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Ruling Party Candidate Concedes Defeat in Istanbul Re-Vote

The ruling party candidate in the re-run of Istanbul’s mayoral election, Binali Yildirim, has conceded defeat to opposition candidate Ekrem Imamoglu.

Sunday’s vote was held because election authorities controversially annulled Imamoglu’s initial historic election victory in March on a technicality after President Recep Tayyip Erdogan disputed the defeat of his candidate.

Electoral authorities rejected Erdogan’s AKP Party’s claims of voting fraud, but ordered a revote on the grounds a number election officials were ineligible. The opposition condemned the decision and claimed the Sunday vote is now more than just about who runs the city.

In a sign of the importance of Sunday’s election, voting was brisk from the moment the Kadikoy district ballot station opened, in a city where people traditionally vote late.  Early heavy voting  was reported across the city.

“The election is very important for Turkey, this will change the face of Turkey,” said retiree Cengiz Demir, one of the first to vote in Kadikoy district. “We have to return to democratic settings. Maybe more than a majority have had enough of one man rule,” he added.

One man rule is a reference to President Erdogan who many of his opponents accuse of undermining democracy and turning Turkey into an authoritarian state.

“In the name of our Turkey, in the name of our Istanbul, we are going through a very important election,” Imamoglu said to hundreds of supporters after voting. “This is not only about the Istanbul metropolitan, municipal election but at the same time a day for the repair the damage of this unlawful process imposed on our nation for the sake of democracy in Turkey.”

Observers say Imamoglu’s strategy of avoiding polarizing politics and pledging inclusivity has been key to turning his CHP party’s fortunes around in the city.

“I have so many hopes for Turkey,” said Ayse, a teacher who only wanted to be identified by her first name, “Imamoglu is the only person who can make the change. Before I was so pessimistic.”

The importance of Sunday’s election has seen hundreds of thousands of people cut short their vacations to vote. The city’s airports and roads were full the night before the polls opened.

“This is so important,” said Deniz Tas speaking after voting, “I have traveled 12 hours on the road to vote and to right this injustice that has been done.”

Istanbul is Erdogan’s home city and has been his power-base for 25 years, since his rise to power started as the city’s mayor. The city accounts for a third of Turkey’s economy and nearly half the taxation, and the mayorship is widely seen as Turkey’s most important political prize after the presidency.

Underscoring the importance of the vote,  Erdogan has again put his political prestige on the line, campaigning heavily for Yildirm in the run-up to the election.  Erdogan too claims democracy is at stake, repeatedly accusing the opposition of voter manipulation. Observers say a second defeat for Erdogan could have significant consequences, damaging his reputation of electoral invincibility empowering opponents both in and outside his party.

In what was a bitter campaign Yildirim appeared conciliatory. “If we’ve ever made any wrongdoing to any rival or brother in Istanbul, I would like to ask for their forgiveness and blessing,” he said after casting his vote.

 Some AKP supporters expressed similar sentiments. “Re-vote happens in other countries, too, the voting can be repeated,” said a woman who didn’t want to be named.  “It is very normal that we have a repeat as well. The candidate who deserves it should win. The person with experience will win. Also, for us, Binali Yildirim has the experience to run Istanbul.”

 Both the leading candidates mobilizing thousands of lawyers and monitors to scrutinize the vote, claiming to defend democracy, Istanbul is bracing itself for a tense election.

 

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Istanbul Votes Again in Key Ballot

Residents of Turkey’s largest city, Istanbul, voted again after the opposition’s historic victory ending 25 years of dominance by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan was annulled.

In a sign of the importance of Sunday’s election, voting was brisk from the moment the Kadikoy district ballot station opened, in a city where people traditionally vote late.  Early heavy voting  was reported across the city.

“The election is very important for Turkey, this will change the face of Turkey,” said retiree Cengiz Demir, one of the first to vote in Kadikoy district. “We have to return to democratic settings. Maybe more than a majority have had enough of one man rule,” he added.

One man rule is a reference to President Erdogan who many of his opponents accuse of undermining democracy and turning Turkey into an authoritarian state.

