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Inside Story: Occupy Gezi Movement in Turkey; Development Is Not Always Good

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Occupy Gezi
Not always development makes citizen happy. This is what happening in Turkey. The government’s plan of demolishing the Gezi park and constructing a shopping mall in the centre of the city has not attracted the backing of its own citizen. For any changes, whether it is development changes or changes in law in the country, government must consult with its citizen in a true democratic way, that’s the message Occupy Gezi Movement is giving to the world.

Occupy Gezi Movement is one of its kind in a way that it is one level above other such movement we have seen recently. It is not about democracy but about asking for more true democratic fundamental rights, normalization of power sharing and making people understand that they elect the government and not the government elect them. 
“Democracy is not just about elections,” said the Turkish President Abdullah Gül. Respecting his words, this is our significant addition to the rising voice in Turkey for the people who are fighting for their rights in one of the most matured Muslim democracies of the world.

One Aspect of the Story

On 28th May 2013, a group of around fifty people independent of any organization launched a protest in the Gezi park in Istanbul against the demolition of the same to prevent the seventy years of greenery in the city centre from converting into yet another shopping mall, which are already present in bulk in the city of Istanbul. On 30th May, trees were scheduled to be cut down in the morning, but before that could happen, people went to the park previous night with their family, blankets and tents to sleep under the trees whose shade they might not have enjoyed from the next day. 

When the bulldozer came to demolish the park, people gathered and stood up against them making no way for the bulldozers. Police came to intervene which disturbed the peaceful nature of the protests by throwing tear gas shells, water canon and paper spray. 
Meanwhile to control the protest, all the ways leading up to Taksim square where the Gezi Park is located were blocked. The metro was shut down and ferries were cancelled. 3G services were turned off by the carriers after being forced by the government as confirmed by an Turkcell employee, resulting into nearby restaurants turning their WiFi signals from secured to public.
Occupy Gezi
The protesters have claimed that the policies of the ruling government is like selling the country to corporations at the cost of nature and environment for the construction of malls, freeways, dams and nuclear plants. Citizen also blamed government for snatching their rights and passing many laws regarding sale of alcohol, abortion, public kissing and LGBT.
Mainstream media’s role is almost equal to the zero, there is hardly any mentions of protests in the newspaper and TV giving a signal of a possible government sponsored instructions to the media to not to cover these events.  Not just domestic media, but even international medias are not showing much coverage unlike in the case of Arab spring. This could be because of the fact that the ruling party is pro-western and pro-American which advocates a liberal market economy including Turkish membership in the European Union.
Many photos and videos are now circulating on the web and social media showing how brutally police is trying to control the protests. United States State Department, United Kingdom Foreign Office and The European Commission condemned the excessive and disproportionate use of force and and asked for upholding the fundamental freedoms of expression.

The Other Side of the Story

It is true that the peaceful protests were started by the environmentalists against the demolition of the Gezi park, but later the protest took complete turn with “political agenda” specially when government was blamed for its foreign policy on Syria and other policies like banning the sale of alcohol at night. Ruling Turkish government has shown support to the armed rebels of Syria and believe in ousting of the Syrian government. 
TWR’s department in Russia and Ukraine received inputs straight from Turkey that internet was never blocked neither did Facebook and Twitter as claimed in various blog posts. The shopping mall which would replace Gezi park is not exactly a shopping mall but rebuilding of museum style Ottoman-era Taksim Military Barracks which was demolished in 1940. Although This Taksim Military Barracks will accommodate a small shopping mall inside, some blog and social media posts could only limit their visibility to “shopping mall”. 
There is a misinformation that protests have become popular across Turkey. Major protests have only been in Istanbul, Ankara and Izmir, rest nearly fourteen to fifteen cities have experienced minor protests. Turkey has around eighty to ninety cities.
The protests though started genuinely are claimed to be motivated by opposition political parties who are against policies of ruling Justice and Development Party (or AKP in Turkish) that includes sentencing to jail for life for blasphemy, reforming education curriculum strengthening Islamic elements in public primary and high schools and not apologizing for bombing a civil plane carrying 34 Kurdish civilians thinking they were militants of the separatist Kurdistan Workers’ Party. Time to time the ruling government has been blamed for being hardcore Islamist and authoritarian. 
Since 2002, Justice and Development Party has remained the single largest party claiming the majority in every election. This raises a question if people had problem with the Party’s Islamist status or its authoritarian nature, then why would they chose the same party again and again in every election? 
We at TWR believe that right to the fundamental freedom of expression, assembly and association should be maintained and any restriction made to the basic fundamental rights should be condemned. If people in large number are gathering, there must be something which they want to tell the government, and government should consider and talk. If government wants to give a new shopping mall or a museum to its citizen, it must consult the citizen whether they want it at the cost of the park or not. If a protest is controlled and the issue is resolved at the earliest, there would be very less probability of opposition or outside powers to interfere and turn the movement as hostile.

