Corruption allegations will remain despite this vote

Corruption allegations will remain despite this vote

A government which says it is determined to fight corruption no matter what, and which is led by a prime minister who claims that “he would cut off the arm of his father’s son if he found him to be corrupt,” has missed a golden opportunity to put its money where its mouth is.

The Justice and Development Party (AKP) has prevented four former AKP ministers, against whom judicial analysts claim there is more than reasonable doubt, from being sent to the Supreme Council in order to clear their names of corruption charges and, as a result, save the AKP’s reputation.

Those who have been following the story know that this was the expected outcome because there was much at stake for President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, and the AKP, if the vote in parliament on Tuesday had gone the other way.

Erdoğan’s claim that the corruption charges are part of a plot by a “parallel state” to topple the government would have collapsed if the majority of AKP deputies had voted to send the former ministers to the Supreme Council to stand trial.

In addition to this, corruption allegations stretching all the way up to Erdoğan through his son would also have been revived. A vote to send the former ministers to the Supreme Council, and the revelations to surface there, would also have damaged the AKP’s chances in the June elections.

Legally speaking we do not know if the accused former ministers are guilty or not. Half of the country, however, believes that they are, and this perception will have become more crystallized after Tuesday’s vote. The principle that everyone is innocent until proven guilty does not appear sufficient to alter this perception given what has been revealed so far.

If the ministers are indeed guilty of the charges levelled against them, which involve levels of bribery unheard of in Turkey for government officials, then they are undoubtedly among the world’s luckiest holders of high office.

The really interesting outcome of Tuesday’s vote, however, was not that the accused former ministers were protected by the majority of AKP deputies, but that there were so many AKP deputies who voted against them during the four separate rounds of secret voting.

Their numbers varied between 14 and 48, depending on the former ministers being voted for. While appearing insignificant, given that the AKP has 312 seats in parliament, the number of these AKP deputies nevertheless shows that there are some within the party whose conscience is not at ease.

The anger against these “spoilers,” was also quick to come. AKP deputy Şamil Tayyar, one of the most vitriolic and abrasive members of parliament, immediately declared them to be “the traitors within.” 

With such sentiment being pronounced it is not hard to see that there will now be a witch hunt of sorts within the party, which will also be watched closely from the presidency, to find who these “traitors” are. That too, however, will rock the AKP’s boat in ways that neither Erdoğan nor Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu will be very happy about.

Meanwhile, corruption allegations will continue to linger against the AKP, and there will be many who will be more than pleased to remind the government that it can run but not hide as far as these allegations are concerned. The bottom line is that these corruption allegations will not disappear just because of Tuesday’s vote in parliament.