A new corruption row before the first one is over
A cabinet reshuffle of 10 ministers was already traumatic for the political timeline of Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdoğan, but it seems it is not the end of problems started with the big corruption probe in which the names of four of his former ministers were involved.
As the new names in the Turkish cabinet started to leak to the media even before Erdoğan’s meeting with President Abdullah Gül on December 25 evening, the Turkish media was quick to label it as a “War cabinet”.
This was partly because of what Erdoğan had said in the last two days. First, on his way back from Pakistan on December 24, he told reporters on board the plane that those who carry out the corruption probe were actually targeting him and “trying in vain” to hit him over his son Bilal. On another occasion, Erdoğan, in his address to his Justice and Development Party (AK Parti) executives earlier in the day, said that the corruption probe was manipulated by those who were jealous of Turkey’s rising star in the fields of economy, diplomacy and others, so his struggle against those was like a “Second war of independence.”
The second reason for being labeled as a ’War cabinet’ is because of some names he included in the cabinet reshuffle. Erdoğan appointed his undersecretary Efkan Ala as the new Interior Minister to replace Muammer Güler, whose name is involved in the big corruption probe which broke 10 days ago.
To appoint ministers from outside the Parliament is rare in Turkey; there are examples of Kemal Derviş in 2001 and Ahmet Davutoğlu in 2009. Ala is Turkey’s top bureaucrat and he is known to be a hundred percent loyal to Erdoğan. Emrullah İşler, an Arabist and theologist is appointed as the new Deputy Prime Minister; he has worked in Erdoğan’s inner cabinet for years away from public eyes as an advisor before being elected as an MP. Akif Çağatay Kılıç, the new Sports minister has worked as his personal translator of Erdoğan in many top secret meetings and telephone conversations. His father Sinan has worked as Erdoğan’s personal physician for years. Kılıç is now an MP and his loyalty is to Erdoğan more than AK Parti. The fourth of this team of fighters is former Deputy Prime Minister and new Justice Minister Bekir Bozdağ.
The first “fight” broke on the first day of the re-composed government, on December 26. A day before an Istanbul prosecutor, Muammer Akkaş had applied to the police headquarters with the demand of starting another corruption probe in which the names of a number of businessman, politicians, NGOs and in that framework, Bilal Erdoğan’s were allegedly involved. Apparently that was the reason of PM Erdoğan’s fury. The Istanbul police, which had all its department chiefs removed by the government the last week because of not informing the former Interior Minister (whose son was arrested for bribery) in time, did nothing that day, which was quite unusual. In the morning of December 25, Chief Prosecutor of Istanbul Turan Çolakkadı announced that the case was taken from Akkaş. In the afternoon of the same day Akkaş made a written statement saying that the case was taken from his hands without any reason and in the meantime the opportunity was given the accusers to destroy potential evidences by leaking the story to the media, personally blaming the governor, new police chief and chief prosecutor of Istanbul for that. He also claimed that, the act was an “open intervention to and pressure on the judiciary.”
“Who do you want to fight against” asked Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, the leader of the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP;”Is it the state of law?”)
Being far away from settling the first row on corruption allegations, Turkey is now facing another one bringing the government at odds with the judiciary and the police, which are seemingly divided among themselves already.