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Erdogan’s gamble on snap elections in Turkey could backfire

He paces back and forth on stage, listing his achievements for Turkey: New roads, better hospitals, ..



He paces back and forth on stage, listing his achievements for Turkey: New roads, better hospitals, more public transportation, more airports. At every rally, he hammers home the same message — he has transformed Turkey into a new modern nation. In almost every speech, 64-year-old Erdogan disparages what he calls "old Turkey," a place where garbage piled up on the streets, public hospitals were overrun, and roads were dimly-lit, single-lane death traps.That message of transformation has delivered Erdogan and his Justice and Development Party (AKP) 12 electoral victories over the last 16 years, making Erdogan the Turkish Republic's longest-serving leader since it was founded in 1923.But the President faces his toughest political challenge yet, in snap elections Sunday that Erdogan himself called. Turkish voters go to the polls to elect both a president and a new parliament, and for the first time in more than a decade, they have an array of strong candidates to choose from.Erdogan's grandiose rallies have become an expected part of any Turkish election, but they appear to have been eclipsed Wednesday, as main opposition candidate Muharrem Ince drew what looked like the largest crowd in the elections period yet. In the town of Izmir, hundreds of thousands of Ince supporters in a sea of red Turkish flags stretched for kilometers down a promenade on the Aegean coast, as the charismatic former high school physics teacher promised to end the nepotism of the Erdogan government."Erdogan is tired, he has no joy and he is arrogant," he said. "On the one hand you have a tired man, and on the other you have fresh blood."Hundreds of thousands of supporters gather to listen to Muharrem Ince in Izmir on June 21, three days ahead of the vote.Muharrem Ince at a campaign rally on June 10.  Erdogan has consolidated power at every step of his career. He has crushed anti-government protests, and in 2013 he evaded a corruption investigation into his inner circle. After a failed military coup to remove his government from power in 2016, he eliminated his opponents by firing tens of thousands of government workers, gutting public institutions, jailing critical voices, and clamping down on the media. He narrowly won a referendum last year that will change Turkey's parliamentary system to an executive presidency, giving whoever wins Sunday's vote sweeping new powers. But Erdogan's mantra of development and growth has lost some of its luster recently as Turkish people feel the pinch of a faltering economy.MORE: Turkey's currency crash puts economy at heart of election The lira has lost some 20% of its value since the year began, inflation is at 12% and interest rates are around a painful 18%. Some voters are tiring of what they see as Erdogan's power-grabbing.Turkish people are feeling the pinch of 12% inflation."It's a situation where Erdogan can't blame anyone else. It's not like the government is run by someone else so he can turn around and say 'elect me so I can improve the economy.' That's his weak spot and he knows it," said Asli Aydintasbas, a Senior Fellow at the European Council on Foreign Relations. But at the Istanbul rally, diehard Erdogan supporter Gulbahar Turan is sure Erdogan's AKP can continue to deliver. She says foreign intervention — not government mismanagement — is what's driving the economic woes. "These are games by foreign powers, but they should know even a dead Erdogan would get votes," Turan said.

Erdogan's biggest threat

Polls in Turkey are typically partisan and unreliable, but Erdogan appears to be in front. Some polls suggest he will fail to win 50% of the vote, and that will mean a run-off round on July 8. This could be a particularly dangerous position for Erdogan to find himself in, as most opposition parties have vowed to galvanize their supporters to whoever challenges the incumbent leader.'Mother Meral': The woman trying to drive Turkey's Erdogan from officeOpposition candidates and parties are trying to steal support from Erdogan on all fronts. Conservative nationalist Meral Aksener threatens him from the center right, while Temel Karamollaoglu from the Islamist Felicity Party could also drive pious conservatives away from the AKP.But Erdogan's biggest threat is the formidable Ince, who has galvanized the center-left around the CHP. In the past, the CHP fielded fairly drab candidates. This election is the first in which the party has chosen someone charismatic, Aydintasbas said."We are already seeing the results in the sense that this is a race between Muharrem Ince and Erdogan. And that's never happened before. Erdogan had it too easy and he basically ran against himself," Aydintasbas said.Ince is a not an obscure name in Turkey; the 54-year-old has served as a member of parliament for the last 16 years. He has managed to broaden his party's appeal beyond its usual base of secular upper-middle-class voters to include pious Muslims and Kurds."Former leaders of the party were bureaucrats or statesmen," said Behlul Ozkan, a political scientist from Marmara University. "Ince, with his rural family roots, his truck driver father and headscarf-wearing mother and sister is different from his predecessors." During the holy month of Ramadan, when Ince made appearances with his sister who wears a headscarf, he made clear he would continue to guarantee women's right to wear the Islamic headdress in public spaces, including universities. Women attending an Erdogan campaign event in Istanbul on June 19.The Islamic headscarf was prohibited in public life in the aftermath of a soft coup in 1997. Women who wore it were barred from going to university, practicing medicine and law, and serving as members of parliament, until Erdogan started lifting those restrictions in 2013.Ince has been reaching out to the Kurds, Turkey's largest ethnic minority, whose vote is usually split between Erdogan's AKP and the pro-Kurdish leftist Peoples' Democracy Party (HDP).Muharrem Ince arriving at the Istanbul rally on June 10.At the start of the campaign, Ince won favor with Kurdish voters by visiting HDP candidate Selahattin Demirtas, who is in jail pending the outcome of a court case in which the government accuses him of terrorism, allegations that his party says are politically motivated. He has been running his campaign from inside prison mainly over a Twitter account run by his advisers. In a rare occurrence for a CHP politician, the turnout at an Ince rally in the predominantly Kurdish city of Diyarbakir was high. The Kurdish vote is pivotal in the outcome of the parliamentary election. If the HDP crosses a 10% threshold, it will win seats and could deprive the AKP of its parliamentary majority. If it fails to get into parliament, the AKP will sweep up those seats.

