Turkey’s ruling “White Party” turns gray, critics say

Crime pays off in Turkey. This is apparently the lesson of former Commerce Minister Ruhsar Pekcan – who was sacked in April for selling an anti-COVID-19 disinfectant produced by a company she jointly owns with her husband at the ministry she headed – inferred from the case.

A video shared by Turkish investigative journalist Ismail Saymaz today showed a man and woman believed to be Pekcan’s driver and secretary pouring bottles of disinfectant through a sieve to catch the fungus particles that had formed in the yellowish liquid. The apparent goal was to disinfect the disinfectant before it was bottled for sale.

Images of the alleged scam became a trending topic on Twitter amid screams of disgust.

Pekcan has yet to comment on the allegations, but few would fault her for believing she remains above the law. In May, a parliamentary motion filed by the main opposition to investigate allegations of nepotism and fraud against Pekcan (they claimed she had sold her product to the ministry above its market value) was rejected by lawmakers in the Ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP). and his allies of the far-right Nationalist Action Party. His crimes are just the tip of the iceberg, according to opposition lawmakers.

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his “AK” (or “White Party” as the AKP calls itself) came to power in 2002 promising to free Turkey from the network of systemic corruption that has linked officials and government institutions to business and business. mafia for decades. He also pledged to save the collapsed Turkish economy.

As it stands, the economy is in a worse state than when the AKP took charge, and “corruption has become a defining feature of [Turkey’s] authoritarian regime, ”said Berk Esen, assistant professor of political science at Sabanci University in Istanbul.

Not much has changed: the ruling party awards contracts to government insiders and business friends who also get easy loans from public banks.

In the past seven to eight years in which Erdogan began to concentrate power in his own hands, “the disbursement of funds and loot is directed by President Erdogan by members of his entourage. People who step into the regime use their political influence to reap economic benefits and commit serious crimes, ”Esen said. “The more authoritarian and personalized the regime becomes, the more corruption increases. The Ruhsar Pekcan case is just another example. “

In its first decade of 19 years of uninterrupted rule, the AKP has helped lift millions of Turks out of poverty with cheap credit fueling steady growth and confidence-building EU membership talks companies. Rumors of corruption, however, started swirling early on, as potential foreign investors complained about having to pay big bribes for a hearing with Erdogan, which was seen as the key to unlocking the agreements.

Turkish media disobedience then began. Aydin Dogan, the country’s biggest media boss, was fined billions of dollars when his headlines began to reflect government corruption. However, few could predict how badly things would turn out, critics say.

Turkey currently ranks 86th (with a score of 40) among 180 countries in Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index. Compared to just seven years ago, the country has lost 33 places in its ranking and 10 points in total.

Since May, Sedat Peker, a fugitive organized crime boss, has launched explosive allegations against members of Erdogan’s government from his refuge 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 up to form his own political party, to complain that “Turkey is now known internationally as a narco state”.

Peker hasn’t involved Erdogan so far, instead presenting his revelations as heart attacks aimed at educating the Turkish leader – and the public – of the misery the country is engulfed in. Turkish Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu is the main target so far. Peker added screenshots of text messages and audio recordings incriminating Soylu and his associates.

Beijing’s latest round of bombs relayed in a 50-tweet Twitter thread, however, appears to be moving the weapon to the president’s inner circle. Peker alleged, among other things, that Burhan Kuzu, an AKP lawmaker who died of COVID-19 in November, used the switchboard at the president’s communications director’s office in Ankara to call various bureaucrats he pressured to grant financial favors to various shady businessmen. and members of the underworld.

Prior to his death, Kuzu was facing prosecution for allegedly helping Naji Sharifi Zindashti – a notorious Iranian heroin trafficker who allegedly assisted in the murder of numerous Iranian dissidents by the Iranian regime – to evade justice. One of Kuzu’s aides, Sinan Ciftci, fueled controversy today by claiming the former parliamentarian was assassinated. “They unplugged (on the ventilator) at the hospital to silence him,” Ciftci said in an interview with journalist Saban Sevinc.

Kuzu, a Paris-trained constitutional law professor who served on the parliament’s constitutional committee for many years, played a key role in shaping the executive presidency that replaced the parliamentary system in 2017 and facilitated the way forward. ‘Erdogan towards the reign of one man.

He is accused of receiving millions of dollars in bribes from Zindashti and other kingpins.

Ciftci further alleged that Kuzu “used” Erdogan’s son-in-law, former Minister of Economy Berat Albayrak, Vice President Fuat Oktay and Speaker of Parliament Mustafa Sentop to aid his plans.

Peker accused Kuzu of falling prey to his weakness for women, which was later exploited by criminals who blackmailed him in exchange for their silence.

Although many claims have yet to be corroborated, none have been investigated, except for the alleged role of a former Turkish general in the 1996 murder of a journalist from investigation of northern Cyprus occupied by Turkey. Meanwhile, thousands of people who dared to criticize the government have been prosecuted and sentenced to prison, noted Ahmet Sik, a lawmaker from the left-wing Turkish Workers’ Party.

It is unthinkable that Erdogan was not aware of the allegations, said Timur Soykan, an investigative journalist and author of a recent book on the drug wars in Turkey.

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

The government has succeeded in burying previous corruption scandals, including one that highlighted Erdogan’s complicity in a multibillion dollar program to break oil and gold sanctions led by the man. Turkish Azerbaijani Reza Zarrab jailed.

Zarrab is currently serving as a prosecution witness in the Federal District Court case against Turkish state money lender Halkbank, who is accused of being at the center of the money laundering program.

This time around may be different, Sik argues, as the economy – which has long supported Erdogan’s electoral success – is in shambles and voters may be less lenient in the national presidential and parliamentary elections that are to be held in 2023. “Beijing’s claims can be fabricated. or incomplete, but most are true. That’s what the public believes, ”Sik said.

Either way, Erdogan’s dilemma is that he is now hostage to the labyrinth of corrupt transactions “because they are the ones who sustain his power,” says political scientist Esen.

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