Thousands of people were deployed at Istanbul's Atatürk airport on Dec. 27 to show their support to Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan amid a graft scandal that has shaken the government. AA photo
Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan
has fulminated against the three ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) lawmakers who resigned from the party expressing criticism over the recent graft scandal.
“We have come this far in our cause together, whatever [the resigning lawmakers] might say. But, I beg your pardon, we won’t say let’s continue to walk together to those who betray us during our journey. Those, we will throw them of the door,” Erdoğan told a crowd of supporters gathered at Istanbul’s Atatürk
airport Dec. 27 to show their support to the government.
The ruling AKP had also organized a similar rally in Istanbul’s main airport during the Gezi protests as a response to the mass demonstrations against the government.
However the party is facing now a significant crack due to corruption allegations implicating four ministers, all replaced by the cabinet reshuffle on Dec. 25. Three lawmakers have announced their resignations from the AKP Dec. 27 after they were sent to the party’s joint disciplinary committee with an expulsion request due to their dissenting stance.
“The people did not vote you so that you can betray your party. The party has an internal discipline,” Erdoğan said. The three lawmakers - Former Culture Minister Ertuğrul Günay, İzmir MP Erdal Kalkan and Ankara
MP Haluk Özdalga - joined former Interior Minister İdris Naim Şahin in resigning over the graft investigation.
“Everything is nice when you are a minister but when you quit your position, you go and say that you don’t like the choice of a minister. Do you have such authority? Know your place first,” Erdoğan said, aiming particularly at the former ministers who were among the resigning deputies.
Erdoğan also accused those who are criticizing the AKP over the graft probe of meddling in corruption in the past. “Those who called this operation a graft operation are the very ones who are corrupted. I know what happened in the past,” he said, adding that the investigation was the sequel of the test prep school row between the government and the movement of the Islamic scholar Fethullah Gülen.
“I’m calling on those who have set their heart on AKP’s cause. Come and say that you don’t need anything other than state schools,” Erdoğan said.
Members of Gülen's Hizmet (Service) movement were outraged after the government announced plans of closing the test prep schools. Gülen's followers saw in the decision an attack against the movement itself and reacted very strongly from various channels.
The high-level graft probe also exposed the gravity of the bitter feud as the government accused Gülen’s movement, whose followers hold key positions in the police, judiciary and secret services, for being responsible of the investigations.
The sons of former Interior Minister Muammer Güler and former Economy Minister Zafer Çağlayan, who handed over their portfolios Dec. 26 after resigning, were among the 24 people who have been formally arrested under the corruption investigation.
A second graft probe was also made public this week with great controversy after the head prosecutor of the case announced the investigation files were “taken from his hands.”
After the rally at the airport, Erdoğan was received by another multitude of supporters in front of his house in Istanbul.