Updates

1. The unique ID which every policemen have on their helmet has been painted to hide it. Police force is becoming harsh to control the ongoing Occupy Gezi protest across many cities in Turkey.

police painted unique ID
Click to Enlarge. Source: Unknown

2. Police controlling the protests brutally with pepper spray and water canon is causing more anger and rise of support for the protesters in Turkey and around the world.

police spraying pepper on protesters
Click to Enlarge, Source: Unknown

3. A 22 year old young men shot dead in Antakya during the protest. The City Governor’s Office informed that they couldn’t yet confirm if the bullet was shot by a cop.

4. Two days union strike and universities postponing exams will result into more gathering and strengthening of protests.

5. Occupy Gezi protesters trying crowdfunding to buy a full page advertisement on either the New York Times or the Washington Post. The message says “We want the world to hear from Turks temselves about what’s happening in Turkey. We want the world to support us as we push for true democracy in our country.

Occupy gezi full page ad
6. Turkish Foreign Minister, Ahmet Davutoglu unhappy that US Secretary of State John Kerry crticised crackdown on Occupy Gezi protesters. Kerry expressed his concerns on receiving reports of excessive force by the police. He also said Washington is “deeply concerned” by the large number of people who have been injured.

In a tough response, Davutoglu held a telephone conversation with Kerry and accused the U.S. of treating Turkey “as a second-class democracy.” He also complained that Washington did not react to similar protests in other countries.

7. English translation of the demands of the Taksim Solidarity group who met with the deputy PM this morning: Click here

8. Israeli political expert Avigdor Eskin believes a military coup could be possible in Turkey, “At present, a military coup is also possible, given that it once had happened in Turkey before. If the police display violence and the victims to clashes reach significant scales, a new military coup is quite possible,” He told Arminfo

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Sanskar Shrivastava is the founder of international students' journal, The World Reporter. Passionate about dynamic occurrence in geopolitics, Sanskar has been studying and analyzing geopolitcal events from early life. At present, Sanskar is a student at the Russian Centre of Science and Culture and will be moving to Duke University.

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Economy

Weathering the Storm: How Political Climates Affect the Financial Markets

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There are numerous factors that can potentially have an effect on financial markets and which traders have to be aware of. They can range from extreme weather events, terror attacks, corporate announcements, all the way to the political climate of a country. In most of these scenarios, the ramifications for an economy and the subsequent reflection in the stock markets can be relatively predictable – we expect to see a drop in stock prices when a disaster hits , for example. When it comes to the political climate, however, things become a whole lot less predictable. This is due to various reasons, not least because of the inherently fickle nature of politics itself and the sometimes vast differences in the political cultures and traditions of different countries.

To get a sense of just how a country’s political climate can affect various aspects of a nation’s economy and its financial markets, we’ll take a practical recent example of the USA following President Donald Trump’s election in November 2016. It serves as an interesting case study due not only to its unexpected nature which highlighted the basic unpredictability of political climates, but because it brought about some very interesting reactions and results from businesses and the financial sector in general.

Growth Expectations

A general statement can be made to the effect that a country’s political climate and its economic environment are closely related. Investors, no matter how large their risk appetite, like to have a reasonable assurance of their money’s safety, which is why stock markets are usually the first industries to react to any political climate changes. In fact, research suggest that stock markets follow a predictable general pattern along a four-year cycle punctuated by the Presidential Elections in the USA and perhaps many other countries worldwide, with the market showing signs of increased caution as election season comes around.

Following President Trump’s unexpected victory, many organizations held the hope that the bold fiscal proposals he had talked about during the campaign – including increased spending and tax cuts – would serve to boost the country’s economy. The Federal Reserve actually went ahead and increased interest rates in anticipation of the changes, showing how even the promise of a policy change will directly be felt on the financial market.

Anticipated Regulatory Changes

When a country undergoes a significant political change of pace, it is expected that this will come with significant regulatory standards and practices. It is widely acknowledged that increased government regulation and bureaucratic interference in a country’s economy and industrial activity will usually result in a slowing down of the economy in question.

President Trump had poised to relax the regulatory framework in the country as well as consolidating the numerous bodies tasked with formulating the regulations to make it easier to do business in the country, and this came as good news to organizations and their stakeholders.

Political Stability Concerns

Political stability has a very real effect on the state of businesses within an economy, as we can all agree. While many business owners and stakeholders were encouraged by the promise of deregulation and fiscal policy reform, many were also given cause for concern when it came to the President’s apparent pattern of unexpected and inconsistent policy decisions.