Istanbul is repeating the vote because election authorities controversially annulled opposition candidate Ekrem Imamoglu’s historic victory on a technicality after President Erdogan disputed the defeat of his candidate, Binali Yildirim, in the March poll.

Binali Yildirim, mayoral candidate for Istanbul from Turkey’s ruling Justice and Development Party, AKP, holds his granddaughter as she casts her grandfather’s ballot at a polling station in Istanbul, June 23, 2019.

Electoral authorities rejected Erdogan’s AKP Party’s claims of voting fraud, but ordered a revote on the grounds a number election officials were ineligible. The opposition condemned the decision and claimed the Sunday vote is now more than just about who runs the city

“In the name of our Turkey, in the name of our Istanbul, we are going through a very important election,” Imamoglu said to hundreds of supporters after voting. “This is not only about the Istanbul metropolitan, municipal election but at the same time a day for the repair the damage of this unlawful process imposed on our nation for the sake of democracy in Turkey.”

Ekrem Imamoglu, candidate of the secular opposition Republican People's Party, or CHP, arrives at a polling station in Istanbul, June 23, 2019.
Ekrem Imamoglu, candidate of the secular opposition Republican People’s Party, or CHP, arrives at a polling station in Istanbul, June 23, 2019.

Observers say Imamoglu’s strategy of avoiding polarizing politics and pledging inclusivity has been key to turning his CHP party’s fortunes around in the city.

“I have so many hopes for Turkey,” said Ayse, a teacher who only wanted to be identified by her first name, “Imamoglu is the only person who can make the change. Before I was so pessimistic.”

The importance of Sunday’s election has seen hundreds of thousands of people cut short their vacations to vote. The city’s airports and roads were full the night before the polls opened.

“This is so important,” said Deniz Tas speaking after voting, “I have traveled 12 hours on the road to vote and to right this injustice that has been done.”

Istanbul is Erdogan’s home city and has been his power-base for 25 years, since his rise to power started as the city’s mayor. The city accounts for a third of Turkey’s economy and nearly half the taxation, and the mayorship is widely seen as Turkey’s most important political prize after the presidency.

Underscoring the importance of the vote,  Erdogan has again put his political prestige on the line, campaigning heavily for Yildirm in the run-up to the election.  Erdogan too claims democracy is at stake, repeatedly accusing the opposition of voter manipulation.

Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan casts his ballot at a polling station in Istanbul, June 23, 2019.
Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan casts his ballot at a polling station in Istanbul, June 23, 2019.

Observers say a second defeat for Erdogan could have significant consequences, damaging his reputation of electoral invincibility empowering opponents both in and outside his party.

In what was a bitter campaign Yildirim appeared conciliatory. “If we’ve ever made any wrongdoing to any rival or brother in Istanbul, I would like to ask for their forgiveness and blessing,” he said after casting his vote.

Some AKP supporters expressed similar sentiments. “Re-vote happens in other countries, too, the voting can be repeated,” said a woman who didn’t want to be named.  “It is very normal that we have a repeat as well. The candidate who deserves it should win. The person with experience will win. Also, for us, Binali Yildirim has the experience to run Istanbul.”

Both the leading candidates mobilizing thousands of lawyers and monitors to scrutinize the vote, claiming to defend democracy, Istanbul is bracing itself for a tense election.

 

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Istanbul Again Votes for Mayor in Test for Turkish Democracy

Millions of Istanbul residents voted Sunday in a re-run of a mayoral election that has become a referendum on President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s policies and a test of Turkey’s ailing democracy.

In the initial March 31 vote, the opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) candidate secured a narrow victory over Erdogan’s AK Party (AKP) in Turkey’s largest city, a rare electoral defeat for the president.

But after weeks of AKP appeals, Turkey’s High Election Board in May annulled the vote citing irregularities. The opposition called the decision a coup against democracy, which has raised the stakes for round two.

“It is really ridiculous that the election is being re-run. It was an election won fair and square,” said Asim Solak, 50, who said he was voting for the opposition candidate in the CHP stronghold of Tesvikiye. “It is clear who canceled the election. We hope this election re-run will be a big lesson for them,” he said.

