians in the south, Muslims in the north and various ethnic groups and provincial factions.

With majorities for his APC party in parliament and governorships, Buhari brings energy for reform. A capable economic policy team is now settling into place. A badly needed revitalization of the oil sector is underway. Government spending restraint will earn greater investor confidence in Nigeria’s enormous potential. Buhari, a Muslim and former military commander, will more aggressively target Boko Haram, Muslim militants based in the country’s northeast, than his predecessor did.

3. Europe

Even in Europe, despite intense media focus on the risks of Grexit and Brexit—Greek and British exists from the E.U., respectively—there is cause for optimism. Last week, the Pew Research Center released a report detailing evidence of a revival of public faith in the broader European project. Pew surveyed 6,028 people in France, Germany, Italy, Poland, Spain and the UK, countries that make up 70% of the EU population and provide 74% of its GDP. Though many of those questioned still say their economies are in rotten shape and won’t quickly return to pre-crisis levels, they do sense improvement—and credit the European Union for it. Despite the rise of Euro-skeptic parties like Spain’s Podemos, Britain’s UK Independence Party and Germany’s Alternative für Deutschland, public support for the EU within these member states has actually risen since 2013. In Britain, support for exit from the EU trails support for continued membership by 55 to 36 percent. Interestingly, majorities in Spain (70%), Britain (66%), Italy (58%), and Germany (50%) say the rise of “non-traditional” parties is a “good thing,” perhaps because they provide a useful check on the power of European institutions.

There’s no doubt that Ukraine’s conflict will deepen, tensions with Russia will rise further, Greece has a long way to go and the Middle East will burn hotter for longer. But add reform momentum in India, Italy, and Mexico, and there are still plenty of good news stories beyond the headlines.

Bremmer is a foreign affairs columnist and editor-at-large at TIME. He is the president of Eurasia Group, a political-risk consultancy, and a Global Research Professor at New York University. His most recent book is Superpower: Three Choices for America’s Role in the World

TIME Turkey

Elif Shafak: What Turkey Urgently Needs Now

Shafak is a leading Turkish novelist and the author of nine novels, most recently The Architect’s Apprentice.

The Turkish novelist reflects on the recent election and what comes next

In a University of California, Berkeley study of students from more than 200 countries, aiming to measure the degree to which respondents had found life “unpredictable, uncontrollable and overwhelming,” those coming from Turkey scored among the highest on perceived stress. Had the researchers come to Turkey and talked with the people prior to the parliamentary elections on June 7, however, they would have probably assessed a world record for collective stress—most of which was triggered by politics.

No doubt this was the most stressful Turkish election in recent memory. Many voters felt like they were casting their votes not only to choose who represents them, but also to decide the future of the regime for many decades to come. In no other ballot had so much been at stake! In no other election time had there been this much pressure on the citizens to make fateful decisions. The primary reason for this was no other than President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who seemed determined to confuse democracy with majoritarianism and to turn the vote into a springboard that would launch him into an all-powerful position. Erdogan’s target was to make his Justice and Development Party, known by its Turkish initials AKP, obtain the necessary majority in the parliament to change the constitution and thus replace the parliamentarian system with a presidential model. For this purpose he campaigned relentlessly, even though the President has to be neutral and remain at an equal distance from all parties. As to the new system that he wanted to introduce, no one quite knew what would its bounds be, but it was clear it would be closer to the Russian than the American model of presidency.

As a writer, a woman, a democrat, a feminist, I do not want anyone in Turkey to have too much power. Because whoever attains power wants more and then even more power! It is never enough. It was never enough for AKP. Separation of powers was thrust aside, rule of law ignored, media freedoms and freedom of expression endangered, all in order to consolidate power in the hands of the same people, year after year. I am not sure any other party would have behaved any differently had they remained in power for so long. That is why I find separation of powers, free media and the existence of a rich civil society far more important for the sustainability of Turkey’s democracy.

It is one of the biggest ironies of Turkish political history that the Kurds—once belittled by the elites as a “backward culture”—have become the major progressive force in the country. Today many Turkish liberals, democrats, intellectuals, secularists and Kemalists are happy that the Kurds exist. It has been a massive mental shift!

Selahattin Demirtaş, the co-chair of the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), has played a crucial role in this sea change. Getting more than 13% of the votes across the country, HDP managed to gain 80 of the 550 seats in parliament.

His charismatic personality and all-inclusive electoral campaign helped him in his endeavor to transform HDP from a regional party into a national one. Instead of using divisive or sectarian talking points, Demirtaş consistently chose an all-embracing language. He talked about the rights of not only Kurds, but Turks, Alevis, Armenians, women and gay people, uniting discontents under the same umbrella. HDP also had the highest percentage of women candidates. The party implements “a one man, one woman co-chair model” in its national, regional and local units. Interestingly, there were supporters of the main opposition party (Republican People’s Party, or CHP) and even the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) who voted for Demirtaş because they wished the Kurds would pass the 10% threshold needed for parliamentary representation—a barrier introduced by the army after the 1980 military takeover mostly to limit the Kurds’ entry into the Turkish parliament.

