Turkish parliament now grants secret fund to President Erdoğan

Turkish parliament now grants secret fund to President Erdoğan

ANKARA – Turan Yılmaz
Turkish parliament now grants secret fund to President Erdoğan

AA Photo

A regulation granting a discretionary fund for the presidency was passed as part of a government-sponsored omnibus bill in the General Assembly of the Turkish parliament early March 27, despite objection from opposition parties.

The president can use the fund “for state necessities that contain discreet intelligence and defense services; the national security and higher interests of the state; political, social and cultural purposes; and extraordinary services,” according to the regulation passed in parliament, which made changes to the Public Finance Management and Control Law, which provides the discretionary fund for the prime ministry.

How and where the presidential discretionary fund will be used will be defined by a presidential enactment that will only bear the president’s signature. The discretionary fund for the prime ministry is paid with an order that is signed by the prime ministry, the finance minister and the relevant minister for whom the fund is used.

Just like all the other presidential enactments, which are regulated under Article 107 of the constitution, the enactment for the presidency discretionary fund will not be subject to administrative jurisdiction.
A discretionary fund covers a great range of expenditures as it can be used for anything from confidential missions to retrieving cultural monuments overseas, which is seen as necessary for the government and the state. The law forbids the use of this fund for family purposes, adding that the fund cannot exceed the funds given with the overall budget of the relevant year.

The regulation giving a discretionary fund for the president was inserted in the omnibus bill in a motion filed by Interior Minister Sebahattin Öztürk, who was appointed to the post for three months in early March to replace Efkan Ala, who procedurally resigned from his post as part of a constitutional obligation designed to ensure a neutral election environment, which will take place on June 7.
While the fund was defended by ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) deputies, the regulation elicited the objections of opposition party deputies.

Development Minister Cevdet Yılmaz said the discretionary fund was given to a post and not a person, therefore the president, as the head of state, would act responsibly, adding that there was nothing odd about the fund.

AKP Group Deputy Chairman Ahmet Aydın said the fund to be given to the presidency was normal and should also be perceived as normal.

“[The president] has assumed duty to conduct the missions that need to be done for the higher interest of the state. It is absolutely normal that there are some fund allocations to him to pursue according to these national interests. It should be perceived as normal,” said Aydın.

But Republican People’s Party (CHP) Group Deputy Chairman Akif Hamzaçebi objected to the regulation, suggesting that the new fund, which he dubbed as the “presidential coup,” was an attempt to gain control over the Turkish National Intelligence Agency (MİT), which is under the authority of the prime ministry.

“This is a constitutional coup. [President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan] wants to tie the illegal structure inside MİT directly to himself. With this regulation, secret operations will be conducted much more easily under Erdoğan’s instruction,” said Hamzaçebi. “This is treason to the parliamentary system and the prime minister.”

Hamzaçebi added that with the discretionary fund, a “parallel state” had been established inside the presidential palace.

Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) Group Deputy Chairman Oktay Vural questioned the regulation by asking what the president would do with this fund. Vural mocked the presidential discretionary fund by proposing that deputies send one of their monthly salaries to the presidency, as the presidency’s money was not enough, so that a discreet fund was being established.

Meanwhile, regulations on various topics were also passed with the omnibus bill, including a controversial Internet bill.

The new Internet regulation give ministers the power to order the removal or blocking of an online publication to “defend the right to live, secure property, ensure national security and public order, prevent crime and protect public health.”

The Telecommunications Directorate (TİB) can enforce the request of the ministry, with a blanket ban of the offending website if deemed necessary, within a maximum of four hours.

Accordingly, social media users who share content that has been subject to a legal complaint in Turkey will be punished.

The incentive program announced by Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu in early January to encourage working women to have more children by giving them 300 Turkish Liras for a couple’s first child, 400 liras for the second, and 600 liras for the third, while also easing conditions for new mothers to return to their jobs after maternity leave, was also passed with the omnibus bill.

While the bill opened new quotas for the appointment of teachers to schools, which is a long-time problem in Turkey, the quota for the Sports Ministry is being increased due to a reconstruction of the ministry.

The bill also foresees monetary support for Turkish citizens who will marry before the age of 27 and have already raised a certain amount of money for this purpose.