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Energy & Economics
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Cleantech manufacturing: where does Europe really stand?

by Giovanni Sgaravatti , Simone Tagliapietra , Cecilia Trasi

A single European Union cleantech manufacturing capacity target should be based on an understanding of the situation in each cleantech sector. Securing a competitive edge in cleantech manufacturing has increasingly come to be seen as a priority for Europe. China’s dominance of this sector and the subsidies offered under the United States Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) (Kleimann et al, 2023), compelled the European Commission in February 2023 to publish a Green Deal Industrial Plan with the goal of boosting the European cleantech sector and speeding up the transition towards climate neutrality (European Commission, 2023a). The industrial plan’s regulatory pillar is the draft Net Zero Industry Act (NZIA), which includes a target for the European Union by 2030 to have the capacity to manufacture at least 40 percent of its cleantech deployment needs (European Commission, 2023b). Assessing Europe’s cleantech manufacturing capacity Meanwhile, basic facts on the status of cleantech manufacturing in Europe are missing from the discussion, which has so far been mainly about global shares of cleantech manufacturing capacity (Figure 1). When looked at from a high-level perspective, China is dominant but this perspective does not allow the situation in Europe to be captured fully. Figure 1: Regional shares of manufacturing capacity of selected clean technologies, 2021  To address this, we provide an overview of Europe’s current cleantech manufacturing capacity and compare it to current cleantech deployment levels. This assessment is useful for two reasons. First, it allows for a better appreciation of the scale of the EU’s manufacturing capacities. Second, it shows that adopting a one-size-fits-all 40 percent manufacturing target, as proposed under the NZIA, may make little sense considering the very different situations of different clean technologies. A caveat is here important. A significant share of European cleantech production is currently destined for export and not the EU domestic market. We ignore this trade dimension and compare only domestic cleantech manufacturing capacities to deployment levels, thus taking an approach that is similar to the NZIA and its 40 percent headline target. Our analysis covers the manufacturing and deployment levels of five technologies pinpointed by the NZIA: solar photovoltaic (PV) panels, wind turbines (onshore and offshore), electric vehicle batteries, heat pumps and electrolysers (Figure 2). A variable picture Figure 2 shows the limited scale of the EU solar PV industry. EU countries installed 41.4 GW of new solar PV capacity in 2022, while EU manufacturers only produced 1.7 GW of wafers, 1.37 GW of cells and 9.22 GW of modules (SolarPower Europe, 2023). In other words, EU solar manufacturers, had all their output been deployed in the EU, would have met only 4 percent, 3 percent, and 22 percent of solar deployment needs, respectively. For wind turbines, however, Europe is well placed. In 2022, EU countries installed 19.2 GW of new wind power capacity in 2022: 16.7 GW onshore and 2.5 GW offshore (Wind Europe, 2023). In 2021, for onshore wind capacity, EU manufacturers produced 17 GW worth of turbine blades, and more than 11 GW of nacelles and towers (Wind Europe, 2023), equivalent to 102 percent and 71 percent of the deployment needs of the following year. For offshore capacity, they produced blades, nacelles, and towers equivalent to 2.9 GW, 6.7 GW and 7 GW respectively (IEA, 2023), or the equivalent of 116 percent and 286 percent of the deployment needs of the following year. Meanwhile, over 90 percent of clean energy transition-related additions to battery capacity in the EU in 2021 were related to electric vehicles (Bielewski et al, 2022). European electric vehicle sales in 2021 amounted to 2.3 million units, roughly equivalent to a battery capacity of 156 GWh. But domestic battery manufacturing capacity hovered around 60 GWh, or the equivalent of about 38 percent of the domestic deployment needs (but currently representing only about 7 percent of global manufacturing capacity) (IEA, 2022). Heat pumps produced in Europe mostly serve the domestic market. In 2021, global heat pump production capacity (excluding air conditioners) was 120 GW. The EU contributed about 19 GW and accounted for 68 percent (Lyons et al, 2022) of Europe’s 2.18 million newly installed heat pumps. China supplies most compressors for air-air pumps, while Europe remains the main source for air-water and ground-source pumps. Finally, water electrolyser manufacturing capacity in Europe stands currently between 2 GW and 3.3 GW per year (Hydrogen Europe, 2022), many times more than the current installed capacity, which is equal to 0.16 GW (European Commission, 2023c). The wide disparity between the current manufacturing capacity and deployment is explained by delays between investment decisions and operational deployment, lack of hydrogen demand compared to supply capacity, and regulatory bottlenecks. It is noteworthy that EU electrolyser manufacturing capacity is still far from the 17.5 GW/year target set for 2030. Too easy for some, too hard for others One implication of this analysis is that applying the same 40 percent manufacturing target to each cleantech sector as set out in the NZIA proposal, may make little sense considering the very different situations of different clean technologies. For solar panels, reaching this target would be very challenging and likely very costly, while it would be much easier (and even too conservative) for other technologies, including wind turbines and batteries. It is also unclear to what extent the target would apply to the components and materials used in the identified clean technologies. This is a crucial issue, because access to these components is often a major bottleneck for domestic manufacturing in Europe (Le Mouel and Poitiers, 2023). Instead of setting cleantech production targets, the EU would better focus on facilitating private sector investment in cleantech by providing the right enabling framework conditions. That is the only course of action that might ultimately secure Europe a competitive edge in cleantech manufacturing.

Defense & Security
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Why Buhari Failed

