Luxury, flashiness and power

Luxury, flashiness and power

Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu frequently warns against “luxury, showiness, nepotism and favoritism” in his party and often mentions “being virtuous.” Most recently, he has warned his candidates on these matters, asking them to avoid luxury cars and gaudiness during the election campaign. 

This shows both Prime Minister Davutoğlu’s genuine sensitivity and how the power of governing has caused deteriorated tendencies such as “luxury, glitz, nepotism and favoritism” in the Justice and Development Party (AKP). 

The relationship between deterioration or corruption and power was expressed by Professor Davutoğlu with these words: “In every political movement, there could be power-related mistakes,” (August 28, 2015). Yes, in every political movement! 

The proof that being conservative does not prevent deterioration is corruption claims and international reports that take these claims seriously. It is the closing of files through political power and finally, it is the new prime minister feeling the need to constantly warn.  

This tendency emerges in whoever has power… Even in 1926, Ağaoğlu Ahmet informed Gazi (Atatürk) in a report, “The party of the reform [the People’s Republican Party] is submerged in corruption.” 

It is known in the period of Third Caliph Uthman (Osman) how “worldly possessions” cause degenerations. Islamist Professor İhsan Süreyya Sırma in his book “The History of Muslims” explains these incidents Muslims should draw lessons from, openly and directly, without any comments. In the 19th century, liberal philosopher Lord Acton said, “Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely…” 

What should be done?   

So, should everybody be powerless? Should there be no public power and those using it? No. There have been perfect moral examples of emperors and leaders in the histories of the East and the West. However, humankind has noticed with experience throughout many centuries that this issue is not only a personal moral issue but it is a system issue. 

For this reason, the idea of “separation of powers” has been developed. It is for powers not to be collected at one center; on the contrary, it is for powers to control and balance each other.  

Independent public auditing institutions such as Supreme Court of Public Accounts (Sayıştay) have been formed. Independence of the justice is the most important issue. To prevent the majority of the parliament from abusing its power, Constitution Courts have been formed. 

A free press and strong civil society are necessary not only for politics to be pluralistic but also for control. According to the European Court of Human Rights, freedom of press is essential for “public control.”

In developing countries, economy players’ fortunes also grow. I wish we had more families like Koç’s and Sabancı’s… I wish the “Anatolian tigers” were more and bigger… I wish our total capital was bigger and more widespread…  

It is indeed good for pious people to enter the market and get rich with economic rationalization. However, creating fortune through “giving state tenders to supporters, political favoritism and nepotism” as Fareed Zakaria wrote in his oil example creates “political feudality.”

However, what is needed is growth with economic rationalism. Political support should not be given to individuals or companies but to regions and sectors, such as “SME support” or “R&D support…” 

This is possible with liberal democracy, independent public institutions, transparency in management and rule of law in every aspect of life in a country. 

When institutions and rules are weakened, then words like “be virtuous, avoid gaudiness” are left hanging in the air.