A widening corruption probe has been consuming Turkey in recent days. Figures close to the leading Justice and Development Party (AKP), including sons of cabinet members, are facing serious allegations of bribery and money laundering. The government is denying all accusations and claims the charges are part of a conspiracy with roots both foreign and domestic. The operation is run by prosecutors allegedly close to the Fethullah Gulen religious movement (officially known as Hizmet Movement).
The Gulen movement and the AKP used to be allies during the construction of the so-called “new Turkey” that aimed to unlock the military's longstanding grip on political power. However, recent years produced a power struggle between the two Islam-inspired camps. Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Gulen himself have been exchanging serious charges against each other, as media organs supporting each side join in the attacks.
ISTANBUL – There is one question that should be answered before all: Are the claims of corruption and bribery backed by solid evidence or not?
All the other questions can be asked after the answer to this one is certain. Instead, the Erdogan government is busy insulting the intelligence and perception of every one of us by posing a very different question it claims as the starting point in the current standoff. Are these claims of corruption and bribery a ‘political operation’ against them.
The government would turn out to be right if the evidence behind the corruption and bribery claims that have been talked about for days turn out to not be solid enough. But you have to wait and see whether these claims are true or false in order to be able to make such a claim.
The government says: ‘the operation is political…’
Of course it is. An investigation that includes four cabinet members, a key mayor from the leading party, business people known to be close to the government and bureaucrats is inevitably political; it has an immediate effect on politics. Such an operation affects politics in Turkey, as it would in Patagonia or in Micronesia.
And yet life is not about politics only; nor is politics a subject that takes precedence over everything else. If they are true, the claims of corruption and bribery should indeed influence, or even define, politics in Turkey.
The government says: ‘people who come up with these claims have a purpose…’
Of course they do. You are never surrounded only by friends when you exercise power; it is in the nature of politics that there are people who want to remove you from office. You need to be honest; even more honest than your opponents to not offer anybody that chance, even if the claims might be weak.
The government says: ‘a parallel state cannot be tolerated…’
Of course it cannot be. And yet you do not deserve to be in power if you had not realized the existence of that parallel establishment before the morning of December 17, 2013. Or, if you knew all about this establishment all along and turned a blind eye to it, then you need to get back to the end of the line to complain about it.
The government says: ‘foreign forces are behind them; they are targeting the Halk Bank, they want to prevent our trade with Iran…’
Let us say there are foreign powers actually in play. But are they the ones that brought cash to the accused’s houses; did they stack millions of dollars in shoeboxes?
The government says: ‘the cops abused their authority; they did not inform their superiors about the operation…’
Fortunately they did not. They would be committing a crime if they did. They were committing crimes up to this day by doing so anyway. The law set by this government in scope and in harmony with European Union standards dictates that the justice police work under the prosecutor, not their superior in the police department.
The government says: ‘we want the investigation to go all the way to the end…’
No, you do not. If you did, you would not remove the officers who run the investigation from duty by the order of the Interior Minister. You need to live with the public doubting the rest of the investigation; especially the part of the public that votes for you.
The government says: ‘you will see that due process will be denied to cabinet ministers’
Too late. This statement itself shows how late it is. Those ministers should have resigned within hours after their children were detained. Each passing minute reduces the probability that the alleged corruption and bribery crimes are free of politics; raising more doubts about the AKP.
Let us return to the beginning, and that single question that should be answered before all others: Are the claims of corruption and bribery solid? Are they serious?
Asking other questions before this one is an eclipse of reason. The people who ask these other questions have already seen their own reason eclipsed by other factors. If only they would not insult our intelligence.