by Ebenezer Obadare

When Nigerians needed him to deliver, President Muhammadu Buhari fell short. Probably no other leader in Nigerian history has had a deeper fund of goodwill to tap into at inception than Muhammadu Buhari did when he took the reins in 2015. Nor could the public mood at the time of his inauguration have been more auspicious. On the one hand, Nigerians seemed to have had enough of Goodluck Jonathan’s habitual dithering. As time went on over the course of his presidency (2010- 2015), Jonathan had looked increasingly out of sorts, reinforcing the belief that, dumb luck apart, he had no business in the exalted office. Buhari, on the other hand, seemed ready to get back in the saddle after a previous controversial stint (1983- 1985) as military ruler. He was widely perceived as above board, a rarity for a former Nigerian public office holder. Furthermore, his military pedigree was deemed essential given the unchecked rampages of the Islamist Boko Haram insurgency, which had ramped up under Jonathan, who initially downplayed its gravity before turning to South African mercenaries in desperation as the 2015 elections loomed. In any case, or so it seemed to a segment of the Nigerian electorate at the time, anyone so desperate for the nation’s highest office as to run four times (Buhari had previously run unsuccessfully in 2003, 2007 and 2011) had to have something special up their sleeve. That Buhari managed to turn such wild enthusiasm about his candidacy into grave disappointment, going from a regime of which many, rightly or not, had high hopes, to one that most can’t wait to see the back of, ranks among the most remarkable instances of reputational collapse in the whole of Nigerian political history. It was clear within the first few months—the initial struggle to put together a cabinet being particularly telling—that Buhari, for all his desperation to take power, had not done his homework and was ill prepared for the demands of the office. Nor did he seem particularly eager to embrace the role of uniter, something that the political divisions in the country at the time clearly demanded. Addressing an international audience at the United States Institute of Peace (USIP) in July 2015, Buhari signaled that he would favor the regions of the country which voted for him against those which did not: “The constituencies, for example, that gave me 97 percent cannot, in all honesty, be treated equally on some issues with constituencies that gave me 5 percent. I think these are political realities.” Buhari had secured the lowest percentage of votes in the Igbo dominated southeast region.       In any fair assessment, the verdict of failure on the Buhari presidency would seem unavoidable. The economy, for one, is in a far worse shape than Buhari met it when he took office eight years ago. According to the World Bank, following a period between 2001 and 2014 when, with an average growth of seven percent, Nigeria was “among the top 15 fastest-growing economies globally,” Nigeria entered a period of stagnation in 2015 as “oil prices fell, the security situation deteriorated, macroeconomic reforms were reversed, and economic policies became increasingly unpredictable.” Unsurprisingly, real per capita income fell during the same period, reaching its level in the 1980s by the end of 2021. His fiscal indiscipline, highlighted by an appetite for borrowing unmatched in Nigeria’s annals (with less than two weeks to the end of his tenure, Buhari has requested the approval of the Senate for an 800-million-dollar World Bank line of credit) has put the country in an improbable seventy-seven trillion Naira hole. Similarly, the security situation took a turn for the worse on Buhari’s watch, an irony, given justifiable popular confidence at his inception that this was one sector where the president’s military background gave him an edge over his predecessor. Buhari himself was not above pointing to this apparent advantage on the campaign trail. Yet, since 2015, amid deteriorating public safety, at least sixty-three thousand Nigerians have been killed in various acts of state and nonstate extrajudicial violence, with attacks by Islamist insurgents, assorted armed bandits, and kidnappers claiming the most lives. Numbers aside, a real sense of lawlessness pervades, with a growing recourse to vigilante justice signaling popular frustration at law enforcement and the judicial system. Corruption, too, has worsened. Last year, a Nigerian newspaper lamented that “cronyism and nepotism in Buhari’s key appointments have conflated with the working of government agencies at cross-purposes to fuel corruption.” At the same time, “serial interference” by the office of the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice appears to have stymied the work of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), the state’s anti-graft agency. State pardon of top public officials convicted of corruption has both tarnished Buhari’s image as a beacon of transparency and stiffened common perception that his commitment to transparency is merely rhetorical. Paradoxically, his administration may have borne out Buhari’s private fears that, as he once confided to a top US diplomat, “the legacy of corruption in Nigeria will endure much longer than the legacy of colonialism.”   To say that Buhari has failed is not to hold him personally responsible for all of Nigeria’s failures. Not only is he ultimately emblematic of the prevailing political culture, Buhari, in so many ways, merely played the hand that he was dealt. In any event, there is the reality that no single leader, not even one more intellectually gifted and administratively astute than Buhari, can be expected to take on and solve Nigeria’s socioeconomic problems (for such are their entanglements and intricacies), never mind within eight short years. Monocultural economies are not so easily detached from their accustomed moorings, and, in any event, no single individual can be held responsible for the ups and downs of the global oil market, the reported theft of an estimated 437,000 barrels of crude oil on a daily basis, or the serial collapse of the national power grid (the official count is 99 times over the course of the Buhari presidency). That said, Buhari could doubtless have done more with what he was given and may well regret until his dying day his failure to leverage the favorable public mood in the immediate aftermath of his inauguration for tangible social transformation. By and large, Buhari failed simply because he lacked the wherewithal to govern. For one thing, if he had anything resembling a coherent economic vision, he never once articulated it, and for a man who was once ousted from power for, according to his adversaries, arrogating to himself “absolute knowledge of problems and solutions” and acting “in accordance with what was convenient to him, using the machinery of government as his tool,” he rarely saw the need to avail himself of the wealth of technical and economic expertise at his disposal. If anything, he always exuded the air of someone trapped in a 1970s command-and-control mindset, unable to adjust to the exigencies of the current moment, yet unable to do anything about it. Strangely enough, with his very ascent to the presidency, he may have achieved the only thing he really ever wanted: to recoup (sic) what he must have felt was an unfair ejection from power in his first coming as the head of a military junta. If this hypothesis is correct, Buhari’s second coming had more to do with personal redemption than public salvation.      Buhari also failed because he could not establish an emotional connection with the Nigerian public. While Jonathan always seemed too eager to please (he spent as much time on his knees as he did on his feet), Buhari’s aloofness was such as to expose him to accusations of insensitivity. His not infrequent admission that he could not wait to retire to his country home in Daura, Katsina State, may well have come from a place of genuine humility, but all it did was to consolidate widespread belief that he was a man out of his depth and all but content to run down the clock. At his best, Buhari, who, it must be remembered, never built his own political machine but vaulted to power on the back of Bola Tinubu’s, always seemed more of a sectional than national leader. On that score, he fully merits the ire directed at him by those who blame him for the deepening of ethnoreligious cleavage between Nigeria’s Christian and Muslim communities. Never before in the history of political leadership in the country has a man so evidently cosmopolitan appeared at the same time so provincial.   If there is one commanding insight for Nigerians to take away from the Buhari presidency, it is that it is possible for an individual believed by many to be personally incorruptible to preside over an administration that is nonetheless defined by corruption and rank incompetence. On the contrary, with the incoming Bola Tinubu government, Nigerians will soon find out whether a leader widely seen as corrupt can preside over a relatively malfeasance-free and reasonably competent administration.

Defense & Security
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Smooth sailing or choppy waters for Australia, NZ and the US in the Pacific?

