Turkey’s ruling ‘White Party’ turning grey, critics say

Crime pays in Turkey. That is outwardly the lesson former Trade Minister Ruhsar Pekcan — who was sacked in April for promoting anti-COVID-19 sanitizer produced by an organization she owns collectively along with her husband to the ministry she was operating — deduced from the affair.

A video shared by Turkish investigative journalist Ismail Saymaz at present confirmed a person and a girl alleged to be Pekcan’s chauffeur and her secretary pouring bottles of the disinfectant via a sieve to catch particles of fungus that had shaped within the yellowish liquid. The obvious goal was to sanitize the sanitizer earlier than rebottling it on the market.

Images of the purported rip-off grew to become a prime trending subject on Twitter amid howls of disgust.

Pekcan has but to touch upon the allegations, however few would fault her for believing she stays above the legislation. In May, a parliamentary movement tabled by the principle opposition to research nepotism and fraud claims in opposition to Pekcan (they claimed she had bought her product to the ministry above its market worth) was voted down by lawmakers from the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) and its allies from the far-right Nationalist Action Party. Her misdemeanors are the tip of the iceberg, opposition lawmakers say.

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his “AK” (or “White Party,” because the AKP calls itself) rose to energy in 2002 vowing to free Turkey of the net of systemic corruption that has linked authorities officers and establishments to the enterprise world and the mafia for many years. It additionally pledged to salvage the Turkish economic system, which lay in collapse.

As issues presently stand, the economic system is in worse form than when the AKP took cost, and “corruption has become a defining characteristic of [Turkey’s] authoritarian regime,” stated Berk Esen, an assistant professor of political science at Istanbul’s Sabanci University.

Little has modified: the ruling occasion awards contracts to authorities insiders and enterprise cronies who additionally profit from straightforward loans from state-run banks.

In the final seven to eight years throughout which Erdogan started to pay attention energy into his personal palms, “the disbursement of funds and spoils is being directed through President Erdogan by members of his inner circle. People who rise within the regime use their political influence to reap economic benefits and are committing grave crimes,” Esen stated. “The more authoritarian and personalized the regime becomes, the greater the corruption becomes. The Ruhsar Pekcan affair is just a further example of this.”

During its first decade of 19 years of uninterrupted rule, the AKP helped lift millions of Turks out of poverty with cheap credit fueling steady growth and EU membership talks boosting business confidence. Rumors of corruption, however, began swirling early on as potential foreign investors complained about having to pay hefty bribes for an audience with Erdogan, who was seen as the key to unlocking deals.

The defanging of Turkey’s media started then. Aydin Dogan, the country’s top media boss, was slapped with multibillion-dollar fines when his titles began reporting on government graft. Few, however, could foresee just how bad things would get, critics say.

Turkey currently ranks 86 (with a score of 40) among 180 countries in the Corruption Perception Index of Transparency International. Compared to only seven years ago, the country dipped by 33 spots in its ranking and by 10 points overall.

Since May, Sedat Peker, a fugitive organized crime boss, has been lobbing explosive allegations against members of Erdogan’s government from his haven in Dubai. They range from cocaine trafficking and extortion to murder and rape. The number of recent cocaine seizures involving Turkish citizens and destinations prompted Ali Babacan, a former AKP economy minister who broke away to form his own political party, to complain that “Turkey is now internationally known as a narco state.”  

Peker hasn’t implicated Erdogan thus far, as a substitute presenting his revelations as cris de coeur aimed toward informing the Turkish chief — and the general public — of the sleaze by which the nation is engulfed. Turkish Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu is the principle goal for now. Peker has thrown in display screen pictures of textual content messages and audio recordings incriminating Soylu and his associates.

Peker’s newest string of bombshells relayed in a 50-tweet-long Twitter thread, nonetheless, appears to be shifting the gun towards the president’s internal circle. Peker alleged amongst different issues that Burhan Kuzu, an AKP lawmaker who died of COVID-19 in November, had used the switchboard on the president’s communications director’s workplace in Ankara to put calls to numerous bureaucrats whom he pressured to grant monetary favors to numerous shady businesspeople and members of the underworld.

Prior to his loss of life, Kuzu was dealing with prosecution for allegedly serving to Naji Sharifi Zindashti — a infamous Iranian heroin trafficker who has allegedly assisted within the murders of quite a few Iranian dissidents by the Iranian regime — evade justice. One of Kuzu’s aides, Sinan Ciftci, injected additional controversy at present by claiming the previous parliamentarian had been murdered. “They pulled the plug (on the ventilator) in the hospital to silence him,” Ciftci alleged in an interview with journalist Saban Sevinc.

Kuzu, a Paris-trained constitutional legislation professor who sat on the parliament’s Constitutional Committee for a few years, performed a key function in crafting the chief presidency that changed the parliamentary system in 2017 and eased Erdogan’s path to one-man rule.

He is accused of receiving hundreds of thousands of {dollars} in kickbacks from Zindashti and different kingpins.

Ciftci additional alleged that Kuzu “used” Erdogan’s son in-law, disgraced former Economy Minister Berat Albayrak, Vice President Fuat Oktay and parliament speaker Mustafa Sentop to help his schemes.  

Peker accused Kuzu of falling prey to his weak point for ladies, which was then exploited by criminals who blackmailed him in trade for his or her silence. 

While lots of the claims have but to be corroborated, not one has been investigated except the alleged function of a former Turkish basic within the 1996 homicide of an investigative journalist from Turkish-occupied Northern Cyprus. Meanwhile, 1000’s of people that have dared to criticize the federal government have confronted prosecution and been sentenced to jail, famous Ahmet Sik, a lawmaker for the left-wing Turkish Workers’ Party.

It is unthinkable that Erdogan wouldn’t have been conscious of the allegations, stated Timur Soykan, an investigative journalist and writer of a latest ebook on Turkey’s drug wars.

“The reason Erdogan is not commenting on any of the claims is that he hopes they will fade over time,” Soykan added.

The authorities has managed to efficiently bury earlier corruption scandals, together with one which pointed to Erdogan’s complicity in a multibillion-dollar oil for gold sanctions-busting scheme carried out by jailed Turkish Azerbaijani businessman Reza Zarrab.

Zarrab is presently serving as a witness for the prosecution within the Federal District Court’s case in opposition to Turkish state cash lender Halkbank, which is accused of being on the middle of the money-laundering scheme. 

This time could also be totally different, argues Sik, as a result of the economic system — which lengthy underpinned Erdogan’s electoral success — is in shambles and voters could also be much less forgiving in nationwide presidential and parliamentary elections which can be because of be held in 2023. “Peker’s claims may be fabricated or incomplete, but most are true. This is what the public believes,” Sik stated. 

Either method, Erdogan’s dilemma is that he’s now hostage to the maze of corrupt dealings “because these are what sustain his power,” says political scientist Esen.

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