Can we believe our property rights are under protection in Turkey anymore?

Can we believe our property rights are under protection in Turkey anymore?

Something very serious has been happening in Turkey, prompting many of us to question whether our property rights are still under protection. This “simple” question has dramatic ramifications with regard to the country’s economic future, as well as its democracy. 

You must have heard the latest news. It has been decided a trustee panel will be appointed to administer the Koza İpek group, a corporation linked to the government’s ally-turned-nemesis, U.S.-based Islamic scholar Fethullah Gülen. The ruling came after a request from the Ankara Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office, just a few days before the crucial Nov. 1 elections. According to company officials, the ongoing Finance Ministry investigation has found nothing unusual in the group’s finances, and they first heard what was happening from Turkey’s state-run news agency, as opposed to receiving any legal notification. Ultimately, the trustees yesterday started their new job in the group - which is active across several fields, from gold mining to education and media - according to the business group’s lawyers.

A court search warrant in September showed that Koza Altın and group firm Koza Anadolu Metal were being investigated on suspicion of terror financing, terror propaganda and other crimes related to Chairman Akın İpek’s alleged support for Fethullah Gülen. The appointment of the trustees is a part of an ongoing investigation and the company plans to file an objection to the decision by next week, just after the Nov. 1 elections. We’ll be following the judicial process, although unfortunately most of us have big questions about the independence of the courts.

Such concerns are not baseless. We have seen that an administrative trustee panel has been appointed to a total of 22 companies upon the request of a prosecutor. The 5th Court of Peace said this step was taken in order to “execute a healthy investigation” and to “uncover material truths” in line with the 133rd Article of the Code of Criminal Procedure (CMK). It is not possible to question whether our property rights are under protection here. 

What is worse is that the people appointed as trustees are close to the government, the leader of the Republican People’s Party, Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, said yesterday. 

These are part of an ongoing legal action, so let me cut this part here. Basically, this case has the potential to damage Turkish people’s confidence in the judicial system, which has already be badly hit. Indeed, the satisfaction of Turkish citizens with the judicial system is already well below the OECD average.

Even former Deputy Prime Minister Ali Babacan has underlined the need for a detailed judicial reform, referring to the decreasing confidence in the system across the country. Who exactly will pass these long-awaited reforms is still a big unknown for us. 

In economic terms, capital flows to where it feels secure and safe. Is it possible for businesspeople to invest in a country and to create employment where they barely have confidence in the institutions and the judicial system? 

Turkey urgently needs a government - either a coalition or whatever. A cabinet that can gain a vote of confidence from parliament, and which will be able to draw a road map and take tough economic decisions.

In the longer term, Turkey needs to increase the quality of its education system and reform its judicial system. Only through such changes can investor confidence be ensured, thus helping the country escape what is dubbed the “middle-income trap.”

A cabinet, majority or coalition, that is able to govern the country must be established after the Nov. 1 election to achieve these goals. Otherwise, things will surely get worse, at least in economic terms.