by Anna Powles , Joanne Wallis

Last week’s announcement that US President Joe Biden would not travel to Papua New Guinea to meet with Pacific Islands Forum leaders was met with disappointment. Expectations were high: the White House had labelled the visit ‘historic’—it would have been the first time a sitting US president visited a Pacific island country—and claimed it would further reinforce the ‘critical partnership’ between the US and the Pacific islands. The meeting was a follow-up to the first-ever US–Pacific Island Country Summit held in Washington last September. But as far as sequels go, this one was a fizzer. Biden’s planned visit was looking shaky even before news of its cancellation, with controversary following leaks about the proposed US–PNG defence cooperation agreement. But the PIF leaders went ahead with their meeting, and the decision by New Zealand Prime Minister Chris Hipkins to attend, despite neither Biden nor Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese going, sent a strong signal to the Pacific of New Zealand’s commitment to the region. The Australian government has missed an opportunity to send a clear message that Australia shows up in the Pacific even when its larger alliance partner, the US, doesn’t. This brings us to the challenges facing Australia and New Zealand. In response to geopolitical shifts in the region and more broadly, Australia, New Zealand and the US have individually, and in cooperation with each other, sought to enhance their relationships with Pacific island countries and deepen their involvement in the region. However, as we argue in our new ASPI report, released today, cooperation between the three partners faces several challenges—and raises questions for Australia and New Zealand. Despite the rhetoric—at times tokenistic—from the three partners about respecting Pacific agency, ambitions and activism, genuine change requires the kind of mindset shift that may prove challenging, particularly for the US. For example, the Partners in the Blue Pacific initiative reflects outdated modes of thinking about the power dynamics underpinning the three nations’ activities in the Pacific. There are limits to the assumed leadership of Australia, New Zealand and the US, as the Solomon Islands – China security agreement highlighted. China, and others, are here to stay. Pacific island countries have options—and alternatives—to their status quo relationships. As unwelcome as Australia, New Zealand and the US may find China’s presence in the region, they need to plan for how they will work alongside a range of partners in the Pacific. This isn’t about accommodation, necessarily, but nor is it about constraint when Pacific island countries pursue their own interests. It’s becoming harder for the three partners to balance their interests and values while at the same time attempting to reconcile broader strategic interests with Pacific priorities. Australia, New Zealand and the US pride themselves on being liberal democratic nations committed to upholding human rights and the international rules-based order. But respect for those values is being tested by their perceived need to advance their strategic interests. Controversy over the AUKUS partnership raises questions about how closely the partners want to relate to each other in the Pacific islands region. Differences among Australia, New Zealand and the US mean that, in some instances, they may wish to carefully consider risks to their reputations and to their individual relationships with Pacific island countries. This includes New Zealand’s stance on nuclear issues, as well as Australia’s and New Zealand’s abilities, as members of the Pacific Islands Forum, to act as a constraining influence on US ambitions in the Pacific when they cut across collective Pacific interests. The US needs to appreciate that Australia and New Zealand are bound to the Pacific through geography, history, constitutional relationships and, increasingly, identity. The challenges we outline in our report are not insurmountable. But how Australia, New Zealand and the US partner with the Pacific—and with each other—matters deeply. These considerations take conventional responses to strategic competition in the region beyond the binary reaction to China as the destabilising actor, and demand that the three partners reflect on their own contributions to peace and security. We therefore recommend that, when seeking to enhance their engagement in the region and work together, Australia, New Zealand, and the US should ensure that Pacific priorities direct activity, not their own. It’s important for the partners to ensure that their initiatives don’t undermine or supplant existing regional frameworks but instead expand on established mechanisms. And, importantly, Australia, New Zealand and the US must avoid competing with one another and instead cooperate more closely, where appropriate, to pool their collective strengths. Biden’s reason for skipping both the Pacific Islands Forum leaders’ meeting in PNG and the Quad summit in Sydney are well understood: the US domestic debt crisis took priority. But it has reminded the Pacific island countries—and Australia and New Zealand—that, despite its protestations, the US has yet to prove that it is a reliable and consistent partner to the Pacific. It should also serve as a reminder to Australia, New Zealand and the US that the time and opportunities they have to build trust and demonstrate their reliability to their Pacific partners are not limitless.

Diplomacy
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Where is US’s China policy headed?

by Manoj Joshi

The escalating geopolitical competition has placed the US and China at odds. Both sides need to stabilise their relationship given the role they play in world affairs. US National Security Advisor, Jake Sullivan, met for over eight hours over two days last week with Chinese Communist Party Politburo Member and Director of the Office of the Foreign Affairs Commission, Wang Yi, in Vienna. The meeting, which had not been publicised by either side before the talks, has been seen as a part of an effort by both countries to stabilise their relationship which is perhaps at its lowest level in recent decades. Both sides have been locked in a steadily escalating geopolitical competition, even as they have close and intense economic linkages and a joint interest in dealing with several global and regional affairs. They are locked in opposing sides on issues like Ukraine and Taiwan, and a slow-motion decoupling as US companies diversify away from China and earnings of US companies in China are falling. Both sides used identical language to describe the outcome of the meeting. A White House readout noted that the talks featured “candid, substantive and constructive discussions on key issues of US-China bilateral relationship, global security matters, Ukraine and Taiwan. A Chinese readout used the same terms “candid, in-depth, substantive and constructive discussions” on ways to “remove obstacles in the US-China relationship and stabilise the relationship from deterioration.” Wang laid out the Chinese position on Taiwan, Ukraine and other regional issues. Speaking on background, a US official said that both sides saw the balloon incident as being “unfortunate” and were now looking to “re-establish standard, normal channels of communications.” Two days before the Sullivan-Wang meeting, US Ambassador Nicholas Burns met China’s Foreign Minister Qin Gang in Beijing. According to Qin, a series of “erroneous words and deeds” by the US had put the relationship between the two powers on “ ice” but stabilising ties was the top priority for both countries. Burns said that he and Qin had discussed “challenges in the US-China relationship” and the necessity of “stabilising ties.” The US is in a delicate balancing act with regard to its China policy. In recent years, American policy has shifted from engagement to competition and even containment. In the wake of the US-China trade war, and the first wave of US technology restrictions on Chinese firms like Huawei, there was talk of a “decoupling” of the two economies. The Chinese crackdown in Hong Kong and the post-Pelosi visit tensions over Taiwan have deepened the divide between the world’s two foremost powers. In 2021, Biden had told Xi of the need “to establish some common-sense guardrails” to ensure that the two do not get into an inadvertent conflict. Last November following their summit meeting in Bali, Biden said that “I am not looking for conflict, I’m looking to manage this competition responsibly” At the meeting, Xi called Taiwan “the first red line” that must not be crossed in China-US relations. This was to be followed by a visit of US Secretary of State Antony Blinken to Beijing, but that was called off last minute because of the balloon episode. Blinken met Wang at the Munich Security Conference later in February, but there was little forward movement. It may be recalled that last October, the US government put in place extensive new restrictions on China’s access to advanced semiconductors and the equipment used to make them. These restrictions were layered upon earlier decisions to restrict semiconductors to entities like Huawei and ZTE. Earlier this year, the US further tightened restrictions on the export of semiconductor manufacturing equipment to China. It coordinated with the governments of the Netherlands and Japan to tighten the guidelines. More recently, it has made it clear that it will restrict the actions of chipmakers who get funds under the CHIPs and Science Act. These restrictions are part of Washington’s effort to secure the supply of components that are needed for AI and supercomputers, as well as everyday electronics. In March came harsh signals from China. Speaking in March, President Xi Jinping for the first time named the US and said that it was in a policy of “comprehensive containment, encirclement and suppression against us.” The next day, the new Foreign Minister Qin Gang was more explicit. He slammed the US for equating the Ukraine issue with Taiwan and said that the “so-called ‘competition’ by the US is all-round containment and suppression a zero-sum game of life and death.” He warned that if the US “does not hit the brakes and continues to speed down the wrong path, no amount of guardrails can prevent derailing, and there will surely be conflict and confrontation.” In April, senior American officials have been trying to calm the turbulent waters. Last month, speaking at Johns Hopkins University, US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said that decoupling would be “disastrous” and that US goals relating to national security were not aimed at stifling China. She called for a plan of “constructive engagement” with three elements—national security of the US and its allies; an economic relationship based on “fair” competition; and cooperation on urgent global challenges. The Yellen speech was a comprehensive take on US approaches to China and struck what The New York Times said was a “notably positive tone” after months of tensions between the two countries. A week later, the tenor of her remarks was underscored by the National Security Advisor, Jake Sullivan at a speech at the Brookings Institution. Sullivan used the term “de-risking”, a term used earlier by EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen: “We are for de-risking and diversifying, not decoupling,” he noted. Sullivan had earlier described the US policy of technology restrictions on China as creating a “small yard, with a high fence.” Now officials like Blinken, Yellen, Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo and Secretary of Defence Lloyd Austin are trying to schedule meetings with their counterparts, but the going has been tough. According to Financial Times, the Chinese are reluctant to have Blinken visit because they were worried that the FBI may release the report based on the salvaged debris of the balloon. As for Austin, the problem is that his newly appointed counterpart General Li Shangfu is under US sanctions since 2018 in relation to Chinese imports of Russian arms when he was serving as a general. The US says that a meeting in third countries would not be affected by the sanctions, but it is unlikely that the Chinese will agree. General Li was appointed defence minister in March. With the tightening of the Western alliance in the wake of the Ukraine war, the US has sought to incorporate the European Union into its China project. Shortly after his three-day visit to China, French President Emmanuel Macron said in reference to Taiwan that Europe should not get caught up in crises “that are not ours”. Europe should try to be the “third pole” in the world order and that the need for Europe’s “strategic autonomy” was now accepted. But Washington points to a 30 March-speech by European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen where she said that it was neither viable nor in Europe’s interest to decouple from China, adding “We need to focus on de-risking—not decoupling.” She added in blunt language “The Chinese Communist Party’s clear goal is a systemic change of the international order with China at its center.” She added that it was there was a need for European companies to ensure that their “capital, expertise and knowledge are not used to enhance the military and intelligence capabilities of those who are also systemic rivals.” Just how much of the messaging from the US about the China relations is sincere, and how much of it is aimed at reassuring nervous allies who feel that Washington’s policies could have a negative impact on them is not clear. But Washington’s agenda remains clear. Speaking last week in Japan, where she is attending the meeting of G7 finance ministers, Yellen called for “coordinated action” by G7 nations against Chinese use of “economic coercion” against other countries. She also said that Washington has been considering the imposition of additional “narrowly targeted restrictions on outbound investment to China,” and that these have been discussed with other G7 partners. She said these would be targeted at technologies “where there are clear national security implications.” But as of now, it does appear as though the two sides are trying to create what David Ignatius called “a framework for constructive engagement.” There is some optimism arising from the detailed discussions that Sullivan and Wang held in Vienna which, as we note were described by both as “candid” and “constructive”. Both sides perceive the need to stabilise their relationship given the role the two countries play in world affairs. With the US going into election mode, it is not clear how long this period where the two sides are trying to work out a new modus vivendi will last. Engagement with China could become a political liability in the US where, if there is consensus on one issue, it is that of a hardline on China. World and New World Journal does not take positions on policy issues; the views represented herein are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of World and New World Journal. 