Demirtaş’ positive attitude towards diversity, inclusiveness and democracy is notable. We must hope that he won’t lose these values once he is deeper into the whirl of daily politics—and nor will HDP. It surely will not be an easy road. There are “hawks” inside the Kurdish movement, just like there are hard-liners in MHP, AKP and CHP. But Turkey has suffered enough from hawkish, exclusivist, power-driven masculinity. What we urgently need now is to restore the rule of law and reinforce democratic rights for everyone, equally.

Surrounded by extremisms and undemocratic regimes, Turkey does not exist in an easy region. Despite all its shortcomings, it is remarkable that it has enough experience in democracy and secularism to be able to renew itself through democratic means. There will be a coalition and, before that, a lot of uncertainty. But for now there is visible relief. After months of tension and fighting, people from different walks of life—including many AKP supporters who feel loyal to their party but do not necessarily want to see President Erdogan become even more powerful—are experiencing something strange, something unusual in their bodies: A decrease in the amount of perceived stress.

Read next: The Election Loss for Turkey’s Erdogan Is a Victory for Democracy

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME Military

Fight Against ISIS Militants Lags Because They’re Nimble … and the U.S. Isn’t

“We have met the enemy, and it is us,” Obama seems to say

President Obama rattled off a list of what has gone wrong in the U.S.-led fight against the Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria during a wrap-up press conference Monday following the G-7 summit in Germany. Although he didn’t come out and say it, he made clear that while ISIS militants are “nimble and they’re aggressive and they’re opportunistic,” those fighting them — led by his Administration — are not.

Reading between the lines, he also suggested that responsibility for the poor showing thus far can be blamed on the Pentagon, Iraq and Turkey — but not him or his White House staff. It was a deft example of blame shifting that also has the consequence of relegating the presidency to the status of an also-ran.

“We don’t yet have a complete strategy because it requires commitments on the part of the Iraqis,” Obama said, in words that quickly ricocheted around the world. The comment unfortunately echoed one from last summer that sent aides and Pentagon officials wincing: “We don’t have a strategy yet,” he had said in August.

Obama’s remarks generated predictable ire from Republicans. “I fear his incomplete strategy has only emboldened ISIS and put our national security at greater risk,” said Senator Tom Cotton (R., Ark.), a veteran of both Afghanistan and Iraq.

More critically, it also sparked concern among retired military officers, increasingly echoing what some of their active-duty counterparts are saying privately. “Did anyone tell him that it’s his job to develop a strategy?” wonders Anthony Zinni, a retired four-star Marine.

The U.S. has been debating its anti-ISIS strategy longer than Saddam Hussein’s 1990 invasion of Kuwait and the 1991 Gulf War that drove his forces out, says David Deptula, a retired Air Force lieutenant general who planned that 38-day air campaign. “In about the same period of time, Saddam had invaded Kuwait with half-a-million forces, and the U.S. had devised a strategy, deployed the required forces to execute it, and eliminated the Iraqi military as an effective force, removing them from Kuwait,” Deptula says. Noting Defense Secretary Ashton Carter’s recent complaint that Iraqi forces did not have the “will to fight” for the western Iraqi city of Ramadi, Deptula adds that “it does not appear that our Commander in Chief does, either.”

Read More: Obama Says ‘No Complete Strategy’ for Training Iraqis to Fight ISIS

Obama spoke of ISIS’s resilience following thousands of air strikes led by the U.S. (Monday’s listed here), where ISIS is defeated in one place only to surface in another. “We have made significant progress in pushing back [ISIS] from areas in which they had occupied or disrupted local populations,” Obama said. “But we’ve also seen areas, like in Ramadi, where they’re displaced in one place and then they come back in in another. And they’re nimble and they’re aggressive and they’re opportunistic.”

Obama went on to contrast those characteristics with the sclerotic response of those battling ISIS. It was those particulars that proved jarring, a full year (as of Thursday) after ISIS troops drove Iraqi forces out of Mosul, Iraq’s second largest city, and 10 months after it began beheading American hostages:

One of the areas where we’re going to have to improve is the speed at which we’re training Iraqi forces … We’re reviewing a range of plans for how we might do that, essentially accelerating the number of Iraqi forces that are properly trained and equipped and have a focused strategy and good leadership. And when a finalized plan is presented to me by the Pentagon, then I will share it with the American people.

Bottom line: the Pentagon is the bottleneck.

That is not the way to win friends in uniform. True, the Pentagon has no desire to get involved in another ground war in the region. The recent wars in Afghanistan and Iraq killed 6,849 Americans, will cost at least $3 trillion, and have achieved few of the goals set by their U.S. architects in exchange for that blood and treasure. In that way, though, the U.S. military is no different from Obama, who was elected promising to extricate the U.S. from those conflicts. Their co-dependency has created a tepid war plan, half-heartedly carried out.

We don’t yet have a complete strategy because it requires commitments on the part of the Iraqis as well about how recruitment [of Iraqi troops] takes place; how that training takes place. And so the details of that are not yet worked out … One of the things that we’re still seeing is, in Iraq, places where we’ve got more training capacity than we have recruits.

