Pro-Kurd party clashes with Erdogan ahead of Istanbul vote

The opposition candidate, Ekrem Imamoglu, addresses a meeting in Istanbul on Friday ahead of June 23 re-run of Istanbul elections. (AP)
Updated 22 June 2019

Pro-Kurd party clashes with Erdogan ahead of Istanbul vote

  • Abdullah Ocalan called for “neutrality” in the Istanbul vote, in comments that could be understood as suggesting Kurds not take part

ISTANBUL: Pro-Kurdish political leaders accused Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan on Friday of trying to sow discord among Kurds ahead of a re-run of an Istanbul election on Sunday that is seen as a crucial test of support for Erdogan and his ruling AK Party.
The pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) also reaffirmed its support for opposition mayoral candidate Ekrem Imamoglu who won the March municipal poll. Election authorities ordered a re-run after AKP allegations of poll irregularities, a ruling that has prompted concerns about Turkish democracy.
In an unexpected and ambiguously worded statement, Kurdish militant leader Abdullah Ocalan called for “neutrality” in the Istanbul vote, in comments that could be understood as suggesting Kurds not take part.
Kurdish support was key in helping Imamoglu narrowly defeat the AKP mayoral candidate Binali Yildirim in the March vote. Kurdish voters account for about 15 percent of Istanbul’s 10.5 million eligible voters and many support the HDP.

SPEEDREAD

Kurdish support was key in helping Imamoglu narrowly defeat the AKP mayoral candidate Binali Yildirim in the March vote. Kurdish voters account for about 15 percent of Istanbul’s 10.5 million eligible voters and many support the HDP.

Just after state-run Anadolu agency released details of Ocalan’s hand-written letter late on Thursday, Erdogan speculated in a TV interview that the statement pointed to a “serious power struggle” among senior Kurdish leaders. The HDP’s co-leaders Pervin Buldan and Sezai Temelli responded angrily to Erdogan’s intervention.
“The effort by President Erdogan to set our party and Mr. Ocalan against each other through a text leaked in an unethical way shows ... how desperate he has become,” they said.


More profitable year forecast for private investing in the Middle East

Updated 1 min 45 sec ago

More profitable year forecast for private investing in the Middle East

  • Saudi Arabia working on ‘very aggressive plan’ to privatize water-related assets and schools
  • Given its size, KSA will continue to have ‘attractive opportunities’ beyond the energy sector

DUBAI: On a day that Saudi Aramco shares opened at SR35.2 ($9.39) at the Riyadh’s Tadawul stock exchange, Ammar Al-Khudairy, chairman of Samba Financial Group, one of the banks managing the deal, made three main forecasts for the region’s economy.

“We will see capital markets doing better, which means private equity will start making some money again,” he said during a panel discussion on “the future of private investing” at the SALT conference in Abu Dhabi on Wednesday.

Al-Khudairy’s second forecast was some “bifurcation of private investing,” followed by private infrastructure. “Saudi Arabia has been talking about privatization, both greenfield and brownfield, for three years,” he said, adding that the government has piloted some projects and is working on a “very aggressive plan” to privatize 21 water-related assets and several thousand schools in 2020.

He said China is one of the top two or three relationships globally for Saudi Arabia, despite the few Chinese investments seen in the Kingdom.

While many experts say that private equity is enjoying a “golden era” in the West, the same cannot be said about the Middle East.

Recalling a time before the 2008 financial crisis, Al-Khudairy said there were 92 to 93 announced PE firms and PE funds then. “Today, we have six,” he said, attributing the figure to the unfavorable market in the region.

“If we look at Saudi Arabia, the biggest market in the region, it has been breaking even for the past five years,” he said, adding that the MENA region has had a total return of 4 percent during the same time.

As for the Aramco local initial public offering, Al-Khudairy said: “There was a last-minute call to make Aramco IPO a local IPO. So there was no proactive marketing outside the region.”

Aramco shares opened at 10 percent above their IPO price of SR32, reaching a record $26.5 billion on their first day.

Al-Khudairy noted that as a part of the final allocation, 23 percent went to non-Saudi entities and 37 percent went to institutional investors in Saudi Arabia.

“But a lot of it (international) is Gulf and also some American and European and Chinese money.”

Saudi Arabia was also the focus of remarks by David Rubenstein, co-founder and co-executive chairman of the Carlyle Group, in the same session on the final day of the Middle East’s first Salt conference.

The Carlyle Group is one of the world’s largest and most successful investment firms with $212 billion of assets.

Rubenstein said considering Saudi Arabia’s size, it will continue to have “attractive opportunities” beyond the oil and gas sector.

As an investor, he saw the Arab world as made up of four main areas, with the GCC emerging as the only one with attractive prospects. The Levant has experienced years of conflict and violence, while North Africa is known for the Arab Spring and, like Turkey, is blighted by uncertainties.

That does not mean the GCC region is not without its challenges. According to Rubenstein, the first is a lack of government-owned properties and private-owned estates for sale, which he attributed to the high number of family-owned business in the region that lack the incentive to sell.

“A lot of the money that has been invested here is money that is already in the MENA region,” Rubenstein said, adding that it could take some time before a large number of private equity firms are seen in the GCC.

Attracting Western capital is the second challenge, whether from the US, Western Europe or even Asia, which Rubenstein said is linked to public perceptions about the MENA region.