Win Istanbul, win Turkey

Polling stations across Istanbul opened at 8 a.m. (0500 GMT), with 10.56 million people registered to vote in a city that makes up nearly a fifth of Turkey’s 82 million population.

Voting ends at 5 p.m. Results will be announced in the evening.

Erdogan has repeated his line that “whoever wins Istanbul wins Turkey.” A second loss in the city, where in the 1990s he served as mayor, would be embarrassing for Erdogan and could weaken what until recently seemed to be his iron grip on power.

Major changes possible

Turkey’s economy is in recession and the United States, its NATO ally, has threatened sanctions if Erdogan goes ahead with plans to install Russian missile defenses.

A second AKP loss could also shed further light into what CHP mayoral candidate Ekrem Imamoglu said was the misspending of billions of lira at the Istanbul municipality, which has a budget of around $4 billion.

“If Imamoglu wins again, there’s going to be a chain of serious changes in Turkish politics,” journalist and writer Murat Yetkin said.

“It will be interpreted as the beginning of a decline for AKP and for Erdogan as well,” he said, noting that the president himself had called the local elections “a matter of survival.”

Another Imamoglu win could eventually trigger a national election earlier than 2023 as scheduled, a cabinet reshuffle, and even a potential adjustment in foreign policy, Yetkin added.

To narrow the roughly 13,000-vote gap in March, the AKP re-calibrated its message recently to court Kurdish voters, who make up about 15% of voters in the city of 15 million.

Courting the Kurds

The campaign received a twist when jailed Kurdish militant leader Abdullah Ocalan urged the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) to stay neutral in the vote. The HDP, which backs Imamoglu, accused Erdogan of trying to divide Kurds.

Having campaigned hard ahead of the March vote, a strategy that many within AKP believe has backfired, Erdogan initially kept a low-profile this month. But last week he returned to his combative campaigning and targeted Imamoglu directly, including threatening him with legal action, raising questions over whether the AKP would accept a second defeat.
 

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Sources: US Struck Iranian Military Computers This Week

U.S. military cyber forces launched a strike against Iranian military computer systems Thursday as President Donald Trump backed away from plans for a more conventional military strike in response to Iran’s downing of a U.S. surveillance drone, U.S. officials said Saturday.

Two officials told The Associated Press that the strikes were conducted with approval from Trump. A third official confirmed the broad outlines of the strike. All spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly about the operation.

The cyberattacks, a contingency plan developed over weeks amid escalating tensions, disabled Iranian computer systems that controlled its rocket and missile launchers, the officials said. Two of the officials said the attacks, which specifically targeted Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps computer system, were provided as options after two oil tankers were attacked earlier this month.

The IRGC, which was designated a foreign terrorist group by the Trump administration earlier this year, is a branch of the Iranian military.

The action by U.S. Cyber Command was a demonstration of the U.S.’s increasingly mature cyber military capabilities and its more aggressive cyber strategy under the Trump administration. Over the last year, U.S. officials have focused on persistently engaging with adversaries in cyberspace and undertaking more offensive operations.

There was no immediate reaction Sunday morning in Iran to the U.S. claims. Iran has hardened and disconnected much of its infrastructure from the internet after the Stuxnet computer virus, widely believed to be a joint U.S.-Israeli creation, disrupted thousands of Iranian centrifuges in the late 2000s.

Tensions have escalated between the two countries ever since the U.S. withdrew last year from the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran and began a policy of “maximum pressure.” Iran has since been hit by multiple rounds of sanctions. Tensions spiked this past week after Iran shot down an unmanned U.S. drone, an incident that nearly led to a U.S. military strike against Iran on Thursday evening.

The cyberattacks are the latest chapter in the U.S. and Iran’s ongoing cyber operations targeting the other. Yahoo News first reported the cyber strike.