Bottom line: blame the Iraqis.

Iraq remains a deeply divided society, pitting Sunnis against Shi‘ites against Kurds. With mistrust and bloodlust rampant among them, creating a unified national army to fight ISIS may not be possible in the short term. There was a realpolitik reason Washington tolerated what it often calls autocrats in polite company (known elsewhere in the world as dictators and tyrants) in Egypt, Iraq and Libya. Even when anti-American, they brutally tightened the lid on their sectarian pressure cookers. If the U.S. has decided it’s not wise to keep such potentates in power, it should hardly be surprised when the lids blow off.

The other area where we’ve got to make a lot more progress is on stemming the flow of foreign [ISIS] fighters … We are still seeing thousands of foreign fighters flowing into first Syria and then, oftentimes, ultimately into Iraq … A lot of it is preventable, if we’ve got better cooperation, better coordination, better intelligence, if we are monitoring what’s happening at the Turkish-Syria border more effectively. This is an area where we’ve been seeking deeper cooperation with Turkish authorities, who recognize it’s a problem but haven’t fully ramped up the capacity they need.

Bottom line: it’s the Turks’ fault.

Turkey has performed poorly as the one NATO ally bordering Syria and Iraq throughout the anti-ISIS campaign. But with its own restive Kurdish minority, and fearing Syrian strongman Bashar Assad more than ISIS, it has been content to remain largely on the sidelines.

So there’s a germ of truth in each of Obama’s claims. But that shouldn’t keep the Commander in Chief from looking in the mirror when it comes to assigning culpability for the timorous anti-ISIS campaign and its lackluster results.

TIME Turkey

The Election Loss for Turkey’s Erdogan Is a Victory for Democracy

Young supporters of pro-Kurdish Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP) hold Kurdish flags as they celebrate the results of the legislative election, in Diyarbakir in Turkey on June 7, 2015.
Bulent Kilic—AFP/Getty Images Young supporters of pro-Kurdish Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP) hold Kurdish flags as they celebrate the results of the legislative election, in Diyarbakir in Turkey on June 7, 2015.

Before power went to his head, Turkey's president empowered the voters who in Sunday's election abruptly blunted his rise

Turks dealt a staggering blow to President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Sunday in the only language he understands: votes. The invigorating result was to reaffirm the exciting changes that Erdogan engineered in Turkish society when he first emerged as the nation’s leader a dozen years ago—the same changes that Sunday’s result showed Erdogan failed to properly appreciate. He thought it was all about him.

The great and historic success of Erdogan’s Justice and Development Party, known by the Turkish-language initials AKP, was in empowering the heartland voters the country’s governing elite had never quite trusted. Built as a parliamentary democracy, Turkey was crippled through most of its first eight decades in existence by the paradoxical unwillingness of the people in power to abide by the wishes of the electorate.

Again and again, the country’s military grabbed power whenever things were going in a direction the generals deemed dangerous. Each time, their excuse for seizing power was safeguarding the “secular democracy” put in place by the nation’s founder, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, the charismatic former officer who shaped a modern state from the remains of the Ottoman Empire after World War I. Ataturk died in 1938, but the paternalism of his early state lived on. It even had a name: Kemalism, a kind of governing rigidity, hostile to religious expression and deeply invested in “the state,” that critics said Ataturk himself would have disowned for stunting the growth of a mature democracy.

And that’s what AKP’s 2002 ascendance appeared to announce. For most of its first decade in power, Erdogan’s party made Turkey’s democracy credible. Each election brought it a larger share of the vote for the party, and with it, the political clout that allowed AKP to finally sideline the generals. The party did so partly by governing moderately, despite Erdogan’s earlier embrace of political Islam. Under AKP, sharia was cast not as a replacement for electoral democracy but rather the a moral force that informed one party’s politics—not unlike the Christian Democrats of postwar West Germany, as Erdogan liked to point that out.

 

Another thing Erodgan liked to point out was that he constituted the personal embodiment of this morality. Unlike previous Turkish leaders, he was a working class son of the land, the self-described “black Turk” who took the country back from the elitist secularists known as “white Turks.”

The only problem: He did not govern as a democrat. “He thinks democracy is winning elections, period,” Soner Cagaptay, director of the Turkey program at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy told me last year. To Erdogan, a thumping victory at the ballot box is a mandate to do as you please, and he brooked no dissent, either within AKP or from outside. Famously thin-skinned (on the night of his first election, he took umbrage at a simple question by threatening to have me declared an enemy of the state), he not only sued journalists, but made Turkey what Reporters Without Borders called “the world’s largest prison for journalists,” with 42 then behind bars in 2013, the year Freedom House shifted its description of Turkish news media from “partly free” to “not free.”

