Turkey votes for constitutional change, wins EU support, despite giving government more power over courts; US plans record US$60 billion arms deal with Saudi Arabia; Korans burned in US after all; China says trade trade surplus aren't intentional; and more
Top of the Agenda: Turkey's Erdogan Wins Referendum Support
Turkey's government-backed referendum (FT) gave stronger-than-expected support to Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, raising expectations he could win a third term in next year's general election. Erdogan said 58 percent of voters had endorsed his package of twenty-six reforms in a "yes"/"no" vote, which gives parliament more power to appoint Turkey's constitutional court and limit the power of military courts. Many people appeared to vote along party lines with little knowledge of the proposed reforms, offering a window into the outcome of next year's general election. Critics of the measures worried they would blur the line between religious and secular in favor of Erdogan's religious-minded party. The EU has welcomed the constitutional changes (Economist), including measures to bar gender discrimination, bolster civil liberties, and protect personal privacy. Leading European Parliament deputy Richard Howitt said the referendum will confound European critics (Hurriyet) who have suggested Turkey lacks the political will to make the reforms needed to join the EU.
A Christian Science Monitor editorial says the clash over the referendum should signal to Erdogan the ongoing need to build trust among his people. Sceptics have "watched warily as the AKP government has drawn closer to Iran, Syria, and Iraq and left longtime ally Israel in the diplomatic dust."
On alJazeera.com, Erdogan's chief advisor, Ibrahim Kalin, says the opposition fears Turkey's judiciary and high courts will no longer be pillars of militant secularism, but that "Turkey needs not a militant secularist judiciary whose illiberal record is well known but a judicial system that will uphold the universal principles of democracy and civil liberties."
Turkey's rise as a regional and economic power with its own set of interests, along with anger toward Israel about the Gaza flotilla incident, explains much of the chilling in Turkey's relationships with Israel and the United States, says CFR's Steven Cook.
PACIFIC RIM: China: Trade Surplus Not Intentional
At the World Economic Forum in Geneva, Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao said the nation's huge trade surplus is not intentional (AP) but offered no measures to defuse rising US pressure over currency controls. Tensions over trade and currency continue to rise as the Obama administration faces pressure to create jobs ahead of midterm elections.
This Backgrounder examines the trade and currency imbalances plaguing Chinese-US relations.
South Korea: South Korea offered nearly $10 million in flood aid to North Korea (KoreaTimes) and proposed holding talks later this week on reuniting families separated by the 1950-53 Korean War.
This is an excerpt of the CFR.org Daily News Brief. The full version is available on CFR.org