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Порушень і затримань під час Маршу рівності в Києві не було – поліція

На Марші рівності в Києві 23 червня порушень не було, нікого в ході акції не затримували, заявив голова Національної поліції Сергій Князєв.
«На сьогоднішніх заходах жодного повідомлення в поліції про порушення не зафіксовано, значить їх не було. Поліція спільно з Нацгвардією забезпечувала достатню кількість сил і засобів, що порушень взагалі не було. Тобто і жодної особи, затриманої під час проведення заходів, не було», – сказав Князєв на брифінгу в центрі Києва після завершення Маршу рівності.

За його словами, затримання осіб, підозрюваних у підготовці провокацій, про які повідомляла поліція, відбулися напередодні маршу в рамках «попереджувальних заходів». Коли саме були затримані ці особи, Князєв не уточнив.

Щодо кількості учасників сьогоднішньої ходи, то в поліції наразі таку інформацію не надають. Організатори заявляли, що на Марш рівності мають намір прийти 10 тисяч людей.

На свою акцію 23 червня також вийшли противники Маршу рівності. Їх і учасників марш розділяли правоохоронці.

У центрі Києва був частково обмежений дорожній рух і рух транспорту, зокрема й метро.

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Поліція: в Києві затримали групу осіб, що готували провокації на Марші рівності

Поліція Києва повідомляє про затримання дев’яти осіб, підозрюваних у підготовці провокацій на Марші рівності на захист ЛГБТ, який 23 червня відбувається в столиці України.
«Правоохоронці вилучили знаряддя для підготовки провокацій. Правопорушників затримали у порядку ст. 208 Кримінального процесуального кодексу України. Відомо, що вік зловмисників – від 18 до 48 років… Їм загрожує від трьох до семи років ув’язнення», – йдеться в повідомленні.

За даними поліції, відомості про це внесені до Єдиного реєстру досудових розслідування за попередньою правовою кваліфікацією «готування до хуліганства».

На даний час вирішують питання про обрання фігурантам запобіжного заходу.

23 червня у Києві за посилених заходів безпеки відбувається Марш рівності на захист прав ЛГБТ-спільноти. Ходою завершуються акції «Київпрайду», що тривали в столиці України від 16 червня.

Організатори очікують на участь щонайменше 10 тисяч людей. На захід запросили президента України Володимира Зеленського.

На свою акцію також вийшли противники Маршу рівності. Їх і учасників марш розділяють правоохоронці. Про участь у марші в Києві повідомила низка іноземних посадовців.

Через прикінцеві акції 22 і 23 червня в центрі Києва частково обмежують дорожній рух і рух транспорту, зокрема й метро.

Міністерство внутрішніх справ України закликало організаторів «Маршу рівності» в Києві й їхніх опонентів утриматися від провокацій і дотримуватися закону. А в Київміськдержадміністрації повідомили, що спільно з правоохоронцями проведуть заходи для гарантування безпеки учасників маршу.

 

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Technology Helps People who are Visually Impaired to ‘See’ Art

Museums across the United States are striving to be more accessible to everyone. That includes touchable versions of photographs and paintings for people who may not be able to see them. At a recent expo by the American Alliance of Museums in New Orleans, new technology was used to help the visually impaired “see” art and pictures. VOA’s Deborah Block tells us more.

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Kabul at Night: Daily Life Steeped in Security Risks

Concrete military walls and police security checkpoints are seen on every corner of Afghanistan’s capital city, Kabul.  The robust security presence signals a major effort to protect civilians and government officials from terrorist attacks.  But the very real threat of violence, like a suicide attack, doesn’t stop Kabul residents from living and enjoying their daily lives.  VOA’s Ahmad Samir Rassoly gives us a unique view of a typical night in Kabul.

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Iranian Hackers Wage Cyber Campaign Amid Tensions With US 

Iran has increased its offensive cyberattacks against the U.S. government and critical infrastructure as tensions have grown between the two nations, cybersecurity firms say. 

In recent weeks, hackers believed to be working for the Iranian government have targeted U.S. government agencies, as well as sectors of the economy, including oil and gas, sending waves of spear-phishing emails, according to representatives of cybersecurity companies CrowdStrike and FireEye, which regularly track such activity.