As a majoritarian, Erdogan acted on the same presumption that doomed the Muslim Brotherhood—an Islamist party he admires—in Egypt, where the military had not yet been defanged. In Turkey, Erdogan sailed on, riding out mass protests over his high-handed style of governing, and a corruption scandal that produced a tape of him instructing his son to move tens of millions of Euros out of a home safe. Last August, 52 percent of Turkish voters made him him president, a largely ceremonial office that Erdogan made clear he had plans to expand. Erdogan set out to restructure Turkey’s entire system of governance to suit his opinion of himself—a presidential system, with powers as vast as the $615 million presidential palace he built in Ankara in anticipation of victory: 1,150 rooms, including space for five official food testers.

But to alter the constitution, AKP needed to win a supermajority of the 550 seats in the Grand National Assembly in the June 7 election. At the start of the campaign, Erdogan asked the public to give his party 400 seats—a super-duper majority. He fell a bit short—the 256 seats AKP won was not even enough for a simple majority. For the first time since 2002, AKP will need to find a partner in order to govern. None of the other parties say they want to serve as junior partner, including the Peoples’ Democratic Party, or HDP, the upstart whose 13 percent of the vote cost AK its majority . HDP is a Kurdish party, long linked to the guerrilla movement that fought a separatist war on behalf of the country’s largest minority, which Kemalists refused to recognize as an ethnicity. In the election, however, HDP campaigned on peace, and drew not only from the Kurdish southeast of Turkey but also the substantial population of ethnic Turks who no longer feel threatened by a minority identity in the land. And surely many who oppose Erdogan.

Led by a former human rights activist named Selahattin Demirtas, the campaign signaled a healing of the Turkish body politic that only a few analysts, such as Cagapty, saw as inevitable, given the forces that the rise of AKP had set in motion — from the empowerment of the electorate, to the economic boom that, though fading lately, nonetheless created both new wealth and new expectations of governance.

“I think Turkey’s future is it will be governed by liberals,” Cagapty said last year. He reasoned that Erdogan’s days were numbered by the “large, liberal middle class” spawned by economic growth in the Anatolian heartland that the elite had long ignored. “So he’s in fact created his own political nemesis.” And in the process, accidentally produced a bit of good news in a region where authoritarianism is rising unchallenged almost everywhere else.

TIME Turkey

Turkish Voters Have Punished the Ruling Party for Bullying Minorities

A family and children, supporters of pro-Kurdish Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP) celebrate the results of the legislative election, in Diyarbakir in Turkey on June 7, 2015.
Bulent Kilic—AFP/Getty Images A family and children, supporters of pro-Kurdish Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP) celebrate the results of the legislative election, in Diyarbakir, Turkey, on June 7, 2015.

Kaya Genç is a novelist and essayist based in Istanbul.

The Justice and Development Party failed to get a majority because it alienated people with its attacks on LGBT people, Kurds and Communists

We have now exited the era of political certainty in Turkey: Sunday’s general elections herald a new, exciting era of reorganization, in which everything will need to change so everything can stay the same.

Over the last three months, Turkey’s president, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, has pitched an undercooked, little-understood presidential system that would give him more political authority and the right to usurp his prime minister’s executive powers. Erdoğan’s project fell on deaf ears: Choosing the presidential system dream as its central campaign offering turned out to be a grave mistake for the Justice and Development Party (AKP), which ended up not even earning a simple majority in the Turkish parliament.

With its 40.8% of the vote and 258 elected MPs AKP’s vote fell embarrassingly short of forming a government, which requires 276. Over the past 13 years, the AKP was so accustomed to winning elections that its defeat didn’t feel real for many: AK Party’s vote fell from 21.4 million in 2011 to a jaw-dropping 18.7 million.

A new political system for Turkey is now off the table. People still support the conservatives (of which the AKP is the leading party), but the discourse of the one-man rule and leader cult has lost spectacularly. The elections will most probably lead to a period of soul-searching in Erdoğan’s party during its congress this September. Its current leader, Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu, who turned out to be a disappointment in terms of inspiring its electorate, can be sidelined in the party. Turkey’s conservative voters did not identify with Davutoğlu, a professor of international relations, the same way they did with Erdoğan, the self-made politician and orator from İstanbul’s Kasımpaşa neighborhood. Davutoğlu lacks the personal history of Erdoğan (a lad from a poor neighborhood who was imprisoned for reading a poem before forming Turkey’s arguably most ambitious political machine) and his tireless guardianship of the AKP’s time in power did not exactly excite the electorate.

Enter Selahattin Demirtaş, the leader of the left-wing HDP which has transformed Turkey’s political scene beyond return. With its 13% vote and 80 MPs in parliament, HDP has the same political wind behind it as the liberal ANAP in 1980 and the AKP in the early 2000s. HDP’s political discourse is such a breath of fresh air that it stole hundreds of thousands of votes from AKP voters. It’s a coalition of underprivileged social segments that people can easily identify with; its leader has a story, passion and guts. Thirty two of HDP’s legislators are women, thanks to which we will now have 90 female members of parliament, the highest in Turkey’s history. Another piece of good news: For the first time in 54 years, Turkey has elected three Armenian citizens to parliament.

The main opposition party, the CHP, regained its vote with 25% while the nationalist MHP surged to 16.3% from 13% in 2011, an increase of almost two million votes, which was the most interesting (and for some, worrying) development of the elections. The leader of the MHP quickly announced his lack of interest in forming a coalition with either the CHP, the HDP or the AKP.

