Saturday, October 28

Saturday, October 28

TWO STATE MATES Australian PM arrives in Israel Malcolm Turnbull arrives in Israel today ahead of four days of talks,

TWO STATE MATES

Australian PM arrives in Israel

PM Netanyahu with Australian PM Malcolm Turnbull

Photo: GPO/Haim Zach

Malcolm Turnbull arrives in Israel today ahead of four days of talks, including meetings with Palestinians.

A staunch supporter of Israel, Australia broke ranks with the international community last year by rebuking a UN Security Council resolution condemning settlement building. The closeness of the relationship was emphasised earlier this year when Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said of Australia, “there’s no better friend for the state of Israel”.

Mr Turnbull is expected to impress the importance of a two-state solution to end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The unification of Palestine’s Fatah and Hamas, along with renewed pressure from both Arab and US partners, has created fresh impetus for peace talks.

Undermining this though are Israeli plans to annex the settlements surrounding Jerusalem. The move would bring Jewish settlements in the West Bank under the control of Jerusalem—effectively increasing the Jewish population by 150,000.

With concessions likely in any prospective peace deal, it can be expected that Israel will continue consolidating its holdings in the West Bank, thereby strengthening its leverage in the lead up to peace talks.

A SECOND CHANCE

Iceland holds snap parliamentary elections

Iceland flag spinner

Photo: smcgee

Almost exactly a year after last October’s parliamentary snap elections, Icelanders will head to the polls again today. The new elections were necessary after the current government coalition fell apart over a scandal involving sexual abuse, a controversial legal practice and the father of Prime Minister Bjarni Benediktsson.

Ironically, the election which ushered Benediktsson into power was also caused by a scandal, namely the revelations of the Panama Papers. Although Benediktsson—who served as finance minister at the time—was implicated in the scandal as well, his conservative Independence Party was able to gain two seats and subsequently head the government coalition.

But after today’s election, Benediktsson may well find himself in opposition. While his Independence Party is in a neck-to-neck race with the Left-Green Party, his former coalition partners may not even make it into parliament.

Regardless, with up to eight parties who will likely make it past the 5% threshold, forming a stable government will be no easy feat, for Benediktsson or anyone else.

ABDICATION IN ANKARA

Ankara mayor to resign as Erdogan closes party ranks

Gokcek Ankara

Photo: Greater Municipality of Ankara

Melih Gokcek steps down today after 23 years in office. The move comes after Ankara’s residents voted against an expansion of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s powers in an April referendum.

Though Erdogan won the national vote, poor results in big cities—particularly Ankara, Istanbul and Izmir—point to the president’s political vulnerabilities. While his political base is rural, he likely wishes to expand his support among more liberal-leaning and opposition-friendly urbanites.

To this end, Erdogan has pushed out big city mayors, including Istanbul’s Kadir Topbas last month, in a bid to bolster his local power. The president will select Gokcek’s successor and he will no longer deal with the mayor’s more outlandish statements, including accusations Israel manufactured artificial earthquakes.

Yet Gokcek is a member of Erdogan’s Justice and Development Party and is personally loyal to the president. Erdogan then may not solely be motivated by consolidating power; he could believe that fresh blood is needed locally to gain support among urban voters. Whatever the motive, expect Erdogan to continue replacing mayors across Turkey as he bids to strengthen his rule.