Does an election win conceal corruption?
The March 30 local elections will be a “test” for Turkey’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Parti) according to Prime Minister Tayyip Erdoğan.
He said this twice during his program in Berlin on Feb. 4; firstly at the German Foreign Policy Association, secondly during his joint press conference with German Chancellor Angela Merkel.
Here are Erdoğan’s exact words:
“We have been in power with the increasing support of the people since the elections on Nov. 3, 2002. We have gone through three parliamentary elections, two local elections, and two referendums, and succeeded in all of them. Now, we are going to have another election on March 30, and this is going to be a real test. If people choose us as the first party once again, it will mean that this government is honest, that this government indeed continues to work for the people as they deserve.”
Erdoğan also added during the press conference that the local elections would not be an election where local administrators would be elected, but where trust in the parties will be demonstrated.
The Turkish PM’s remarks are based on three assumptions:
1) It is important that the AK Parti will be the first party, even if its support decreases from the 50 percent of the 2011 elections.
2) It is not important if the AK Parti puts forward mayoral candidates without municipal or urban experience, or who are not very favorable for AK Parti voters. The continuation of party loyalty is important.
3) If AK Parti becomes the top party in the polls, the corruption allegations should become void and drop, because it will be the winner of the local elections.
The first two of those three assumptions are not the business of anyone other than AK Parti voters. It is up to them to vote on whoever they will, and according to which criteria.
But the third one involves not only all Turkish people, but the democratic system in the country.
Because the prime minister assumes that winning a local election should be regarded as an “honesty” ticket, guaranteeing an advance clarification for all AK Parti members from possible corruption charges.
But in democracies, to acquit anyone of corruption charges or any crime, is neither the business of municipalities, nor the central government, nor the Parliament, but of independent courts. Otherwise, it contradicts with the understanding of the rule of law and liberal democracy.
Voters’ selection of an administration doesn’t give the administrator the license to commit a crime.
Let’s give an example:
Yesterday on Feb. 4, Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, the leader of the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) voiced serious claims about the illegal funding of pro-government Sabah newspaper and ATV broadcaster on Erdoğan’s instructions, and under the coordination of former Transportation and Communications Minister (now the AK Parti mayoral candidate for İzmir) Binali Yıldırım. They demanded a total of $630 million from businessmen who won giant tenders from the government.
Similar allegations have been officially voiced to Erdoğan by a CHP deputy, Umut Oran. Afterwards, the web watchdog, TİB, asked Oran to remove those claims from his parliamentary webpage, which was unconstitutional. Yıldırım’s replacement, Lütfü Elvan, had to apologize to Oran on that point.
Perhaps Kılıçdaroğlu’s voicing of the claims under the parliamentary roof was a preemptive move against the possibility of new government regulations to delete the traces of corruption allegations in the digital environment, by bringing to the parliamentary records.
Now, if AK Parti becomes the first party in the March 30 elections, will such corruption claims, or the claims that surfaced with the Dec. 17, 2013 graft probe, be considered null and void? Will the government tell prosecutors, “You cannot probe allegations against winning party members,” and judges that they cannot judge?
That would be a problem.
Winning elections in liberal democracies does not delete or conceal corruption. That remains the duty of independent courts.