Defense & Security
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The Move Forward Party: Surge in Momentum, But Obstacles Ahead

by Napon Jatusripitak

The Move Forward Party (MFP) has achieved a stunning victory in the May 2023 general elections. Preliminary results released by the Election Commission of Thailand indicate that the MFP won 113 constituency seats and garnered 14 million party-list votes, resulting in 39 additional party-list seats. This remarkable outcome — 152 seats in total — makes the MFP the party with the largest number of seats in the House, providing it with the popular mandate to lead the formation of the next governing coalition. The MFP’s triumph marks a turning point in Thai politics, ending the longstanding winning streak of Thaksin-aligned parties since 2001 and signalling a clear rejection of Thailand’s conservative status quo. Contrary to conventional wisdom, which suggests that the MFP’s support base is confined to urban areas where university students are registered to vote, the MFP’s electoral success extends far and wide. In Bangkok, the party won 32 of 33 House seats; only one went to a candidate from Pheu Thai, which is aligned to Thaksin Shinawatra, the former premier in exile. Furthermore, the MFP managed to unseat entrenched political dynasties like the Asavahames in Samut Prakan and the Khunpluems in Chon Buri, who were considered invincible due to their deep-rooted patronage networks and local influence. The party even gained seats in traditional strongholds of the Pheu Thai party, such as seven out of 10 seats in Chiang Mai in the North, and one out of 10 seats in Udon Thani in the Northeast. The MFP’s strong performance, both nationally and provincially, is even more impressive given the changes in the political and institutional landscape. In the previous 2019 election, the Future Forward Party (FFP), the precursor to the MFP, won 31 constituency seats, a significant accomplishment for a newly formed party. However, this success was often attributed to fortuitous circumstances, as the FFP faced no direct competition from Pheu Thai in 100 constituencies. There, Pheu Thai opted not to field candidates to avoid contesting its sister party, the Thai Raksa Chart Party. The latter was dissolved by a court ruling for nominating as its prime ministerial candidate Princess Ubolratana, the elder sister of King. Similarly, the FFP won 50 party-list seats after receiving 6.33 million votes. This was attributed to the single-ballot Mixed Member Apportionment electoral system, which made it easier for smaller parties to secure party-list seats and reduced the zero-sum nature of constituency elections. Given Pheu Thai’s extensive campaigning in this election and the assumption that changes to the electoral system would hinder the MFP’s ability to convert support into House seats, significant losses for the MFP were expected. However, the party emerged even stronger than before. How is this so? A combination of factors contributed to the MFP’s “tsunami” surge. Some credit must be given to the party’s effective use of social media platforms. This allowed it to showcase its solid performance as an opposition party and engage with a broad coalition of supporters, bypassing traditional campaign methods that rely on vote-canvassing networks. The MFP appealed to these supporters, many of whom are younger generations of voters who previously had limited interest in politics or attachment to political parties, using ideology rather than patronage. The MFP’s success can also be attributed to its ability to capitalise on the momentum of pro-democracy movements since 2020. As a party that acts as an intermediary between social movements and parliamentary politics, the MFP carried out several activities, including bailing out detained activists, integrating them into its ranks, and pledging to translate their demands into tangible policies and legislative action. The MFP’s platform is also noteworthy for the clarity of its message, particularly its firm stance on amending Article 112 (the lese majeste law) and refusal to form a coalition government with generals involved in the May 2014 coup. This set it apart from rival parties such as Pheu Thai, which has been equivocal from the outset. In contrast to Pheu Thai, whose de facto leader Thaksin Shinawatra has signalled a willingness to compromise with actors associated with the Prayut regime, the MFP represents a strong and unequivocal repudiation of that regime. This could have caused fence-sitting supporters of both parties to vote in favour of the MFP. Finally, it is important to highlight the charismatic appeal of Pita Limjaroenrat, the leader and prime ministerial candidate of the MFP. Pita has proven extremely popular with large swathes of the electorate, even among older individuals and those who are not progressive-leaning. During the final stretch of the campaign, Pita performed well in public debates and captured the limelight in all media appearances. This overshadowed all other candidates, including Pheu Thai’s Paetongtarn Shinawatra, who receded from the spotlight due to childbirth on May Day. Ultimately, however, the MFP’s dramatic rise is perhaps best explained by the historical moment in which these factors converged. For nearly two decades, Thai politics has been trapped in a vicious cycle of power struggles between forces allied with the Shinawatras and those backed by the military and conservative establishment. As a consequence, Thai people, especially younger generations who bear the burden of crises stemming from political divisions not of their making, have grown disillusioned. They are weary of military strongmen whose ambitions for power undermine democratic institutions, traditional political and bureaucratic elites who preach good governance but do not practice it, and democratically elected governments that seem more accountable to oligarchic interests than the will of the people. Above all, they are frustrated by a dysfunctional political system that responds to their calls for greater freedom with deafening silence or even violence. Therefore, the MFP’s rise cannot solely be attributed to its campaign strategy, positioning, policy substance, or leadership. It also reflects the pent-up grievances and aspirations for a better future projected onto the party by millions of Thais. While the MFP’s triumph symbolises a resounding call for change and a new beginning, there are huge challenges ahead. The appointed Senate and the looming intervention from stakeholders of Thailand’s conservative status quo pose significant obstacles to structural reform. Whether the MFP can bring lasting change remains to be seen.

