Erdoğan shoots himself in foot on anniversary of graft probe

Erdoğan shoots himself in foot on anniversary of graft probe

Turkish President Tayyip Erdoğan has been blasting European institutions, the EU and others over their criticism of media freedom, judicial independence and the general quality of democracy here.

It was only a week ago that Ankara hosted a high-ranking EU delegation chaired by Federica Mogherini, asking the EU to resume membership negotiations, which have been almost frozen for years.

Now, the same Erdoğan tells Europe to mind its own business.

Mogherini has said she was surprised by this reaction, proving that she is a beginner in “Erdoğan 101.”

It is obvious that if the timing of the operation against the Zaman media group - which is close to Erdoğan’s former ally, now arch-enemy Fethullah Gülen - was aimed at distracting public attention from the first anniversary of Turkey’s biggest graft probe operation on Dec. 17, 2013, then it failed.

It is true that not only Erdoğan, but also Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu and his Cabinet, believe the graft probes of Dec. 17 and 25 last year - which embroiled Erdoğan’s ministers, comrades and family members - were actually parts of a plot by Gülenists to overthrow the Justice and Development Party (AK Parti) government.

It is also true that for the last year, Erdoğan and Davutoğlu did much to root out Gülenists from the judiciary and the security bureaucracy (just like Gülenists previously did to root out secular modernists on behalf of Erdoğan). Thanks to this purging, the probe files were closed.

(By the way, the deadline for the Parliamentary Commission investigating the bribery accusations against four former ministers under Erdoğan - Muammer Güler, Zafer Çağlayan, Erdoğan Bayraktar and Egemen Bağış - expires on Dec. 26, with rumors that the government might attempt to clear them of all claims by saying they were innocent victims of a Gülenist plot.)

However, it is also true that security and judicial practices in Turkey, not only since the graft probes but for the last seven to eight years, have left deep marks on political, economic and social life.

For example, members of “Çarşı,” the fan group of one Turkey’s oldest sports clubs, Beşiktaş, were tried yesterday for attempting to overthrow the AK Parti government as they supported the Gezi Park protests in June 2013.

It is becoming a common practice for the Erdoğan-Davutoğlu administration to accuse political parties, social associations or media groups to be involved in a coup d’etat conspiracy against AK Parti governments if they talk too much about corruption, judicial independence, or the need for checks and balances in Turkey.

Relations with the EU are a symbolic indication of this grave situation.

When Erdoğan and comrades established the AK Parti in 2000, there were two main policies that distinguished them from the traditional Islamic-conservative line in Turkey, previously represented by Necmettin Erbakan.

The first was the economy. Erbakan supported a “just order,” which meant a hybrid of Arab socialist etatism and utopic corporatism. For Erbakan, supporting a market economy was to share in the sins of ruthless capitalism.

The second was the European Union. Generally the West, but the EU in particular, was seen as a “Christian Club” - the modern version of the Crusades against Islam. As an alternative, Erbakan was in favor of an “Islamic common market.”

Erdoğan and his friends had once given full support for Turkey’s EU target to achieve a high quality democracy, also as a guarantee against the military coups that Turkey has suffered in the past. They also gave full support to a market economy with minimal interference by the government, a position represented by their continuation of Kemal Derviş’s reforms.

Today, after changing the tender and procurement regulations more than 100 times since taking power in 2002, violating their own civil servant examinations system (prompting many accusations of nepotism), trying to cover up corruption allegations by denouncing them as coup attempts, and playing around with the justice system, Mogherini says Erdoğan is giving “surprising” messages to the EU.