His stance on immigration, promise to wall of the USA’s southern border with Mexico, and his abandonment of previous trade deals all went into fueling anxiety and a sense of uncertainty in the financial markets. This was especially felt in the case of organizations with a global business presence. These feelings decrease investor confidence and often lead to a depreciation in stock market values as the more risk-averse investors keep away.

In Conclusion

When looked at in totality, countries all over the world face the same types of political risks. We’re not talking about complete government collapses such as might occur in times of a coup, but relatively smaller yet high-impact moves and policies by governments on matters such as regulation, currency valuation, taxes, spending, minimum wage laws, labor laws, environmental regulations, and the like.The financial market of a country, being highly sensitive to such shocks, can register an impact when such actions are merely proposed, without their implementation having taken place yet. The impacts may be long or short-term, but they are definitely felt throughout the financial markets.

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China

What a Rising Xi Jinping Means for China and the World

Manak Suri

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Xi Jinping China

Source: en.kremlin.ru

“Watch this man.” These were the three words used by the founding father of Singapore Lee Kuan Yew to describe a relatively unknown Xi Jinping while he was yet to become the President of the People’s Republic of China. Today, in addition to being China’s “paramount leader”, Xi is arguably the most powerful man in the world, and even if leaders across the world were doubtful about it till now, the developments in the previous week were sure to make them think again.

19th Party Congress: How it unfolded

Xi today, Xi forever?

The Communist Party of China assembled the previous week for its 19th Party Congress, a political summit that takes place every five years to decide upon the country’s future and the future is precisely what Xi has fixated his eyes upon. According to the current rules, Mr Xi must step down as the leader when his term ends in 2022 and as tradition dictates, a successor must be appointed. While only time will reveal whether Mr Xi steps down from the presidency at the end of his term, it increasingly looks that he is not keen to do so, having failed to hint towards any successor for the time being. His apparent intentions to stay put were further solidified with the appointment of the new members to the Politburo Standing Committee, the highest decision making authority in the country after the president. Each of the members appointed to the body is over 60 years of age, which means that they are highly likely to retire when their term comes to an end with the next meeting five years later. Interestingly, two-thirds of them are also known to be Mr Xi’s loyalists.

Xi Jinping Thought: A force to be reckoned with

“Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era” or the “Xi Jinping Thought” for short was written into the party’s constitution at the end of the Congress. The thought consists of 14 principles calling for deep reforms, conserving the environment, the party’s complete control over the army, and the importance of the unification of the country. The development was highly publicised and with good reason. With the “Xi Jinping Thought” embedded in the constitution while still being in power, Xi Jinping has drawn comparisons from all over the world to Mao Zedong himself. Moreover, he has ensured that anyone that opposes him will do so at the cost of their removal from the party. When Xi asked the delegates at the end of his address for any objections, shouts of “meiyou” which means “none” rang through the Great Hall of the People.

Mr Xi has declared the start of a “new era” for China, and undoubtedly for the entire world. It is therefore important to ask what significance these developments hold for the country and for the world at large.

What this means for China

The inclusion of Xi’s thought in the constitution means that the same will be taught in schools, colleges, and other institutions throughout the country, infusing his ideology among the Chinese on a cultural level. Abraham Denmark, director of the Asia program at the Wilson Center puts it aptly when he says that the move “greatly increases, … broadens, and deepens Xi Jinping’s personal power within the Chinese system”.

The president has already found a wide support of the Chinese population with his push for modernisation and his crackdown on corruption has been hugely popular among the masses. Since his election in 2012, Mr Xi’s anti-corruption drive, famously known within the country as the “tiger and flies campaign” has either disciplined or expelled nearly a million party members. As his stance on corruption remains as stern as ever, many have come to view it as a political tool used by him time and again to get rid of political rivals. However, the corruption drive has undoubtedly proved to be effective and fruitful for the country’s business climate.

While Mr Xi’s crackdown on corruption has garnered immense coverage, the crackdown on humans rights activists and NGOs has not received its fair share. China has struggled for decades in its battle for free speech. In 2015, many human rights lawyers were detained and many international NGOs faced stricter curbs to keep them from functioning. As the president has left little room for any opposition within the party, the authoritarianism and censorship are by no means expected to be relaxed, ensuring that there is no opposition from outside the party as well.

Powerplay: China’s standing on the global stage

Donald Trump was among the world leaders who wished the Chinese president when he congratulated him on his “extraordinary elevation”. The reverence he holds for Mr Xi was quite apparent when he said: “some people might call him the king of China.” The surprise, however, came when North Korea’s Kim Jong Un congratulated the president on his “great success” since the two leaders are not known to be fond of each other. The intent here is clear. Both sides need a China that is continuously growing in power on their side in their stand against each other, and that means a closer association with Mr Xi. Chinese influence in the world is unlikely to stop there.

