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Turkey

Wiretapping Wars And Broken Democracy In Turkey

Erdogan denies wrongdoing
Erdogan denies wrongdoing
Ismet Berkan

-Opinion-

ISTANBUL — On one hand, there is an investigation of an imaginary terrorist organization and the claim of a wiretapping list that includes some 7,000 people.

On the other, there is the recording of a telephone conversation that has been spreading on YouTube, allegedly between Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his son.

The prosecutors who were said to be running the investigation around the first claim say, “No, we did not wiretap this many people. The prime minister, meanwhile, denies the second claim, calling the recording a “montage.”

From my vantage point, it looks like such accusations are no longer made to actually be proven. Instead, they’re being discussed just for the sake of preaching to the already converted, while the rest are already sworn not to believe whatever comes from the enemy camp anyway.

This is the way we deal with each other in today's polarized Turkey.

By now, we would be better off looking beyond the specific content of all such claims. Can it be anything but the country’s bad governance that turns citizens into mere spectators in a dirty political war?

A well-governed country would have been able to overcome its systemic problems in the decade-plus that the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) has been in power. The existence of such wiretapping wars are proof that the problems of 1999 still continue in 2014, that no steps were taken to solve them.

Isn’t there anybody in Turkey ready to question the very existence of such a wiretapping war between political opponents? Why don’t we see such a form of corruption in Germany, France, the United States? Or even in Italy and Greece?

More than elections

It is a kind of political law of physics: A country’s level of wiretapping wars is inversely proportional to its democratic accountability.

Some of us still think democratic accountability is nothing more than elections held every four years.

The parliament is meant to hold government to account above all, as well as overseeing the moves of the country’s administrative body, forcing both to act within the boundaries of the law.

This supervision is supposed to include the security bureaucracy the most: the military, police, intelligence agencies. But alas, our parliamentary system doesn’t fulfill this role adequately because the parliament is under the government’s supervision.

In countries where democratic accountability exists, technical issues are under the supervision of independent institutions that are entrusted to handle them free of any partisanship.

In Turkey, the independent institutions are independent in name only.

Democratic accountability should mean that the judiciary rarely is forced to hold politicians to account. This exceptional status is instead almost the norm in Turkey.

Then there is the media, the last link in this accountability chain. We still manage to have some independent media left in Turkey, but when that ends we will have a fine country with zero accountability for the government at all.

Nicely done.

Inevitably it comes back around to the citizens and voters of the Turkish democracy. With local elections set for March 30, polls show that the electorate is both polarized and apathetic.

Worse, while the number of undecided voters is low, those considering not voting at all is on the rise.

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