Does Turkey’s opposition have a chance at beating Erdoğan’s AKP in June?
By Kemal Kirişci and Kutay Onayli
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Many thought that the decision to move the elections forward by over 16 months was a pre-emptive move by Erdoğan to avoid the damage an increasingly volatile Turkish economy is likely to inflict on his popular support. Both inflation and unemployment are over 10 percent and on the rise, the budget deficit saw a 58 percent increase in the past year, and the lira has lost more than 20 percent of its value against the U.S. dollar this year alone. (The dollar-to-lira rate is now 4.6 to 1; it was 3.75 to 1 in January, and around 2 to 1 as recently as mid-2013.) Nor is the Turkish government able to stem the tide: To the contrary, Erdoğan’s frequent and ideologically charged declarations against high interest rates as well as his recent promise to intervene more directly in the policymaking of Turkey’s Central Bank after the elections are increasingly perceived as contributing to the lira’s plunge.

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Amid these economic worries, Erdoğan also faces the most diverse and rigorous pool of opposition candidates since he came to power in 2003. A new electoral alliance hoping to unseat Erdoğan includes not only the center-left Republican People’s Party (CHP) and the new center-right İyi (Good) Party, but also an Islamist faction, represented by the small yet influential Felicity Party—ironically, Erdoğan’s own political home during his rise to political stardom in the 1990s.

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The allied opposition parties have each fielded their own candidates, but promise to unite behind whichever candidate makes it to a run-off against Erdoğan. The CHP’s presidential candidate is Muharrem İnce, a fiery orator who was once known for his staunch secularism and perceived as insensitive to the needs of Turkey’s pious Muslims and large Kurdish minority. Recently, however, he has struck a remarkably conciliatory tone on the campaign trail, adopting a narrative embracing Turkey’s ethnic and social diversity, promoting teaching Kurdish in government schools, and declaring that he has no intention to resurrect Turkey’s once-infamous headscarf ban. İyi Party leader Meral Akşener, the only woman in the race, is the first serious right-wing challenger to Erdoğan in over a decade.

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Finally, the conservative Felicity Party candidate, the British-educated party head Temel Karamollaoğlu, is easing into his role as an elder statesman and is dishing out intense moral criticism of the ruling AKP. The pro-Kurdish People’s Democracy Party (HDP)—which the government has heavily stigmatized—was left outside of the opposition alliance, but its party head and candidate Selahattin Demirtaş remains a charismatic leader for much of Turkey’s Kurds and secular youth. This diversity of options available to Turks of all political and ideological persuasions means that Erdoğan is now challenged from multiple sides and that there is likely to be increased opposition turnout at the polls.

How blockchain could improve election transparency
By Kevin C. Desouza and Kiran Kabtta Somvanshi
How blockchain could improve election transparency
The idea of using blockchain for elections is worth more than just an experiment, however. Mobile voting using a safe and tested interface could eliminate voter fraud and boost turnout. It will make it more convenient for citizens to vote while abroad, irrespective of the distance and time. It is also a beneficial tool for the election commission to maintain transparency in the electoral process, minimize the cost of conducting elections, streamline the process of counting votes and ensure that all votes are counted.

Under the technology that was used in the West Virginia elections, a voter’s identity is verified using biometric tools like a thumbprint scan before voting on a mobile device. Each vote forms part of a chain of votes, where it is mathematically proven by the third party participant. Using blockchain, all data of the election process can be recorded on a publicly verifiable ledger while maintaining the anonymity of voters, with results available instantly.

At a time when elections—even in advanced democracies—are tainted with allegations of fraud or outside influence, use of technology to eliminate rigging is imperative. However, there is still skepticism around using blockchain for this purpose. For blockchain to be a viable option for conducting elections, certain challenges must be overcome. Public officials will have to understand the nuances of the technology and evaluate feedback received from voters and administrators alike.

The National Conference of State Legislatures describes several considerations for adopting electronic transmission of ballots, including privacy, security of the election process, security of the voter’s computer, denial of service attack, voter coercion, auditability, authentication and inconvenience for the local election official. Blockchain has to be tested, be available at an optimum cost and be able to scale up for higher numbers of users. Political will to support a new technology is also necessary.

This highlights a need to create awareness among the government officials and build the technological capabilities for making possible a technology-driven, transparent electoral process. According to Pete Martin, CEO of Votem and a proponent of online voting, we are two years away from major online elections running on blockchain in the U.S. As governments change, the process of electing such governments is bound to change too—and blockchain may have a part to play.

Early decade big city growth continues to fall off, census shows
By William H. Frey
2018.05.25_Brookings Metro_Bill Frey_Census City Growth Decline_Fig1According to new census data, population growth in America’s major urban centers has slowed significantly from just a few years ago, even falling behind suburban growth for the second year in a row.

2018.05.25_Brookings Metro_Bill Frey_Census City Growth Decline_Fig2

The new numbers for big cities—those with a population of over a quarter million—are telling. Among these 84 cities, 55 of them either grew at lower rates than the previous year or sustained population losses. This growth fall-off further exacerbates a pattern that was suggested last year. The average population growth of this group from 2016 to 2017 was 0.83 percent—down from well over 1 percent for earlier years of the decade and lower than the average annual growth rate among these cities for the 2000 to 2010 decade.

2018.05.25_Brookings Metro_Bill Frey_Census City Growth Decline_Map1

While the diminution in this rate may seem small, it is sizeable in aggregate population numbers. Between July 2016 and July 2017, these large cities together gained 424,000 people, well below gains exceeding 600,000 for each of the first five years of the decade. In the most recent year, New York City’s gain of 7,300 people is dwarfed by gains exceeding 90,000 residents during the first two years of the decade.

MHI Brookings 

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