Power corrupts, it corrupted the AKP too

Power corrupts, it corrupted the AKP too

Turkey’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) will soon celebrate its 13th year in power.

Moreover, no one doubts that it will win the upcoming elections on June 7 as well, gaining four more years as incumbent. In fact, the party’s stated aim is to rule Turkey single-handedly until 2023, the centennial of Republic, if not beyond. Party propaganda even speaks about its “2071 targets,” which basically means that the AKP wants to put its stamp on the entire 21st century.

This much power feels good, I am sure, for those who hold it. It also attracts a lot of power-worshippers. But it has a terrible consequence, pointed out nicely more than a century ago by Lord Acton, the wise liberal thinker: “Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.” This much power has corrupted the AKP too, and this corruption only becomes more absolute as the party’s power becomes more and more absolute.

By corruption, I don’t merely mean financial corruption — the widespread the regime of nepotism and bribery. That is all too obvious, and is not even denied by some relatively frank AKP voices, such as Etyen Mahcupyan, an adviser to the prime minister. The even more burning problem is the arrogance and aggressiveness that power has injected into the AKP. The party was once a modest and civil reform movement, defending the natural rights of religious conservatives (such as the right to wear a headscarf) against an overbearing secular establishment. Now it is an even more overbearing establishment itself, insulting and intimidating everybody who dares to stand in its way, with all sorts of lies and libels.

A notable person who recently spoke about this transformation from victim to aggressor is former bureaucrat Durmuş Yılmaz, who served for years as the governor of the Central Bank under the AKP.

When he was appointed to the job in 2006, some secularists made fun of him and his credentials, simply because his wife wears a headscarf and his traditional lifestyle is no match for the wining-and-dining Istanbul elite. However, Yılmaz soon shamed his critics by his highly successful management of the Turkish Lira. In 2009, he was selected as the world’s best central bank governor by Euromoney magazine.

It is this Yılmaz, somebody from the religious core of the AKP universe, who recently spoke out against President Tayyip Erdoğan’s populist (and in fact irrational) jabs at the current Central Bank administration. Last week, Yılmaz also announced that he is entering politics on the ticket of the Nationalist Action Party (MHP) in the upcoming general election. A few days ago, he spoke to the press and said the following: “We had dreams, we had beliefs. We were not going to lie. We were going to tell the truth and accept our mistakes, even this went against our interests. We would side with the just. At this point, however, many of these ideals of mine have collapsed. What has happened in Turkey in the past four or five years has been a major blow to my dreams.”

“Unfortunately,” Yılmaz added, “power makes man dirty.” He then reminded of a line by the Islamist poet Necip Fazıl: “We have melted an iceberg with our warm breaths, but what we had at the end is a pool of mud.”

Yılmaz is right. The result of the 13-year-long AKP experiment is a tragic story of a loss of values and the bitter triumph of Machiavellianism. The fact that the AKP’s rhetoric is only getting more and more self-righteous should not blind anyone to this ugly scene. This rhetoric is actually only heavy make-up used to cover the ugly scene.