Why a sex scandal could be good for Turkish democracy

A political party's electoral prospects are generally harmed when one of its leaders is taken down by a tawdry sex scandal. The resignation of Deniz Baykal in the wake of the release of a grainy video showing him in a bedroom with a female politician from his party, however, just may be the exception.

Baykal led the staunchly secularist CHP, which was created by Turkey's founder, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk. It is one of the primary parties in opposition to the country's ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP). However, the party has stagnated under Baykal: It was trounced by the AKP by double digits in Turkey's 2002 and 2007 general elections, and all signs point to a similar result in the upcoming 2011 campaign. However, due to the hierarchical nature of Turkish politics, Baykal was unlikely to be removed from his leadership role despite his obvious lack of electoral appeal.

The moribund state of the CHP was reinforced for me during a trip to Turkey in March. Our delegation met with one of Baykal's top deputies, one of the more unimpressive officials we encountered. Like Baykal, his message stuck to the party's dogma, which hasn't changed noticeably since the days of Ataturk. If Baykal's likely successor, Kemal Kilicdaroglu, is smart, he will seize this opportunity to update the CHP's message in a way that speaks more clearly to Turkey's modern-day challenges -- and, in doing so, revitalize its appeal to the Turkish electorate. Who knows, perhaps a sex scandal is just what the Turkish opposition needs to get its act straight.



David Cameron's first foreign-policy crisis?

It's a bit unclear who's in charge of Britain right now, but if -- as is looking more likely -- David Cameron enters 10 Downing Street with either a minority government or a wacky Conservative-Liberal coalition, he's going to have his hands full right off the bat with Argentina: 

Argentina reacted with fury last night to the news that British company Rockhopper Exploration had made significant oil discoveries in waters around the Falkland Islands.

As news broke that the company had encountered a 53m-thick deposit of oil 220km (135 miles) north of the islands, that could lead to the discovery of up to 200 million barrels of oil worth £17 billion at current prices, Argentina’s Foreign Minister Jorge Taiana condemned British actions in the region as “illegal” and “unilateral”.

In a statement issued yesterday by the Foreign Ministry, Mr Taiana said: “Argentina energetically refutes what is an illegal attempt to confiscate non-renewable natural resources that are the property of the Argentine people.

It went on: “And wants to make clear, to the UK authorities that authorised this exploration and to the company involved, that the Argentine Government will continue to denounce this illegal British action in all international forums, and that it will take all necessary measures, according to international law, to impede the continuation of these actions.”

Argentina’s Foreign Minister also warned that Cristina Fernández de Kirchner’s Government would continue to impose restrictions on the movement of ships between Argentina and the Falklands.

Cameron is not only hawkish on the Falklands; he has also been critical of the Obama administration's reluctance to take the British side in the dispute.

As Joe Biden would say, "Gird your loins!"