'People are sick and tired': Ince

Erodgan and the AKP now dominate the airwaves in Turkey, so Ince, locked out from the mainstream media, has been trying to reach his base and beyond through a breakneck campaign schedule. And he has been hitting Erdogan where he's most vulnerable — the economy. Could Erdogan lose? What to know about Turkey's elections  "Erdogan, people are cooking stones instead of food. People are cooking their worries instead of food. Look at the prices of potatoes, of onions. There is no bread!" Ince shouted out over the crowd at a recent campaign rally in the southern city of Antalya. "Come, let's have a debate. Let's talk about the struggle of getting by, of paying the rent, of sending the kids to school."In an interview with CNN's Christiane Amanpour, Ince said it was time for change."I believe in the power of the street. I believe in our people's wish for change. People are sick and tired. Turkey is sick and tired. Institutions have been taken over. Turkey's democracy has been destroyed. A single man rules over Turkey. Turkey has to find a way out of this," he said.He is reaching out to Turkey's youth as well. A group of students hanging out at an Istanbul cafe say they don't know much about the old Turkey Erdogan talks about — to them the old Turkey was the one of several years ago, when there were greater civil liberties. They refuse to give their names, lamenting the loss of freedom of speech. "I don't want to give you my name because I need to think about my future," said a 22-year-old physiology student. "That is a worry I just don't want to have anymore."A worker looks at the control tower of a new airport under construction in Istanbul on April 13.Another student said that providing services and development should be expected from a government, not something for Erdogan to brag about. "Roads, roads, roads. I don't want to talk about that. I want to talk about more," he said. But development is a message that has worked for Erdogan for 16 years. Back at his rally in Istanbul, as his opera house presentation draws to a close, he asks, "How do you like that?" to the crowd, which roars back with approval.He calls out to the control room again for his next presentation, new building plans for an island development and then another for a park.

CNN's Isil Sariyuce contributed to this report.

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Turkey presidential election decides if Erdogan should have five more years



Turks are voting in a momentous presidential run-off to decide whether or not Recep Tayyip Erdogan should remain in power after 20 years.

His challenger Kemal Kilicdaroglu, backed by a broad opposition alliance, called on voters to come out and “get rid of an authoritarian regime”.

The president, who is favourite to win, promises a new era uniting the country around a “Turkish century”.

But the more pressing issue is rampant inflation and a cost-of-living crisis.

Voters have nine hours to cast their ballots before 17:00 (14:00 GMT) and many were already waiting outside a polling station in central Ankara before the doors opened. One woman of 80 had set her alarm for 05:00 to be sure of arriving on time.

Turnout in the first round was an impressive 88.8%, and Mr Erdogan’s lead was 2.5 million votes. That is why both candidates have their eye on the eight million who did not vote – but could this time.

Ahead of the run-off Mr Kilicdaroglu accused his rival of foul play, by blocking his text messages to voters while the president’s messages went through. After voting in Ankara he urged Turks to protect the ballot boxes.

Opposition parties are deploying an army of some 400,000 volunteers in a bid to ensure no vote-rigging takes place, both at polling stations and later at the election authority. But among the volunteers, they need lawyers such as Sena to accompany the ballot boxes.

International observers spoke of an uneven playing field after the first round. But there was no suggestion that any irregularities in voting would have changed the result.

As he voted in Istanbul, President Erdogan said Turkish democracy was going through a second round in a presidential election for the first time and suggested Turks should make use of it.

Mr Kilicdaroglu promised a very different style of presidency on his final day of campaigning: “I have no interest in living in palaces. I will live like you, modestly… and solve your problems.”

