The worst way to fight corruption in Turkey

The worst way to fight corruption in Turkey

The voting on four ex-ministers of Turkey’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Parti) government was to take place on Dec. 22.

A day before that, Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu had said he would not think twice to “tear his arm off” if it was his own brother who attempted graft.

The names of the four ex-ministers for interior, economy, urbanization/environment and European Union affairs had been involved in a graft investigation opened on Dec. 17, 2013 and a second on Dec. 25.

Then Prime Minister (now President) Recep Tayyip Erdoğan had left them out of Cabinet and Parliament launched an investigation to see whether their immunity should be lifted to be tried for bribery.

Under normal circumstances, the AK Parti had the majority in the Commission, and as many examples before in Turkish history, the AK Parti MPs could have whitewashed their colleagues, voting there was no need for a trial.

On the other hand, not everyone AK Parti group in Parliament has been thinking the same about those ministers’ innocence. That was despite Erdoğan and Davutoğlu thinking the graft probes were just an excuse for a “coup attempt” by sympathizers of their former ally, U.S.-based moderate Islamist ideologue Fethullah Gülen.

The country is heading for an election scheduled for June 2015 and the MPs have to explain the innocence of the ex-ministers to their constituencies after all. The group was dying to send at least two before the Supreme Court, but Erdoğan thought even a small hole in the wall could grow bigger as to give justification to the “Gülenist plot.”

As a result, despite the AK Parti majority on the Parliamentary Commission, the voting was not able to be completed and was postponed to Jan. 5, 2015.

Was that the challenge of authority that Erdoğan suffered from in his own party since he was elected president in August? It is hard to tell before seeing the actual voting.

But Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, the leader of the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) told the press on Dec. 23 that Davutoğlu has “lost one of his arms.”

That was in reference to Davutoğlu’s “tearing arms off” metaphor. Kılıçdaroğlu was accusing the government of trying to cover the graft allegations by whitewashing the ex-ministers.

Kılıçdaroğlu also said Turkey did not “deserve to be robbed in the name of religion and faith.” He was implying Erdoğan-Davutoğlu’s rhetoric increasingly based on Islamic references; for example to cut a hand, or arm off is a punishment for theft according to Islamic shariah.

The best way to fight corruption in Turkey, as in any other place is to let the courts and media and the checks-and-balances mechanisms work freely for good governance.

The worst way to fight corruption is to ignore corruption allegations, not letting them to be tried in independent courts, trying to put media bans on them, but all the while speak aloud about how you’d fight with them using chilling metaphors.

It’s time for Davutoğlu to endorse his background as a man of conscious.