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MURAT YETKİN > Second round kicks off in Turkish file-fights

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When I say file, you can take it as the voice or video files, besides the ones on paper, legally or illegally obtained.

On the one hand, the leaked files could be regarded as ways of knowing at least parts of the truth nowadays, when further limits to the right to knowledge are attempted through laws like the recent one on the Internet.

On the other hand, they could be regarded as a means of hitting under the belt, defaming your rivals or opponents through slander, and violating their basic rights.

Leaked files have always been a part of Turkish politics, but since the start of the graft probe on Dec. 17, 2013 the amount of them has reached incredible levels, and no one is immune.

Yesterday, Dec. 19, Aydın Doğan, the founder of Turkey’s influential Doğan Media group, announced that he would sue three newspapers - namely Sabah, Takvim and Yeni Akit - for violating his freedom of communication and privacy. The day before, these papers had targeted him because he was mentioned during a tapped telephone conversation with one of his visitors and Fethullah Gülen on Sept. 24. Doğan said he did not exactly remember what his exact words were, but said that what was said to Gülen was not his style. Gülen, the U.S.-resident moderate Islamist scholar, used to be one of the closest allies of Prime Minister Tayyip Erdoğan, but now even to have had an indirect greeting with Gülen can become a matter of defamation in the pro-Erdoğan press.

But another round of file-fights could be about to start, this time directly aimed at mayoral candidates for March 30 local elections. The reason is that the finalization of the names of candidates in the records of the Supreme Election Board (YSK) on Feb. 18. The fear is that all parties could do their best to force rivals to force their candidates to resign by leaking disgracing files against them, if they have them in their hands.

There is a time limit for that as well. The deadline for resigning from candidacy to let the party show another name for that constituency is March 2. From that date on, even if a party’s candidate withdraws, it would be too late. This is why, according to whispers in the political corridors, those who possess such files may wait for the third round to start after March 2.

At first sight, the ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Parti) seems to have the advantage over the opposition parties the Republican People’s Party (CHP), the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) and the Peace and Democracy Party/People’s Democratic Party (BDP/HDP). This is the advantage of being in power and running the government for nearly 12 years now. But as PM Erdoğan has been saying since the Dec. 17 graft probe started, the Gülenists have been organized within the state apparatus for years, and he is worried about possible “file attacks” against AK Parti candidates.

Erdoğan used to turn a blind eye to the allegations of abuse of telephone tappings for years, as he enjoyed the political outcomes of them. But now the same tool has been turned against him, he is trying to save the day by imposing bills like those on the Internet and the judiciary, which cause Turkey to take steps back in the field of democratization and put it in a difficult position regarding the European Union, which Turkey still wants to be a part of. Not a very pleasant situation at all.

February/20/2014

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