While speaking to CNN, James McGregor, author of “No Ancient Wisdom, No Followers: The Challenges of Chinese Authoritarian Capitalism”, mentioned that “given the chaos in Washington and also the dysfunction in Europe, the world is looking for leadership.” Mr Xi enjoys a great level of stability and largely unquestioned authority in a time where the leaders of Western democracies face intense competition at home. As such, his message to his party and to the world is clear: in the coming decades, China will “stand proudly among the nations of the world” and “become a leading global power. ” However, it will do so on its own terms, emphatically rejecting the Western political models.

These intentions are perhaps best evidenced by The Belt and Road initiative, China’s attempt at connecting Europe, Asia, and Africa with each other through a modern take on the Silk Route, into which it has already pumped hundreds of billions as loans and aid to countries across all three continents. While the project has been met with opposition from Japan, India, and the USA, many of China’s neighbours have expressed their support for it, which speaks of its influence on the global stage.

With the people’s army under the control of the party, Mr Xi also looks to achieve the twin goals of increasing the military might and the protection of China’s sovereignty. “We will not tolerate anyone, using any means, at any time to separate one inch of land from China”, he said in his address which is seen as a warning to both Hong Kong and Taiwan. Enhancing combat capability is also linked to the Chinese interests in the South China Sea, where its activities of building and militarisation of islands have received backlash from the international community.

“If one is big”, Mr Xi said on the final day of the Congress, “one must act big.” There’s no doubt that Mr Xi intends to put these words into action at the global level. Lee Kuan Yew once rightly pointed out about China that the world would do well to remember:  “The size of China’s displacement of the world balance is such that the world must find a new balance. It is not possible to pretend that this is just another big player. This is the biggest player in the history of the world.”

References:

http://www.cbc.ca/news/world/china-congress-xi-jinping-petricic-1.4371251

https://www.theatlantic.com/china/archive/2013/03/interview-lee-kuan-yew-on-the-future-of-us-china-relations/273657/

https://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2017/10/china-xi/544035/

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/asia/xi-jinping-china-communist-party-constitutional-amendment-ideology-enshrined-superpowers-future-mao-a8017111.html

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Europe

UK Attempts To Bypass European Commission On Brexit Blocked By Brussels

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Brexit European Union

Via geographos

As the UK and EU draw deeper and deeper into uncharted waters, Brexit negotiations are becoming increasingly erratic. As negotiators from both states met this week to discuss items such as the Northern Ireland Border, the rights of EU citizens currently residing in the UK and the notorious ‘divorce bill’, there have been numerous reports of frustration within the British camp.

Frustration

Recently it was revealed that Prime Minister Theresa May, believing talks to be at an impasse, intended to go over the heads of the EU’s Brexit negotiators and appeal directly to world leaders such as Angela Merkel and Emmanuel Macron. When questioned about this, however, Brussels officials close to the negotiations intimated that Mrs May would not be able to circumvent the negotiations process.

The officials pointed out that both French and German leaders had agreed prior to the talks that negotiations would come “as a single package” where “individual items cannot be settled separately” and that no member state would abstain from negotiations in favour of individual agreements.

One year on…

It has been over a year now since the UK referendum in which the country voted (at a rate of 52% to 48%) to leave the European Union in an unprecedented political and economic chain of events, the repercussions of which will take years to fully realise but which the world glibly knows as Brexit. It’s a small name for such a political leviathan. Many of the world’s leading bankers and economists still aren’t sure what to make of. Recently CEO Lloyds Bank Antonio Horta-Osorio (who has been lauded for restoring the bank’s profits to pre-financial crisis levels) expressed doubt and uncertainty over the long term economic effects of Brexit. It’s somewhat telling that former Prime Minister David Cameron resigned shortly after the vote, claiming that his involvement in the ‘Remain’ campaign put him at odds with the will of the people but it’s possible that he had the prescience to realise that he had no hope of taming this wily and unpredictable beast. One year on, the beast only seems to have become further enraged by the negotiating process.

Difficult negotiations

Theresa May has gone into Brexit negotiations with some questionably aggressive negotiating tactics. The first round of talks were mired by her strangely audacious assertion that “no deal is better than a bad deal”. The frustration has clearly been felt on both sides with chief negotiator Michel Barnier urging Mrs May to begin negotiating “seriously”. The French government also demonstrated an unwillingness to circumvent negotiations earlier this week, stating that it “fully supports, on the substance as well as on the method, Michel Barnier’s negotiating mandate” and asserting that claims that Mrs May can somehow bypass the procedure “are founded on absolutely nothing and do not reflect reality”. Brexit Minister David Davis, however, retains an optimistic tone, stating;

“Our goal remains the same: we want to agree a deal that works in the best interests for both the European Union and the United Kingdom and people and businesses right across Europe. We’re ready to roll up our sleeves and get back to work once more…”.

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