AKP fails to pass the corruption test
On Jan. 20, parliament voted on whether to send four former ministers to the Supreme Council to be put on trial on charges of corruption and graft. Three opposition parties, along with around 40 ruling party lawmakers, voted in favor of sending them to the court, but they failed to provide the necessary 276 votes.
Former EU Minister Egemen Bağış, former Economy Minister Zafer Çağlayan, former Urbanization Minister Erdoğan Bayraktar and former Interior Minister Muammer Güler escaped the vote thanks to the direct intervention of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.
According to Deniz Zeyrek, the Ankara bureau chief of daily Hürriyet, who reported on the “behind the scenes” maneuvering of the vote, the nine lawmakers representing the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) at the parliamentary panel tasked to probe the corruption claims against these four former ministers changed their minds after Erdoğan’s intervention. Zeyrek revealed that former Economy Minister Zafer Çağlayan met with President Erdoğan to directly request his intervention in the panel.
In addition, one of these former ministers directly emphasized to Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu that the trial at the Supreme Council would eventually cause a number of unknown affairs of other AKP officials to surface, therefore damaging the party on the eve of the June parliamentary elections. This anonymous minister was indirectly hinting that President Erdoğan could also be dragged into the case, as the corruption operation launched on Dec. 25, 2013 was directly linked to the then-prime minster.
It could therefore be said that the vote that took place last week not only saved these four former ministers, but also helped Erdoğan distance himself from the corruption-related agenda.
One other dimension of last week’s vote is that it caused a general perception that the party was seriously divided on the issue and that Prime Minister Davutoğlu differed from Erdoğan on it. However, it was eventually shown once again that Erdoğan is still the ultimate leader of the AKP, with Davutoğlu far from exercising his will on the party.
The division in the party over the vote showed that corruption is still a very sensitive issue in Turkish politics, but parliament failed to do what is necessary. It’s unfortunate to see that this parliament has already lost its ability to reflect the people’s will.
Launched in late December 2013, the corruption probe apparently ended with the Jan. 22 vote - the failure of the entire political system in the fight against corruption. Turkey’s rank in the transparency league has further degraded and the AKP is no longer able to call itself a fully clean political party. President Erdoğan has made it clear that he won’t allow judicial processes to investigate corruption claims, perhaps fearing that they could extend to him and his family members.
To cut a long story short, the ruling AKP and its ultimate leader Erdoğan failed the test in the fight against corruption - at the expense of turning Turkey into a corrupt country.