Now, it’s not clear what will happen next. The HDP built its election campaign on fighting against Erdoğan’s presidential system, but it can potentially work with the AKP if the party choses to return to its reformist, conciliatory roots. Meanwhile a coalition between two biggest parties, AK Party and CHP is a possibility, albeit a somewhat distant one. The common feature of all those options will be a strong distaste for the presidential system.

The most likely outcome of Sunday’s political drama will be early elections in six months. The electorate’s strongest message is that they dislike the kind of aggressive political tone right-wing media and politicians have used this spring to criminalize and victimize minorities.

Turks never forgave their country’s establishment for putting Erdoğan behind bars in 1999. In Sunday’s elections they showed a similar disdain for powerful figures looking down on people because of their sexuality, ethnicity or political beliefs. One jingoistic newspaper had portrayed an HDP candidate as a “homo supporting gay marriage” in an effort to warn “religious Kurds” about this dangerous man; another paper ran a headline about Demirtas “eating bacon in Germany” as proof of his ugly character .

This discourse proved to be a failure, alienating Kurdish voters of the AKP and not winning the hearts of Turkish nationalists who now more passionately support the MHP. The AKP did not employ such tricks or political discourse in its first successful years and in the New Turkey of 2015, people don’t want to see victimization anymore and any macho, jingoistic discourse or party line that victimize others seems set to lose in this new, yet unexplored land of opportunities.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME Turkey

What to Know About This Weekend’s Turkish Elections

A special forces police officer takes security measures as he stands on top of a building where the portraits of Turkey's President Tayyip Erdogan, Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu and a Turkish flag are displayed in Istanbul on June 3, 2015.
Murad Sezer—Reuters A special forces police officer takes security measures as he stands on top of a building where the portraits of Turkey's President Tayyip Erdogan, Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu and a Turkish flag are displayed in Istanbul on June 3, 2015.

The Justice and Development Party want Turks to give them a mandate to increase the power of the presidency

Turks head to the polls on June 7, as the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) hope to achieve enough seats to implement a new constitution that would increase the powers of the Turkish president. Here’s what you need to know about the election in the important member state of NATO, which straddles the straits that separate Europe and Asia.

Who are the contenders?

The Islamist-rooted conservative AKP has governed for nearly thirteen years, winning successive elections in 2002, 2007 and 2011. The party is formally headed by Ahmet Davutoglu, who became prime minister last year, though it is President Recep Tayyip Erdogan who is widely believed to be running the show. Most polls give it just over 40% of the vote.

The Republican People’s Party (CHP), a left leaning, secularist party, has finished a distant second in every election since 2002. It is headed by Kemal Kilicdaroglu. Most polls predict a performance in the mid to high 20s.

The Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) is a party of the nationalist right. Its leader for almost two decades is Devlet Bahceli. Most polls give it about 15-17%.

The Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) is a democratic socialist party which also represents Turkish minorities, particularly the Kurds who make up between 10 and 25% of the population. Most polls give it between 9-12%.

What’s at stake?

As part of its electoral manifesto, the AKP has promised Turks a new constitution that would transform the presidency into the seat of the executive. AKP members argue that the new system would make Turkey’s democracy run more smoothly. Critics fear it would give the president almost dictatorial powers.

The AKP would need to win 330 out of 550 parliamentary seats to push its constitutional project through parliament and take it to a popular referendum. The main opposition parties agree that Turkey needs a new constitution to replace the one handed down to it by an army junta three decades ago, but promise to block any attempt to strengthen the president’s hand.

What stands in the AKP’s way?

Among other things, this man.

Selahattin Demirtas, the charismatic co-leader of the HDP, has presided over his party’s transformation from the vanguard of the Kurdish rights movement into a magnet for progressives, feminists, ethnic minorities, and LGBT groups. Demirtas, who also appears poised to attract a fair share of young voters disillusioned with the style and substance of Turkish politics, has pledged to frustrate the AKP. He may soon be in a position to do so. If the HDP enters parliament, it will receive at least 50 seats, most likely stripping the AKP of the three-fifths majority it needs to push through constitutional changes. Depending on the other parties’ performance, it may even force the AKP to look for a coalition partner.

And what stands in the HDP’s way?

The party has been seen as close to the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), an armed group that has waged war with Turkish security forces for the better part of the past 30 years at a cost of some 40,000 lives. Peace talks between the government and the PKK’s jailed leader, Abdullah Ocalan, delivered a ceasefire in 2013 but the group remains reviled by most Turks. Despite the PKK’s armed campaign against the Islamic State in Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS), the U.S., the European Union and Turkey continue to list it as a terrorist group.

Any party has to get 10% of the vote before it gains any seats. This requirement was part an electoral law imposed by the military government that came to power in a 1980 coup. The threshold was designed, among other things, to prevent Kurdish and Islamist parties from entering parliament. In previous elections, Kurdish political groups sidestepped the 10% requirement by having their candidates run as independents who are not subject to the threshold. In this election, the HDP has decided to gamble and enter the fray as a single bloc. If it doesn’t get at least 10% of the vote it won’t get a single seat, which will further strengthen bigger parties such as the AKP.