It was a swipe at Mr Erdogan’s enormous palatial complex on the edge of Ankara which he moved to when he switched from prime minister to president in 2014. After surviving a failed coup in 2016 he took on extensive powers, detained tens of thousands of people and took control of the media.

So it was laden with symbolism when he paid a campaign visit on Saturday to the mausoleum of a prime minister executed by the military after a coup in 1960.

“The era of coups and juntas is over,” he declared, linking Turkey’s current stability to his own authoritarian rule.

Turkey, however, is deeply polarised, with the president reliant on a support base of religious conservatives and nationalists, while his opposite number’s supporters are mainly secular – but many of them are nationalist too.

For days the two men traded insults. Mr Kilicdaroglu accused the president of cowardice and hiding from a fair election; Mr Erdogan said his rival was on the side of “terrorists”, referring to Kurdish militants.

But after days of inflammatory rhetoric about sending millions of Syrian refugees home, the opposition candidate returned to Turkey’s number-one issue – the economic crisis, and in particular its effect on poorer households.

A 59-year-old woman and her grandson joined him on stage to explain how her monthly salary of 5,000 lira (£200; $250) was now impossible to live on as her rent had shot up to 4,000 lira (£160; $200).

It may have been staged, but this is the story across Turkey, with inflation at almost 44% and salaries and state help failing to keep pace.

Economists say the Erdogan policy of cutting interest rates rather than raising them has only made matters worse.

The Turkish lira has hit record lows, demand for foreign currency has surged and the central bank’s net foreign currency reserves are in negative territory for the first time since 2002.

“The central bank has no foreign currency to sell,” says Selva Demiralp, professor of economics at Koc University. “There are already some sort of capital controls – we all know it’s hard to buy dollars. If they continue with low interest rates, as Erdogan has signalled, the only other option is stricter controls.”

East of Ankara, gleaming tower blocks have been springing up in Kirikkale. It looks like boom-time for this city, run by the president’s party.

But many people here are struggling.

Fatma has run a hairdresser’s for 13 years but for the past two, work has dried up, and the cost of rent and hair products has soared.

She voted for an ultranationalist candidate who came third, and does not trust the two men left in the race.

A few doors up the street, Binnaz is working a sewing machine at a shop for mending clothes.

People cannot afford new dresses so she is earning much more, even if her monthly rent has trebled to to 4,000 lira. Despite Turkey’s stricken economy, she is putting her faith in the president.

Outside a supermarket, Emrah Turgut says he is also sticking with Mr Erdogan because he has no faith in the other option, and believes the president’s unfounded allegations that the biggest opposition party co-operates with terrorists.

Turkey’s second-biggest opposition party, the HDP, denies any link to the militant PKK, but President Erdogan has used their backing for the rival candidate to suggest a link to terrorists.

Whoever wins on Sunday, Turkey’s parliament is already firmly in the grip of Mr Erdogan’s Islamist-rooted AK Party and its far-right nationalist ally, the MHP.

The AKP also has the youngest MP, who arrived in parliament on the eve of the presidential vote.

Zehranur Aydemir, 24, believes if Mr Erdogan wins then he will lay the foundations for a century in which Turkey will become a global power: “Now Turkey has a bigger vision it can dream bigger.”

It is another grandiose Erdogan project, but Turkey’s economy is likely to prove a more pressing task, whoever wins the run-off.


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Corriere della Sera: Belgian judges exerted illegal & undue pressure on Eva Kaili



Madrid Journal – Italian and Greek media seem to lose patience with how the Belgian authorities are dealing with corruption case in the European Parliamentary. The ill treatment of the Belgian judiciary became very obvious where the prosecution is practically employing blackmail as a tactic to get Eva Kaili to confess despite her pleading innocence from day one. According to the report of the Italian newspaper, the Belgian judges investigating the Qatargate scandal allegedly exerted illegal undue pressure on Eva Kaili, suggesting that she confess her guilt, with the promise that she will be released from prison.

It should be noted that after the conclusion of the last hearing, the lawyers of Eva Kaili complained that their client was kept in solitary confinement for six hours, speaking of torture reminiscent of the Middle Ages and a violation of human rights.

Today the Italian newspaper brings to light the aforementioned claim of the well-known criminologist Michalis Dimitrakopoulos.

“She has not agreed to confess to something she has not done” 
“From the first moment they suggested that Eva Kaili plead guilty and be released from prison so that she can finally hug her daughter again,” says Dimitrakopoulos, clarifying however that his client , who has been claiming innocence since day one, has always denied it.

“Despite the fact that being away from her little girl is the greatest psychological torture, she has not agreed to confess to something she has not done,” adds the Greek lawyer.

As also stated in the publication “she does not want her daughter to inherit the stigma that her mother was a corrupt female politician, because it is not true”.