Defense & Security
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Zelensky’s European tour has won critical support for Ukraine’s counter-offensive

by Stefan Wolff

Zelensky’s European tour has won critical support for Ukraine’s counter-offensiveAs the war in Ukraine intensifies, President Volodymyr Zelensky has concluded a series of successful visits to Rome, Berlin, Paris and London to shore up support from key allies. The timing of Zelensky’s visit is critical for Ukraine’s efforts on the battlefield and beyond. It has allowed the Ukrainian presidenta and his main European allies to coordinate their approach on the economic and diplomatic fronts of the war as well, which will be equally decisive in determining how this war will end, and when. Military support from his allies has been on top of Zelensky’s agenda during his whistle-stop tour of Europe. And finally, it seems that Ukraine’s European allies are following in Washington’s footsteps and moving beyond their earlier hesitation to provide Kyiv with more equipment for its upcoming counter-offensive in Bakhmut. On Saturday, May 13, ahead of Zelenskiy’s arrival in Berlin, Germany announced a further €2.7 billion (£2.35 billion) of support, including much-needed quantities of artillery ammunition. In addition, German arms manufacturer Rheinmetall confirmed a joint venture with Ukraine’s Ukroboronprom to build and repair tanks in Ukraine. On Sunday, May 14, Zelensky secured promises in Paris from the French president, Emmanuel Macron, for new armoured vehicles and air defence systems. On Monday, May 15, British prime minister Rishi Sunak agreed to provide Ukraine with hundred of attack drones, in addition to the Storm Shadow cruise missiles that have already been delivered to strengthen Ukraine’s air defences. These commitments are important for providing Ukraine with the ammunition, equipment, training and repairs the country needs against a Russian adversary that has significant manpower advantages. This does not guarantee a sweeping success of the anticipated Ukrainian counter-offensive, but it will make serious gains on the battlefield more likely for Kyiv. And it signals a commitment by its western partners to back this offensive with more than encouraging noises. The sanctions game The war in Ukraine is not only fought, and can not only be won, on the battlefield. From the beginning, the western approach was twofold: strengthen Ukraine and weaken Russia. The latter was achieved through unprecedented sanctions, with the EU now on its tenth sanctions package since Russia annexed Crimea in 2014. The EU is now discussing the eleventh sanctions package, this time with a focus on enforcing existing sanctions and closing loopholes by imposing secondary sanctions against countries, companies and individuals deliberately circumventing the existing sanctions against Russia. Sanctions will also be discussed at the G7 summit in Hiroshima, Japan, from May 19 to 21. Further measures are expected to target the Russian energy sector and place more limitations on exports to Russia. The four European countries Zelensky visited in the past few days – France, Germany, Italy and the UK – are all members of the G7, while the EU attends as an observer. Including other members the US, Japan and Canada, the G7 represents some of Ukraine’s most powerful partners who will send an unambiguous message to Russia concerning sanctions and their enforcement. This will not break the Russian war machine, but it will make it more costly, including for Russia’s few remaining allies, to sustain the war effort in Ukraine at the current level. Seen from this longer-term perspective, it also makes Ukrainian gains in any counter-offensive more sustainable by limiting Russia’s capabilities to mount any offensives in the future. The third front: diplomacy Meanwhile, Chinese envoy Li Hui is beginning his tour of European capitals, including Moscow and Kyiv, to explore a political settlement for the war in Ukraine. This made it important for Zelensky to be sure that his red lines are clearly understood, accepted and communicated by Rome, Berlin, Paris and London. The support from these European capitals is no longer in doubt. And neither is support from Brussels. Nato secretary general Jens Stoltenberg was clear in his message at the Copenhagen Democracy Summit on May 15: he expects the alliance to commit to a multi-year support programme to help Ukraine move towards Nato military standards. This will be discussed at the Nato summit in Vilnius in July. The EU is considering a new China strategy, including how it can engage with China on the war in Ukraine. The union is open to such an engagement and has cautiously welcomed China’s position paper in this respect. But it is a major win for Zelensky that the president of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, backed Zelensky’s peace plan which, among other things, rules out any territorial compromises. Zelensky’s visits to Rome, Berlin, Paris and London are part of an ongoing positioning of the major allies in this war. For the Ukrainian president, it was critical to make sure that he keeps the west united behind his efforts to defeat Russia. His apparent success in doing so indicates that he presented his European counterparts with a credible plan and realistic requirements for support. Yet it is also clear that Kyiv and its partners in Europe and beyond realise that there will eventually come a point at which they will have to negotiate an end to the war with Russia. The evident strength of western unity and commitment that has transpired over the past few days is as much a message of support to Ukraine as it is one of deterrence for Russia and caution to China. The way it will be received there will determine how soon a negotiated settlement will be possible that restores Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.