The campaign
Erdogan is not running in these election because he is the sitting president but this has not stopped him playing a very active role. Technically, the constitution forbids the president from taking part in political campaigns but Erdogan has flouted the rule, using every opportunity afforded to him – the opening of a new hospital, a new municipality building, or a new airport – to drum up support for the AKP and its plans for a super-presidency. Demirtas, the HDP co-leader, recently mocked Erdogan by attending the grand opening of a bottle of soda.

The run-up to the election has been anything but amusing and occasionally violent. Desperate to shore up the conservative vote and to prevent the HDP from entering parliament, Erdogan and Davutoglu have turned up the religious and nationalist rhetoric. During a recent rally, the president accused foreign news outlets, homosexuals, and the Armenian lobby of backing the HDP and plotting against Turkey.

Election scenarios

The most likely scenario appears to be a narrow majority (at least 276 parliamentary seats) for the AKP, enough to form a government but not enough to proceed unilaterally with constitutional changes. A 330-seat majority, which would allow the AKP to push a new constitution through parliament and take it to a popular referendum, is considered less likely.

Another possibility, assuming the AKP fails to secure a simple majority in parliament, is a coalition government, the first one since 2002.

Correction: This article was amended June 5 to show that the HDP was perceived as front a for the PKK rather than being one and the electoral threshold was part of an electoral law not the constitution.

TIME Food

Arby’s Weird New Meat Ad Lasts Almost a Whole Day

Last year, Arby’s took weird advertising to a new level, airing two commercials consisting of nothing more than footage of meat getting smoked. Today, you can get those ads on DVD.

Yes, really.

Arby’s is handing out 500 free copies of the DVD set, featuring four discs of brisket and two of turkey, reports Mashable.

The success of last year’s ad campaign made the Smokehouse LTO sandwich a huge hit for the fast food chain.

The chain is promoting the giveaway with an avant-garde commercial parodying the type of infomercials that used to be oh-so-common for DVD box sets and other entertainment collections. The ad, seen below, is airing during Cartoon Network’s Adult Swim programming block:

If for some reason you want to watch meat cook, you can get your own copy at freemeatdvds.com.

 

TIME Infectious Disease

Everything You Want to Know About the Bird Flu Outbreak

An egg-producing chicken farm run by Sunrise Farm is seen in Harris, Iowa on April 23, 2015. Iowa, the top U.S. egg-producing state, found a lethal strain of bird flu in millions of hens at an egg-laying facility on Monday, the worst case so far in a national outbreak that prompted Wisconsin to declare a state of emergency. The infected Iowa birds were being raised near the city of Harris by Sunrise Farms, an affiliate of Sonstegard Foods Company, the company said.
Joe Ahlquist—Reuters An egg-producing chicken farm run by Sunrise Farm is seen in Harris, Iowa on April 23, 2015. Iowa, the top U.S. egg-producing state, found a lethal strain of bird flu in millions of hens at an egg-laying facility on Monday, the worst case so far in a national outbreak that prompted Wisconsin to declare a state of emergency. The infected Iowa birds were being raised near the city of Harris by Sunrise Farms, an affiliate of Sonstegard Foods Company, the company said.

More than 30 million birds have been culled so far

The United States is dealing with a nasty bird flu outbreak.

Sixteen states have reported cases of highly pathogenic H5 avian flu among flocks of birds like turkeys and chickens as well as wild birds since last December, resulting in the culling of at least 30 million birds. Recently, the disease was confirmed in a flock of 1.7 million chickens in Nebraska. Other states have also been hit hard, like Iowa, where more than 24 million birds from 39 different sites have been affected. On Wednesday, TIME asked the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) a few questions regarding the recent outbreak.

How many strains of bird flu are circulating?
So far in this outbreak, the U.S. has seen highly pathogenic cases of H5N8 and H5N2 strains in domestic poultry. Those same strains as well as a H5N1 strain have been discovered in wild birds. According to the USDA, the H5N8 virus started in Asia and spread among wild bird migratory pathways in 2014, and has mixed with other bird flu strains in North America, which has resulted in what the USDA calls new “mixed origin” viruses. The H5N1 seen in North America is not the same virus that has been seen in Asia, Europe and Africa, which has caused human infections.

Are all these outbreaks connected?
Yes, the viruses are all linked. According to the USDA, since mid-December 2014, there have been several ongoing highly pathogenic avian influenza incidents along the Pacific, Central and Mississippi Flyways (routes used by migrating birds).

How does bird flu spread between states?
Among wild birds, outbreaks along flyways may explain some of the spread. But how it might be spreading from farms that are far away from one another is less understood at this time. The USDA says it’s currently conducting epidemiological investigations to understand how the virus is being introduced some of these other populations of birds. “Poultry operations have a very complex variety of inputs including air, feed, people, vehicles, birds, water and others,” the agency told TIME in an email. “Any of these might be the pathway of virus introduction on any single operation.”

