Politicians must publicize their property declarations
In 114 of the 156 countries of the world, politicians have to make a declaration of their property regularly. We are among the 55 countries where declarations of property are not open to public scrutiny.
In 105 countries, candidates have to declare all the donations they have received during election campaigns, as well as their campaign costs. There is no obligation like that in Turkey.
In 94 countries, political parties have to declare donations and other related data about their election campaigns. In Turkey, they do not have to.
Transparency International called on deputy candidates to make public declarations of property before elections in Turkey. Only 39 of thousands of candidates replied.
A portion of them said they ran for office also in local elections when they publicized their declaration of property but this did not make a change in the eyes of the voter.
Some other candidates, especially women candidates, rejected this on the grounds of “privacy.” Others said: “There is party discipline. I cannot do it alone. Let my party decide, then I will make a declaration.”
Another portion said they were rich because of their family or because they had high incomes; thus they did not want to declare it.
Another portion said they had not registered their income correctly and were not paying taxes accordingly, meaning could not make a declaration.
In Turkey, unjust income and declaring less than what you actually earn, as well as tax evasion, are widespread socio-economic issues. Particularly in small places, everybody knows what the other owns and how they make money. However, there is social acceptance. As a result, deputies are members of this society and some of them have reservations about their incomes before they run for office.
Also, after becoming a deputy, the incomes of spouses, children and friends of some deputies increase. For this reason, Transparency International has demanded declarations of property from the immediate family of the deputy.
Civilian auditing is only possible when deputies regularly publicize their declarations of property.
If a deputy makes an incorrect declaration, a journalist or an NGO should be able to disclose it. In countries like Ukraine and Georgia, which we see as less developed than us, civil society is very active in this field. For instance, if a minister in Ukraine declares his income as 1,000 and if his child attends a school that costs 3,000 and his wife drives a luxury car, then an NGO publicizes this situation. Because declarations are open to the public, everybody can follow whether they are true or false.
In such a world, Turkey’s pathetic situation, which is so far removed from transparency, invites political corruption.
Together with the declaration of property, Transparency International is also trying to make deputies sign an “Honesty Commitment.” One of the commitments is about the declaration of the election campaign if the candidate runs for office again. Another one is a commitment to work for the Political Ethic Law.
If deputies sign this commitment, then journalists and civil society can monitor them.
Political parties should also publicize their campaign budgets. This money is provided by our taxes – we have a right to know.
There is a campaign ongoing with the hashtag “DurustlukTaahhutnamesi” in Twitter and through acikvekil.seffaflik.org. The aim is to make deputies sign them or create continuous public pressure to make them sign.
In most countries, transformation is painful, but social pressure and the demand for transparency in every field forces countries to evolve in this matter.
As citizens, the ball is in our court. We should force deputies to publicize their property declarations and sign the commitment for honesty by putting pressure on them.