Defense & Security
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Trudeau Promises Not to Meet NATO's Defense Spending Minimum

by Jane Boulden

Canada will commit only minimal resources to ensuring collective security. At a time of war in Ukraine, and high alert in NATO, such promises are unwelcome and deeply dismaying to all others who have committed to minimum spending goals.  It’s hard to know what’s worse from the Canadian perspective: the fact that the Discord leak revealed that the US Joint Chiefs of Staff were writing about Canada’s military capabilities in a less than positive light or the fact that the Washington Post picked up on the leaked memo and ran it as an exclusive story. The memo refers to an apparent statement by Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau at a recent NATO meeting that Canada would never meet NATO’s benchmark defence spending goal of 2 percent of GDP. What is remarkable is not so much what Trudeau said, but the fact that he said it. Canada’s failure to come close to NATO’s 2 percent goal is longstanding. The fact that the government anticipates being in that position for some time is also not a surprise. To tell close allies that we never intend to get there is something different. The memo makes clear that Canada’s allies, including and perhaps most especially, the United States are unhappy about this, using words such as concern, strain, frustration, and disappointment. More worrying still, the memo states that Canadian military leaders “perceive that politicians do not care about supporting them.” A military struggling to fulfill its obligations in the face of financial stricture is one thing. A military struggling under financial constraint while feeling politically unsupported is quite another. In response to the Post article, the prime minister stressed that Canada is a “reliable ally.” He and other officials pointed to Canada’s commitments and roles on the international stage, including the deployment of approximately 700 Canadian troops to Latvia, where they lead a NATO battle group. But this isn’t about the roles Canada plays. It’s about what it doesn’t do. And what it doesn’t do, and hasn’t done for many years, is to prioritise or even maintain military spending at a level that ensures its own capacity for basic defence, and also its capacity to support allies in a way commensurate to their commitment to us. The memo revelations are unlikely to shame the Canadian government into change. Indeed, if the Canadian people were going to see a change, one of the most likely recent opportunities was in the government budget of April 2022. At that point, and against great odds, the Ukrainians had successfully pushed the Russians out of the north of their country and were making gains in the south. Canada is home to the largest Ukrainian population in the world outside of Ukraine and Russia. Canadians of Ukrainian heritage are deeply entrenched in every aspect of Canadian society, including at the highest levels of government. Beyond the diaspora, Canadian public support for the Ukrainian cause, and dismay at the violation of territorial boundaries, is strong and widespread. If ever there was a moment when the Canadian government could have announced a major increase in defence spending, that was it. It did not happen. At NATO’s core is the Article 5 collective security guarantee, the certainty that each will come to the other’s defence. The iron clad nature of that commitment is central to the organisation’s strength, as witnessed by President Joe Biden’s warning to Russia of the commitment to defend “every inch” of NATO territory when Russia began its advance into Ukraine. It’s what keeps the organisation together and makes states like Finland and Sweden want to join. Saying Canada won’t meet the 2 percent target is not the same as saying Canada won’t come to the defence of its allies if needed. It is, however, the equivalent of saying Canada won’t even try to match the commitment everyone else has made to a baseline of preparedness. The attention on Canada’s dismissal of the 2 percent goal reflects a larger issue – that Canada’s military capacities are limited; that it is incapable of more than one major commitment at a time; that its support for its allies is thus also limited, and that this situation is unlikely to change in the near to medium term. Although allies have been suitably diplomatic in their responses to the memo’s revelations, to say Canada has no intention of meeting the 2 percent goal is a signal of disrespect that has surely not been missed by them. Canada is in a unique position geopolitically. Canada and the US share the longest undefended border in the world. The second largest country on the globe, more than 80 percent of Canada’s population lives within 150 kilometres of the US border. Canada makes a vital contribution to US national security by its simple presence on the US northern border, not just as a firm ally, but as a total non-national security threat. The reverse is also true. Much of the explanation as to Canada’s approach to defence spending can be found in those facts. Canada minimises its defence spending because it can, because it knows that any serious threat to its own territorial integrity will be seen by the United States as an equivalent threat to its own territorial integrity. This implicit “free ride” on defence is both a fact and a choice. And, it is all the more reason to do more, or at least to aspire to do the minimum. So why put up with it? Canada’s strong international reputation has its historical roots in the two world wars. In each case, Canada raised a military that was among the strongest of the allies, and its performance on the battlefield exceeded all expectations. NATO allies know that in a crisis Canada will do its best to support them. The problem is that its best won’t be as good as it could be without sustained and truly substantial increases in defence spending.

Defense & Security
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NATO in the Black Sea Region

