Can something positive come from this scandal?
Turks say there is something auspicious in every event. This is generally said in the face of bad developments. It amounts to saying “look on the bright side.”
Could the current corruption scandal, which will obviously keep the country riveted for some time to come, end up being such an event?
Some argue it has raised the stakes for Prime Minister Erdoğan who has always claimed that no government before them pursued corruption the way they have. This contention is up in the air now because of the serious allegations that have reached his government, and even members of his family.
Erdoğan, it is said somewhat hopefully, will have to prove doubly now that he is sincere with regard to fighting corruption. I am on the side of those who incline to the opposite view. To say Erdoğan will be a champion against corruption now in order to prove his previous contentions appears to be overly optimistic.
To start with he is on the warpath against the judiciary which used the powers given it under the Constitution to initiate the current probe. He is digging up every conspiracy theory he can in an obvious attempt to save his political neck.
As far as Erdoğan is concerned this judiciary has been absconded by an international conspiracy against him and his Justice and Development Party and must therefore be combated. There is nothing auspicious in this approach.
Erdoğan’s latest suggestion, made in his New Year’s message, is that his government is faced with a “political assassination attempt” through this corruption probe. This indicates clearly that he is more concerned with deflecting the allegations, by means of such exaggerated remarks, than he is about taking these allegations seriously, as he should in any democracy where the judiciary is supposed to be independent.
Even if there were a conspiracy of sorts against his government, which is not impossible to conceive given that this is Turkey and that this scandal broke out only three months prior to critical local elections, the charges by the prosecutor, who has since been removed from the investigation, cannot be disregarded the way Erdoğan and his government are doing.
There is, however, an auspicious aspect to all this for the judiciary and the standard of the Turkish legal system. Steps being taken against the judiciary and the police force are seen by the majority of people as clear efforts by the government to ensure it has enough control to avert such investigations in the future.
These steps, however, have given the nation a good sense of Erdoğan’s respect for the rule of law. His attempt, by means of a hasty decree, to alter the regulations in police investigations and to force detectives to inform their superiors of all their investigations, has already been annulled by the Council of State for violating the separation of powers and thus being unconstitutional.
This has now put the Council of State in Erdoğan’s cross hairs, of course, and if we are to judge by what members of Erdoğan’s cabinet are saying, the government is preparing to introduce legislation which will increase its control over this crucial institution too.
If this happens it is more than likely it will be annulled by the Constitutional Court.
Put another way, Erdoğan and his government are on a collision course with the judiciary. But his is a war they will ultimately lose, even if they win some battles in the interim.
How they hope to convince the public at large, and the international community, that what they are doing is democratic and Constitutional remains a mystery. If, however, the judiciary can withstand the political pressures on it, and prove its juridical mettle, this will be the most auspicious result for Turkey to come out of the current probe. It will also restore faith among common people in the legal system of this country.