Sunday, September 20, 2020

Two Continents … Two Countries … Two Elections…

 

 

BEYOND THE COAST

Tarik Ayasun
tayasun@taray.com

There will be two crucial elections in two completely different countries in two different continents that will take place in early April. While these countries are far apart the results of the elections will have far reaching effects in South America and the Middle East. There may also be some unintended consequences which may affect what happens in the USA also.

These two countries are Ecuador and Turkey.

Ecuador is a country on the equator on South America’s west coast. Its diverse landscape encompasses Amazon jungle, Andean highlands and the wildlife-rich Galápagos Islands. Quito, the capital, is known for its largely intact Spanish colonial center. A very interesting but perhaps lesser known fact about Ecuador is their currency; it is U.S. dollars! Ecuador’s population is 16.3 million and it is estimated that 40 percent of 600,000 Ecuadorians in the USA live in the New York City area.

Turkey is a nation partly in eastern Europe and mostly in western Asia with cultural connections to ancient Greek, Persian, Roman, Byzantine and Ottoman empires. Ankara is Turkey’s modern capital. Turkey has a unitary structure in terms of administration and this aspect is one of the most important factors shaping the Turkish public administration. When three powers (executive, legislative and judiciary) are considered as the main functions of the state, local administrations have little power. Turkey doesn’t have a federal system, and the provinces are subordinate to the central government in Ankara. There are 81 provinces for administrative purposes. The centralized structure of decision-making in Ankara is considered by some academicians as an impediment to good local governance, and occasionally causes resentment in the municipalities of urban centers that are inhabited largely by ethnic minority groups, such as the Kurds. At the last census, it has been determined that Turkey’s population has just exceeded 80 million.

The Justice and Development Party (abbreviated AKP in Turkish) is a conservative political party in Turkey. Founded in 2001 by members of several existing conservative parties from the tradition of moderate Islamism, the party is the largest in Turkey. The party held a majority of seats for 13 years, but lost it in June 2015, only to regain it in the snap election of November 2015. The party is headed by Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who is also the President of Turkey, a very complicated and seasoned politician who does not wish to leave power. Under Erdogan’s leadership, Turkey has taken a sharp turn towards Islam philosophically, while remaining a strong capitalist country as far as the economy is concerned.

Ecuador has been governed by the leftist PAIS Alliance headed by President Rafael Vicente Correa Delgado, who is an Ecuadorian politician and economist who has served as President of Ecuador since 2007. The leader of the PAIS Alliance political movement, Correa is a democratic socialist and his administration has focused on the implementation of left-wing policies. Internationally, he served as president pro tempore of the Union of South American Nations. He is not a friend of the United States and mostly aligned himself with all other leftist leaders in South and Central America.

While there will be an important election for a new president in Ecuador, a constitutional referendum will be held in Turkey on Sunday, 16 April 2017. Voters will vote on a set of 18 proposed amendments to the Constitution of Turkey. It is widely believed that this constitution will push Turkey more towards an Islamic Republic and will give President Erdogan unprecedented powers and may keep him in office until 2028. The amendments include the introduction of an executive presidency that would replace the existing parliamentary system of government, the abolition of the Office of the Prime Minister, the raising of the number of seats in Parliament from 550 to 600 and changes in the Supreme Board of Judges and prosecutors.

The amendments were received with heavy criticism from opposition parties and non-governmental organizations, with criticism focusing particularly on the erosion of the separation of powers and the abolition of parliamentary accountability. Constitutional legal experts claimed that the changes would result in the parliament becoming effectively powerless, while the executive president would have controls over the executive, legislative and judiciary.

Last month’s general election in Ecuador saw former Vice President Lenín Moreno, the candidate of the leftist PAIS Alliance, just narrowly fail to avoid a second round against conservative CREO party candidate Guillermo Lasso, a banker who lost the 2013 election in a landslide against outgoing PAIS President Rafael Correa. Moreno would have needed to beat Lasso by 10 points with at least 40 percent of the vote to win outright; he managed the former but fell short on the latter, earning 39 percent to Lasso’s 28, so now a runoff will take place in April.

Moreno is seeking to maintain PAIS’s hold on power, which it’s enjoyed since 2007. The term-limited Correa’s populist left-wing social policies have won many supporters among the working class, but export-dependent Ecuador has endured a recession following the global drop in commodities prices since 2014, causing the administration to pursue unpopular austerity measures. Moreno’s candidacy is also tainted by the stench of corruption and the stifling of dissent that have accompanied Correa’s rule.

Therefore, despite winning just 28 percent in the first round, Lasso stands a decent chance of prevailing next month. Conservative Social Christian Party candidate Cynthia Viteri finished third with 16 percent and subsequently endorsed Lasso, so if Lasso can consolidate Viteri’s base, their combined 46 percent support would put him within striking distance of victory. However, during last month’s elections PAIS maintained its majority in the country’s National Assembly, which means divided government under a Lasso presidency could yield political instability.

How will the election in Ecuador and referendum in Turkey affect us here in the United States?

Lasso had promised to evict WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange from Ecuador’s embassy in London, but he recently stepped back from that pledge and said he’d try to find another country willing to take Assange off Ecuador’s hands. President Correa granted Assange asylum back in 2012, allowing Assange to avoid extradition to Sweden to face rape allegations. The United States government under President Trump would love to get their hands on Assange, whose WikiLeaks has caused immeasurable damage to our national security. Sweden could in turn extradite Assange to the United States to face espionage charges. WikiLeaks has been accused of knowingly publishing documents stolen by Russian intelligence from Western politicians opposed by Vladimir Putin. However, Assange’s fate, while of interest to the political class in Europe and the U.S., has only played a minor role in the Ecuadorian election. However, it will play a major role in the United States and the rest of the Western world.

In Turkey, if the referendum gets a “Yes” vote and the Constitution is amended as proposed, the effects will be felt in a huge way, not only by Turks living in Turkey but also by all the neighbors of Turkey, as well as Israel and the United States. While President Erdogan may not turn out to be the next Assad of the Middle East, he may be very close with the added powers he will get under the amended Constitution.

Either way we look at it, the first two weeks in April will be most interesting, to say the least. Whatever the results may be, the effects will be felt far and wide. I hope all of us here in the United States will get the will to lift our heads up from the “battle of the swamp/let’s hate our president” shenanigans for a moment and see what is happening around the world; one in our back-door and the other in our main door to the affairs of the Middle East…

Tarik Ayasun is president of the Marco Island Charter Middle School Board of Directors and has given many years of community service to various organizations. Contact Tarik Ayasun at turk1949@comcast.net.

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