by Beqa Bochorishvili

In the given article, the focus will be on the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) as a defining organization of collective security policy, representing the Western Hemisphere in the Black Sea region. The article will discuss the objectives and strategies of the organization, taking into account the role of Russia as one of the most significant actors in the region.  After the Cold War and the dissolution of the USSR, NATO began expanding eastward. Countries such as Czechia, Hungary, Poland, Bulgaria, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania became members of the organization. During the time of the Cold War and the conflict with the USSR, some new members joined the NATO alliance, such as the Warsaw Pact countries (Czechia, Hungary, Poland) and other post-Soviet states, including the Baltic region (Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania). These actions irritated Russia, especially when the NATO enlargement process continued in the Baltic region. Accordingly, to these events, excitement has followed the representatives of Russia’s Duma. The officials demanded the deployment of troops to ensure security and to enforce the idea of adding additional forces to the region in line with established parameters. However, one important detail is that despite the deployment of troops, several aerial and special operations were carried out in the region of the Baltic Sea, which included disrupting the line of command in the region and affecting the established procedures. An interesting thing that happened in 2009, during NATO expansion in 2009, the Kremlin did not go against the accession of Albania and Croatia, there were indirect statements from officials that the enlargement of NATO on the European continent is disturbing and undermines the security of the continent.  Accordingly, taking into account that each stage of NATO's expansion was exciting for Russia, and this stemmed from the fact that the very idea of this expansion was the formation of a united and strong Europe, which was also a prerequisite for the elimination of Russian influences, official Russia did not take pro-aggressive steps to exclude its proximity to the organization.  Despite Russia's warning that NATO should not expand to the East, this process continued. In 2008, NATO announced (at the Bucharest summit) that Ukraine and Georgia would become members, which Russia saw as a strategic threat, especially when Gorbachev, the leader of the Soviet Republic, was promised that NATO would not go East. The main reason why Russia reacted so strongly to the expansion was due to the geopolitical aspirations of Ukraine and Georgia, which it believed would affect the country's security and strategic interests.  The Black Sea region has always been of great interest to NATO, this basin is a connecting link between the Caspian, Mediterranean, and Aegean seas, it is at the same time a very strategic corridor to connect with the Middle East, which doubled the interests of the great powers in the region, among them NATO. After the end of the Cold War, the Black Sea region is in the interest of the USA and there were 3 specific reasons for this; The spread of democracy, cooperation in the field of security, and third and most important for the US, the diversification of energy resources. On the other hand, the democratic development of the independent states represented in this region and the convergence with the standards of the West and NATO turned out to be critically incompatible with the interests of Russia. It was also unacceptable for Moscow to develop energy projects on the European continent using the Black Sea region without him. Therefore, Russia, in order to prevent the countries of the region from achieving their goals and hindering their Euro-Atlantic integration, created and/or maintained control over the conflict centers in the region, which it then used for manipulation and coercion. In short, regardless of the variety of conflicts in the Black Sea region, each of them was and is being managed under Russian interests, be it the conflicts of Karabakh, Abkhazia-Tskhinvali, or Crimea and Eastern Ukraine.  There are several reasons for the tension between Russia and NATO in the Black Sea region, the first of which is the concentration of a large number of Russian military forces in the region and the resulting conflicts. Second, the region is a kind of springboard where Russian and NATO military forces have to interact closely, which is also a source of constant tension.  On the other hand, It is rather interesting that despite the fact that in many cases NATO member states are driven by common interests, it happens that they have formed different visions for developing tactics to deal with existing challenges. One of the reasons why NATO is not properly represented in the Black Sea is Turkey and its recent policy. For example, in 2001, a multinational military-naval organization named "Blackseafor" was created on the initiative of Turkey. (BlackSeafor(2001). The member states of the organization were; Georgia, Russia, Ukraine, Bulgaria, Romania, and Turkey. By creating this model, Turkey tried to increase its role by weakening NATO's representation in the Black Sea region, it even worked at some level, and one of the reasons why NATO's flank is currently the weakest in the Seven Sea region is the above-mentioned event. However, Turkey has a tense situation with Syria and it needs NATO defense systems, so it has to find a balance in the direction of cooperation between Russia and NATO in order to ensure the security of the region.  However, it should be noted that after joining NATO, Romania becomes an important springboard for the organization. At the Warsaw summit, it was Romania that came up with the initiative to create the NATO Black Sea Fleet, which received positive evaluations both in Berlin and in the NATO headquarters and Washington. Bulgaria used to be more restrained in the Black Sea, thus avoiding provoking Russia too much. But after the war between Ukraine and Russia, the policy has changed, since 2021, Bulgaria has been the head of the NATO naval training operations in the Black Sea, the name of the operation is "Breeze" and it was last held in July 2022, where 24 combat and support boats, 5 military aircraft, 4 helicopters, and up to 1400 soldiers participated. There were several goals and reasons for conducting these exercises, one of which was stated above to increase the alliance's interests in the Black Sea region, and the other was to at least weaken Russia's dominance and maritime monopoly.  The conflict in Ukraine has shown that the events taking place in the Black Sea are directly connected and affect the European security system. It should be noted that before the Warsaw Summit, NATO did not have a proactive plan regarding its role in the Black Sea region (2016). An agreement was reached at the Warsaw Summit, thus highlighting that improving the defense capabilities of partner countries is in direct interest with NATO's interests, which will ultimately strengthen European security. That is why the strengthening of Ukraine's military potential is considered to strengthen the eastern flank of the organization. But until the war is raging and the future/outcome of this conflict is still uncertain, it is rather impossible to speak clearly about the very future of the organization.

Diplomacy
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Biden’s ‘de-risk’ from China policy has a few flaws

by Nathaniel Sher

In order to ‘walk, chew gum, and play chess’ at the same time, the US will have to both invest at home and sign more trade deals. A speech late last month by Jake Sullivan, President Biden’s national security adviser, on “Renewing American Economic Leadership” clarified that the administration wants to build resilience to “de-risk” from China. But dealing with Beijing will require more than investing at home. Washington also needs to re-engage in negotiations with China to manage difficulties in the bilateral relationship. And to better compete, the United States should get back into the business of signing trade deals. As Trade Representative Katherine Tai quipped during her 2021 confirmation hearing, the United States can “walk, chew gum, and play chess” at the same time. The Biden administration should not only invest in domestic resilience, but also participate in new trade agreements and negotiate directly with Beijing. Over the past two years, China joined the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), began acceding to the Digital Economy Partnership Agreement (DEPA), and applied to the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP). China’s integration into these new frameworks will create efficiencies in its own economy, while binding Beijing closer to the rest of Asia. Meanwhile, the United States does not expect to see the first “real outcomes” from the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework (IPEF) until the end of 2023, more than one year after its announcement. IPEF, moreover, lacks the market-access agreements characteristic of other, more substantive economic agreements. It is not surprising, then, that the 2023 Lowy Institute Asia Power Index ranks China 100 out of 100 on its “economic diplomacy” index, while the United States receives a ranking of only 34.6. The 2023 State of Southeast Asia survey similarly shows that only 21.9 percent of respondents view the United States as a leader in championing free trade, down from 30.1 percent in 2022. To be fair, Beijing has significant ground to cover before its markets become as free and as open as those in the United States. What many trade partners care about, however, is not where China and the United States have been, but where they are going. To many, it appears as if Washington is turning inward while Beijing continues to open its markets. This leads to the second error in Jake Sullivan’s “new consensus” on international economic policy. He expresses fatalism about China’s economic trajectory without giving credence to the possibility that China may change, or that the United States can play a role in influencing Beijing’s behavior. Sullivan explains, when “President Biden came into office, we had to contend with the reality that a large non-market economy had been integrated into the international economic order in a way that posed considerable challenges.” In response, Sullivan focuses on building domestic “resilience” and “capacity” to reduce America’s dependence on China. Washington appears to have given up on addressing the non-market practices contributing to U.S. dependence on China in the first place, including state subsidies and dumping. The administration also seems to have forgotten that access to low-priced imports is an important factor in the competitiveness of U.S. firms and the standard of living of American consumers. Fatalism about China’s trajectory tracks with the Biden administration’s overall Indo-Pacific Strategy, which does not seek to “change the PRC but to shape the strategic environment in which it operates.” Fortunately, Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen has bucked the trend by stating that she hopes to “engage” with Beijing “in an important and substantive dialogue on economic issues.” Not trying to influence Beijing, on the other hand, would give up an essential element of any effective China policy. Of course, prior negotiations were by no means unqualified successes. The Trump administration’s “phase one” trade deal largely failed to change Beijing’s behavior, in part, because the bilateral purchase agreements effectively, as Yukon Huang and Jeremy Smith of the Carnegie  Endowment for International Peace put it, “prescribed state-managed trade over market forces.” Other negotiations, however, have seen more success. Former Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson was able to persuade Beijing to revalue its currency by more than 20 percent in the late 2000s, helping to level the trade relationship. China’s WTO accession negotiations also moved the needle on the country’s economic policy. While Beijing failed to carry out many of its WTO commitments, China did reform key aspects of its economy and, notably, slashed its average tariff level from 15.3 percent in 2001 to 9.8 percent over the next decade. U.S. policymakers should learn the lessons of past negotiations rather than standing by as U.S.-China economic relations deteriorate further. One way to pressure Beijing to continue along the path of reform and opening up would be to carry out negotiations in concert with U.S. friends and allies. The Trump administration gave up significant leverage by dealing with Beijing bilaterally, outside the parameters of the international trade system. Plurilateral negotiations with U.S. partners — many of whom share U.S. grievances — may be more effective at convincing China to change course. The consequences of not having an effective economic dialogue with Beijing will become more apparent over time. Despite Washington’s wishes, China is simply not going away. Beijing will continue to join new trade agreements and integrate itself deeper into the global economy, even as the United States focuses on building resilience at home.