Where does bird flu come from? Can someone be at fault?
As mentioned earlier, some of the viruses currently seen in the North American outbreaks originated in Asia and then spread to the U.S. and mixed with other viruses. It’s important to know there is a flu for birds just as there is for humans and, like people, some of these strains are worse or more severe than others. According to the USDA, native North American strains of bird flu occur naturally in wild birds and they can spread to domestic birds like poultry. Most often there are no signs a bird is infected. But in some cases, as with the current outbreak, the viruses are highly pathogenic. That means they kill chickens and turkeys quickly, and they spread fast. The USDA says there is no fault in an outbreak like this.

Why has this outbreak spread so much?
To date, the USDA says around 30 million birds have been culled (slaughtered) due to confirmed presence of the bird flu strains. Researchers are still conducting studies to learn how the virus is spreading to poultry operations, but the agency points out there have been other serious outbreaks in the past. For instance, in 1983 to 1984, 17 million chickens, turkeys and guinea fowl in Pennsylvania and Virginia were culled. In 2007, the presence of low pathogenic H5N2 avian influenza in West Virginia resulted in 25,600 poultry being culled. The high number of birds slaughtered during this outbreak is hard for farmers involved, but 30 million is still considered a small percentage of the overall U.S. poultry population. In 2014, according to the agency, the U.S. poultry industry produced 8.54 billion broilers, 99.8 billion eggs, and 238 million turkeys.

I can’t be infected, right?
Right. The virus strains involved in the current outbreak have never infected humans. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says the risk to the general public is currently low. However, the possibility of human infections cannot be completely ruled out, as similar bird flu viruses have infected humans in the past. In an April news conference, Dr. Alicia Fry, a CDC influenza control expert, told reporters “it is possible that we may see human infections with the viruses associated with recent U.S. bird flu outbreaks. Most human infections with avian influenza viruses have occurred in people with direct or close and prolonged contact with infected birds.” Fry said the CDC is “cautiously optimistic” there will not be human cases, but they are already preparing for the possibility just in case.

So what can I do to make sure I am safe?
The recommendations for the general public are to avoid wild birds and stay at a distance. The CDC says people should avoid contact with domestic birds or poultry that appear ill or have died, as well as surfaces that may have been contaminated with wild or domestic bird feces. People who do have contact with infected birds should monitor themselves for flu-like symptoms and some may even be given preventative antiviral drugs.

How can I tell if a bird is infected?
What has been observed is that turkeys will stop eating or drinking and then, sometimes only within a few hours, they will start to appear lethargic. The birds may look as though they are stargazing, the USDA says, or twisting their neck. Death happens pretty quickly after that. In chickens, they may start laying fewer eggs and stop eating. They can also look lethargic before they die.

Is there a vaccine?
There is currently a vaccine under development for emergency use in poultry, but it’s still too early for use. The CDC is also creating candidate vaccine viruses that could be used to make a vaccine for humans if one were needed. But this is a routine precaution.

TIME World

U.S. Ambassador to Turkey Goes Blonde in Solidarity With Spokeswoman Called ‘Dumb Blonde’

Posted photo of himself with blonde hair with the caption "we're all blonde"

The U.S. Ambassador to Turkey went blonde on Instagram Thursday after the mayor of Ankara ridiculed American spokeswoman Marie Harf as a “dumb blonde.”

Ambassador John Bass posted this photo to Instagram Thursday, apparently using Photoshop to color his dark hair blonde (it doesn’t appear to be hair dye, but it’s not immediately clear) along with the caption “we’re all blonde.”

#ABD'li diplomatlar: hepimiz #sarışınız. #American diplomats: we're all blonde.

A photo posted by John Bass (@amerikanbuyukelcisi) on

It was an apparent retort to now-deleted tweets posted Wednesday by Ankara Mayor Melih Gokcek, who referred to Harf as a “blonde girl” as he called her out for previous criticism of Turkish police crackdowns on public protests in 2013. He said that criticism is now hypocritical in light of the American police response to the protests in Baltimore. Gokcek tweeted a picture of Harf’s face next to a headline that said, “Where are you, dumb blonde, who said Turkish police used disproportionate force?” and added a comment in English that said, “come on blonde, answer now.”

Harf declined to comment on the Twitter insults, telling reporters she wouldn’t “dignify them with a response.”

TIME conflict

Turkey and Armenia Host Clashing Centennial Memorials

ARMENIA-GENOCIDE-CENTENARY
Alain Jocard—AFP/Getty Images Armenian president Serge Sarkissian (2-R), his wife Rita (2-L) and their children arrive for a ceremony at the Genocide Memorial in Yerevan on April 24, 2015.

Commemorations of two 1915 events—the mass killings of Armenians in Turkey and the Turkish stand at Gallipoli—have caused tension

More than 60 leaders and representatives from around the world converged on the Armenian capital on Friday to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the beginning of a period during which more than 1 million Armenians were killed in Turkey. Russian President Vladimir Putin and French President François Hollande both attended the ceremony, while the White House dispatched Treasury Secretary Jack Lew.