The same publication also states that: “The former Greek TV journalist was immediately acquitted by her partner Giorgi, but the investigators did not believe the couple’s version, convinced that the woman belonged to Pantzeri’s network and tried to help him disappear the money from the funds. In fact, they accused her of bribery and of trying to hide the fruits of a crime.”

What will be her next move
The next moves Dimitrakopoulos plans for Eva Kaili are to build a profile of a woman deeply scarred by the month and a half she spent behind bars in Haren prison, the newspaper says.

“She was shaking as she told the judge, who was also a woman, about the torture she suffered, not in prison, but in a police cell. What he experienced – says the lawyer – is reminiscent of the movie ‘Midnight Express’, but unfortunately this is happening in the center of Europe”.

The indictment against the allegedly aggressive methods of the Belgian justice system ends with the announcement of the next legal move by Eva Kaili’s defense team: “Next week we will appeal to the Supreme Court, announces Dimitrakopoulos. When someone is arrested they are immediately protected by the law. I wonder if it was the same in Brussels.”


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The 5 best resorts and boutique hotels in Italy 2023



Seehof Nature Retreat /Naz-Sciaves (Bressanone)

Adults-only resort overlooking the shores of a private lake, the Seehof Nature Retreat has 40 rooms, including suites and doubles, with lake view or garden view. The wellness rite to clarify ideas about what to do in the future is carried out in the spa, it is the Aufguss, the infusion of vapors with essential oils which is carried out by a sauna master. The swimming pool is heated and can therefore also be used in winter, while the lake is frozen, so only the bravest will go and get their feet wet after a session in the sauna. Those who can’t sit still can go skiing in the Gitschberg/Jochtal and Plose/Bressanone areas, on the way back, massage with alpine herb pads or with arnica and St. John’s wort to soothe the muscles. The stay is all-inclusive (with a four-course gourmet dinner); the half board is on request.

Langhe House / Cerretto Langhe (Cuneo)

The Alta Langa is a land of great reds and also of sparkling wines, hazelnuts, cheeses and castles. Heritage of biodiversity, it is a land that tries to defend its relationship with nature, limiting highways and new constructions.

The result is Casa di Langa, a five-star resort amidst hazelnut groves and vineyards, which renounces single-use plastic, focuses on energy independence and recycles water for the irrigation of its vineyards and biodynamic vegetable gardens which Luigi Merlo, the gardener, takes care of Daniel Zeilinga, the executive chef, with two years of experience alongside Enrico Crippa at the Piazza Duomo restaurant in Alba. Aromatic herbs, edible flowers, ancient varieties all that grows is needed at the Sorì Cocktail Bar, which favors infusions for drinks, the Fàula restaurant, which has just entered the Michelin guide, and the Spa.

Villa Gelsomino / Santa Margherita Ligure

An 18th-century villa, Art Nouveau details and 5 sea-view suites, with original frescoes and Genoese grit floors. Villa Gelsomino is the project of three friends, who transformed the house into a boutique hotel reserved for adults only. The structure uses green energy, is plastic-free, and compensates for C02 emissions by planting trees around the world. You stay among a few guests and in the quiet, on request, there are private yoga and pilates lessons and you get around with electric scooters and e-cycles.

Gallicantu / Luogosanto (Sassari)

They are the new refuges for travelers who have already experienced everything; the pens, the rural settlements where the animals are rounded up, in the Sardinian Gallura are small treasure properties, created among the blocks of granite, sheltered from the confusion of the coast (but the beaches are always short range). Gallicantu, a micro-resort revisited by architect Jean Claude Lesuisse, with just five rooms and two suites, is close to Luogosanto (its name comes from the 22 country churches in the area), Tempio, where Fabrizio De André had chosen to live, and the beautiful Aggius, which is part of the authentic villages of Italy. If you wish, instead of reaching the Costa Smeralda, you can stop by the pool, among the olive trees. There is also a wellness area with sauna, Turkish bath, emotional showers. The pre-nuragic cave of the property is instead intended for the tasting of wines, cold cuts and cheeses.

Cape of Senses / Torri del Benaco (Verona)

55 lake view suites, three swimming pools, one of which is sports and two infinity, adults-only Spa, with fitness and yoga platforms, two restaurants, a 15,000-metre property among the retreats in Italy that will make headlines in 2023 is the Cape of Senses, which will open in July in Albisano, above Torri del Benaco, on Lake Garda. Designed by Hugo and Alessia Demetz, the hotel will be an oasis where you can stay for three days or more: upon request, you can sleep in a mobile structure, in direct contact with the stars. Two restaurants, At sunset, with gourmet à la carte cuisine, and La Pergola, with traditional cuisine served on the panoramic terrace.

This article was originally published on GQ (Italiana Edition)

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