Diplomacy
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After a brutal presidential election campaign, Turkey is headed to a run-off contest. Here’s why

by Mehmet Ozalp

Last weekend, Turkey held a historic election that will be crucial in deciding in the way the country is heading. Although almost all pre-election polls were predicting a narrow win for the main opposition candidate, the results are inconclusive, and the country will go to a runoff election in two weeks’ time. The new constitution voted in 2017 stipulates the parliament and presidential elections must be held at the same time. To win the presidential component of the election, a candidate must garner more than 50% of the votes. If none of the candidates receives greater than 50% of the votes, the election goes to a runoff election between the two candidates with the highest votes. This is precisely the situation Turkey faces now. Incumbent President Recep Tayyib Erdogan and his closest rival, Kemal Kilicdaroglu, will face each other in a runoff election on May 28. Who is Erdogan’s opposition and what were their arguments? There are two main blocks that fought to win in a bitter and ruthless campaign. The broad opposition National Alliance is made up of six political parties, spearheaded by the Kilicdaroglu-led Republican People’s Party (CHP) party. CHP is known for its pro-secularist policies, and for this reason have been fiercely opposed by the religious segment of Turkish voters. To turn this image around, Kilicdaroglu promised a broad reconciliation policy to unite the country and heal the wounds of the past. He also followed an appeasement strategy by drawing under the National Alliance the national and conservative leaning Good Party (IP) and three minor religious parties, the conservative Happiness Party (SP), Future Party (GP) and Solution Party (DEVA). The last two parties’ inclusion in the alliance are significant, as they are respectively led by Ahmet Davudoglu, a former prime minister and Erdogan’s former foreign minister, and Ali Babacan, who served as the minister of economy until 2019 under successive Erdogan governments. Holding the alliance together was important, as a key criticism against the opposition was its fragmented nature, which some argued would make it impossible to form a concerted front against Erdogan. The National Alliance successfully overcame this hurdle. The next problem was who would be the collective candidate of the National Alliance. The polls consistently showed mayors of Ankara and Istanbul ahead of Kilicdaroglu as candidates. Turkish voters tend to prefer politicians with proven public office track record – two of the mayors had this but Kilicdaroglu did not. In a decision some argue was politically motivated, Imamoglu was charged and sentenced to three years for insulting the Electoral Council (YSK). This took him out of contention. Another spanner in the works for the National Alliance was the self-nomination of Muharrem Ince for the presidential election. Ince was CHP’s nominee in the 2018 election where he lost to Erdogan. The National Alliance was fearful Ince’s candidacy would split opposition votes, which would in turn take the election to a second round that would advantage Erdogan. Ince announced his withdrawal from the race two days before the election, after several images were circulated on internet alleging him having an affair. Battered and bruised, Kilicdaroglu remained as the main opposition candidate in the last stretch. He had three main arguments in his campaign. The first was the failure of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP)’s 2023 goals and objectives. Turkey was supposed to enter the top 10 economies in the world. Turkey barely stays within the top 20, at 19th. What is worse, the economy has been on a downturn for the past three years. The Turkish lira has plummeted in value and inflation has reached as high as 85.5%. Kilicdaroglu has pointed to the high price of onion and potatoes as a symbol of economic crisis and worsening cost of living for many Turks. The second is the increasing reputation of nepotism, corruption and wasteful government spending, which has been long criticised by many segments of Turkish society. Mismanagement of the government were widely criticised immediately after the February 2023 earthquake, delivering further a blow to Erdogan and his government. Finally, Kilictaroglu tried to present a new vision for the electorate. He announced a four-step reform program that would make Turkey ● more democratic● more productive, with investment in agriculture and industry● a social state with services● able to sustain these reforms.  What was Erdogan’s election strategy? Unfortunately for Kilicdaroglu, his message could not be heard by all voters, especially those in small towns and rural areas who primarily rely on conventional media of TV and newspapers. As a result, he won the majority vote in major cities such as Istanbul, Ankara and Izmir, but Erdogan was in front in inland areas and smaller cities. A key strategy for Erdogan is controlling the Turkish media. Turkey has one of the highest rates of detained and jailed journalists in the world – in fact, it is second only to China. During April, Erdogan received more than 33 hours of airtime on the state-run TRT channel. Kilicdaroglu had just 32 minutes. The incumbent government’s job was relatively easier. Erdogan was the natural candidate for the Justice and Development Party (AKP)-led People’s Alliance. Ultra nationalist MHP (Nationalist Movement Party) has been supporting the AKP government since 2015. The alliance also included several minor religious and nationalist parties. The ruling block had three main arguments against the opposition. First was the secular history of CHP, established by Turkey’s founder Mustafa Kemal Ataturk and now led by Kilicdaroglu. In the 1990’s, CHP was the leading defender of the headscarf (hijab) ban for women. Erdogan argued if Kilicdaroglu became president, religious Muslims in Turkey would lose their freedoms gained in the past two decades under his rule. Second was Kilicdaroglu’s Alevi religious identity. Alevism is a branch of Shi’a Islam followed by about 5-10% of Turks within a largely Sunni nation. The Erdogan camp was hoping the Sunni majority would not relate to Kilicdaroglu’s Alevi orientation. Third was the accusation that Kilicdaroglu would collude with the Kurdistan Workers’ Party or PKK, the Kurdish separatist organisation that was responsible for many terrorist activities in Turkey. The extreme implication was that Kilicdaroglu would divide the country along Turkish and Kurdish lines, a charge vehemently denied by Kilicdaroglu. It seems the fear mongering strategy against Kilicdaroglu worked, and Erdogan will go to the runoff election ahead of his rival. What is likely to happen next? Erdogan, nevertheless, has been wounded. If 50+% gives political legitimacy, and Erdogan is the incumbent president, he lost some legitimacy by receiving less than 50% of the votes last weekend. The Turkish media will play a key role in the next two weeks. They are in a conundrum. They cannot be too critical of Erdogan and support Kilicdaroglu for fear of a post-election crackdown if Erdogan wins. But they would also not want to be seen as too supportive of the Erdogan government in case Kilicdaroglu wins the election. Erdogan will have no qualms about putting excessive pressure on the media, and that may be sufficient to tip the election in his favour. Kilicdaroglu will have a chance to face Erdogan, with no other opposition candidate, in an electoral duel. If he is able to appeal to people who did not vote for Erdogan, he may pull off a narrow win. His strategy will be to call for all voters to turn up and vote if they do not want another five year’s of Erdogan rule and economic hardship.