The anniversary of the 1915 killings, in what was then the eastern edge of the Ottoman Empire, has coincided with a surge in international awareness. In the past month, global icons ranging from Pope Francis to Kim Kardashian (who has Armenian ancestry) have ruffled Turkish feathers by shedding light on the killings and using the term “genocide,” which the Turkish government rejects. And as world envoys gather in Yerevan, similar ceremonies will be held in cities around the world.

On April 24, 1915, the Ottomans rounded up Armenian intellectuals in Istanbul in the beginning of what historians widely consider a genocidal act of bloodshed. In an article years later about a violent Armenian campaign for vengeance, TIME described the killings like this:

During World War I, the Turks exterminated or deported virtually their entire Armenian population because they held the unfounded suspicion that members of the ethnic group were disloyal. The decision to undertake the genocide was communicated to the local leaders by the Interior Minister, Talaat Pasha, in 1915. One of his edicts stated that the government had decided to “destroy completely all Armenians living in Turkey. An end must be put to their existence, however criminal the measures taken may be, and no regard must be paid to age, or sex, or to scruples of conscience.”

The Turkish authorities rounded up all able-bodied men in the Turkish army and bludgeoned them to death. Intellectuals and community leaders in Istanbul were herded aboard ships, then drowned at sea. Armenian babies were thrown live into pits and covered with stones. Women, children and old people were forced to march hundreds of miles, over mountains, presumably to a place of deportation in Syria, but actually to their deaths. Forbidden supplies of food and water, they were waylaid by brigands. Turkish gendarmes raped and sometimes disemboweled or cut the breasts off women before finally killing them. While the horrified U.S. Ambassador to Turkey, Henry Morgenthau Sr., appealed in vain to the Turks to stop the slaughter, hundreds of thousands of Armenians could be seen, as Morgenthau put it, “winding in and out of every valley and climbing up the sides of every mountain.”

But even today, the Turkish government still rejects the “genocide” label and says the killing of Armenians was a casualty of the World War. And to the dismay of Armenians, Turkey is hosting a separate centennial ceremony on Friday: a commemoration of the World War I Gallipoli military campaign, the unsuccessful British and French-led invasion of Turkey that also began in 1915.

The naval operation off the coast began on March 18, a day that is traditionally associated in Turkey with the onset of the campaign. Then, following the failure of the naval bombardment, the allies landed troops on Ottoman beaches on April 25, beginning the ill-fated land offensive. Today that date is observed in Australia and New Zealand as Anzac day, a national remembrance day.

Though the centenary events were bound to be close together, some observers say the timing of the Gallipoli memorial appears to be a deliberate attempt to divert attention from the Armenian anniversary, as it forces the world’s dignitaries to choose one or the other. “It certainly looks like an intentional move by Turkey,” said Thomas de Waal, a historian with the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace and the author of Great Catastrophe, about the genocide and its aftermath.

Fatih Öke, a spokesperson at the Turkish Embassy in Washington, denied that charge, noting that Turkey has held a Gallipoli commemoration on April 24 since 2003. This year, because of the centennial anniversary, he said, the government invited foreign leaders. “Sorry, we already have this date,” he said.

Still, no matter the motivation, appearances count. “This may rebound against the Turkish government,” said de Waal. “Whereas if they for example had had it on the 25th, then a lot of officials could have gone to Yerevan one day and to Turkey on the next, and that would have been quite elegant.”

A dozen heads of state and five prime ministers were slated to attend the Gallipoli centennial celebration, including Australian Premier Tony Abbott. But with the exception of the British royalty and Irish President Michael Higgins, none are from Western Europe. Hollande’s presence at the Armenian memorial, rather than the Turkish memorial, is particularly conspicuous given France’s central role in the Gallipoli campaign. And though U.S. ambassador to Turkey John Bass was set to attend the Gallipoli memorial, the U.S. is not sending a separate representative from Washington.

Under rising pressure from the international community, the government in Turkey has recently appeared to ease its approach. On Monday, Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu expressed “deep condolences” to descendants of the Armenians who suffered during that time.

But activists in the U.S. are skeptical that the Premier’s statements represent a long term change in attitude.

“Davutoglu was just trying to deter or derail recognition efforts. There’s no expression of regret, there’s no acceptance of responsibility,” said Aram Hamparian, the executive committee of the Armenian National Committee of America. “There’s no doubt in my mind that they organized this Gallipoli thing to detract attention from the Armenian genocide centennial.”

To be sure, Turkey continues to pressure foreign countries on the use of the term “genocide.” President Recep Erdogan warned the Pope not to repeat the “mistake” of using the word, and the White House remains reluctant to risk relations with a key ally in a tumultuous region. On Tuesday, White House officials informed Armenian American leaders that President Barack Obama would not use the term in remarks on Friday, despite a 2008 campaign pledge and vocal past support from people within his administration.

“While it is essential to ensure that Turkey continues to ‘treat the Americans all right,’ a stable, fruitful, 21st century relationship cannot be built on a lie,” Samantha Power, now the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, wrote in TIME in 2007.

Read Power advocate for recognizing the Armenian Genocide in October, 2007: Honesty Is the Best Policy

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