Pineapple republic

Pineapple republic

Last year, Turkey ranked last among 34 nations, according to the OECD’s Better Living Index (based on 11 selected criteria including health, education, environment, personal security and income).

According to the Transparency International’s assessment --before a wave of shocking graft allegations that have been shaking Turkey since Dec. 17-- Turkey ranked 53rd on a global Corruption Perceptions Index. A third of Turks reported paying bribes in 2010.

On the international press freedom index, as revealed last year, Turkey ranked 154th. And on the United Nations’ 2013 Human Development Index, it ranked 90th, below Saudi Arabia (57th) and Iran (76th).

But there are better figures, too. Turkey’s economy is the world’s 64th freest, according to the Heritage Foundation whose findings discovered that: “Turkey struggles with corruption, cronyism, and nepotism in government and daily life… The judiciary is independent, but in practice, the government can influence judges through appointments, promotions, and financing.” And that, too, was pre-Dec. 17.

Turkey remains a “hybrid regime,” according to the Economist Intelligence Unit’s Democracy Index, which measures democratic culture in a total of 167 countries. Turkey’s political identity, a hybrid regime, is one category below the global second worst, “flawed democracy.” Ironically, “EU-candidate Turkey” must work harder to upgrade itself to a “flawed democracy.”

Most recently, the prestigious Human Rights Watch (HRW) released its 667-page assessment on the rule of law in Turkey (Turkey: Growing Intolerance for Dissent, HRW, Jan. 21, 2014). Here are some of the watchdog’s findings, partly excluding the events that, in the words of parliament speaker Cemil Çiçek, led to the demise of the constitutional rule on the separation of powers:

“Harsh police crackdowns on protesters, a muzzled press, unfair trials, and a deeply flawed criminal justice system have marked Prime Minister [Recep Tayyip] Erdoğan’s government’s human rights record in 2013.
“After the report went to press, government attempts to limit corruption investigations implicating ministers and the prime minister’s son further threatened justice and the rule of law.

“During the Istanbul Gezi park protests and those in other cities between late May and September, the police severely injured scores of nonviolent protesters and six people died. Police officers are facing trial proceedings for killing two protesters, but there have been no prosecutions of the police for serious injuries and excessive use of force.

“An indication of entrenched resistance to holding public officials and military accountable for abuses was the lack of justice for victims and their families two years after the December 2011 Turkish air force bombardment that killed 34 Kurdish villagers in Uludere.

“Government pressure on the media was reflected in the biased or muted coverage of the Gezi protests. Restrictions on free speech and association were also evident in the high number of prosecutions and ongoing trials of journalists, political activists, lawyers, and students. Lengthy pretrial detention remains the norm, despite judicial reform efforts.

“The use of mass trials, in which multiple defendants face charges of terrorism or plotting a coup, have raised serious concerns that such trials are unfair and politicized. These concerns overshadowed the Ergenekon trial dealing with coup plots against the government in the early 2000s, which concluded in August without examining human rights abuses in which key defendants are implicated.”

But if there were a global index on political irony and bitter amusement, Turkey would have ranked in the top 10. Most recently, the main opposition leader revealed the official minutes of a conversation between the Justice Ministry’s Undersecretary and İzmir’s chief prosecutor who had launched fraud claims in İzmir Harbor that engulfed a relative of Mr. Erdoğan’s mayoral candidate for the same city.

“Go just at this hour [10:31 pm], replace the prosecutor [of the investigation], abolish all decisions, and halt this investigation. If you do not do this, you will face the consequences,” the chief prosecutor quoted the Undersecretary as ordering him during the phone conversation.

Around the same time, Prime Minister Erdoğan, in Brussels, firmly asserted: “We shall never let Turkey become a Pineapple Republic.”