It was not known if any of the hackers managed to gain access to the targeted networks with the emails, which typically mimic legitimate emails but contain malicious software.

U.S. sanctions

The cyber offensive is the latest chapter in U.S.-Iran cyber operations battle, with this recent sharp increase in attacks occurring after the Trump administration imposed sanctions on the Iranian petrochemical sector this month. 

Tensions have escalated since the U.S. withdrew from the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran last year and began a policy of “maximum pressure.” Iran has since been hit by multiple rounds of sanctions. Tensions spiked this past week after Iran shot down an unmanned U.S. drone,  an incident that nearly led to a U.S. military strike against Iran on Thursday evening. 

FILE – Security firm FireEye’s logo is seen outside the company’s offices in Milpitas, Calif.

“Both sides are desperate to know what the other side is thinking,” said John Hultquist, director of intelligence analysis at FireEye. “You can absolutely expect the regime to be leveraging every tool they have available to reduce the uncertainty about what’s going to happen next, about what the U.S.’s next move will be.”

CrowdStrike shared images of the spear-phishing emails with AP.

One such email that was confirmed by FireEye appeared to come from the Executive Office of the President and seemed to be trying to recruit people for an economic adviser position. Another email was more generic and appeared to include details on updating Microsoft Outlook’s global address book.

The Iranian actor involved in the cyberattack, dubbed “Refined Kitten” by CrowdStrike, has for years targeted the U.S. energy and defense sectors, as well as allies such as Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, said Adam Meyers, vice president of intelligence at CrowdStrike.

The National Security Agency would not discuss Iranian cyber actions specifically but said in a statement to AP on Friday that “there have been serious issues with malicious Iranian cyber actions in the past.”

“In these times of heightened tensions, it is appropriate for everyone to be alert to signs of Iranian aggression in cyberspace and ensure appropriate defenses are in place,” the NSA said.

Fuel sectors, infrastructure

Iran has long targeted the U.S. oil and gas sectors and other critical infrastructure, but those efforts dropped significantly after the nuclear agreement was signed. Cyber experts said that after President Donald Trump withdrew the U.S. from the deal in May 2018, they saw an increase in Iranian hacking efforts.

“This is not a remote war [anymore],” said Sergio Caltagirone, vice president of threat intelligence at Dragos Inc. “This is one where Iranians could ‘bring the war home’ to the United States.”

Caltagirone said as nations increase their abilities to engage offensively in cyberspace, the ability of the United States to pick a fight internationally and have that fight stay out of the United States physically is increasingly reduced.

In 2010, the Stuxnet virus disrupted operation of centrifuges at a uranium enrichment facility in Iran.
FILE – In 2010, the Stuxnet virus disrupted operation of centrifuges at a uranium enrichment facility in Iran.

The U.S. has had a contentious cyber history with Iran.

In 2010, the so-called Stuxnet virus disrupted the operation of thousands of centrifuges at a uranium enrichment facility in Iran. Iran accused the U.S. and Israel of trying to undermine its nuclear program through covert operations. 

Iran has also shown a willingness to conduct destructive campaigns. Iranian hackers in 2012 launched an attack against state-owned oil company Saudi Aramco, releasing a virus that erased data on 30,000 computers and left an image of a burning American flag on screens.

Banks, dam

In 2016, the U.S. indicted Iranian hackers for a series of punishing cyberattacks on U.S. banks and a small dam outside New York City.

U.S. Cyber Command refused to comment on the latest Iranian activity. “As a matter of policy and for operational security, we do not discuss cyberspace operations, intelligence or planning,” Pentagon spokeswoman Heather Babb said in a statement. The White House did not respond to a request for comment.

Despite the apparent cyber campaign, experts say the Iranians would not necessarily immediately exploit any access they gain into computer systems and may seek to maintain future capabilities should their relationship with the U.S. further deteriorate.

“It’s important to remember that cyber is not some magic offensive nuke you can fly over and drop one day,” said Oren Falkowitz, a former National Security Agency analyst. It takes years of planning, he said, but as tensions increase, “cyber impact is going to be one of the tools they use and one of the hardest things to defend against.”

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