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The Rule of Law is the Casualty

The Rule of Law is the Casualty

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This policy brief examines the Turkish government's reaction to recent anti-corruption arrests.
This policy brief examines the Turkish government's reaction to recent anti-corruption arrests.

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Published by: German Marshall Fund of the United States on Jan 03, 2014
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06/08/2014

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Summary:
Recent raids, the taking into custody of important personalities, and the subsequent arrests sent shock waves through Turkish society. Prime Minister Recep
Tayyip Erdoğan has made it no
secret that he views the entire situation as a conspiracy against him and his government. The depiction of the challenge he faces as a conspiracy has
allowed Erdoğan to “securitize”
the problem. Rather than focusing on corruption, he has tried to move the discussion to the domain of security, arguing that Turkey is under the threat of a combination of domestic and outside powers that aim to remove the government that represents the popular will and to subvert its policies directed
at beneting the Turkish people. It is difcult to predict how this
struggle will play out. The only casualty so far has been the rule of law.
Analysis
 The Rule of Law is the Casualty 
by İlter Turan
January 3, 2014
W󰁡󰁳󰁨󰁩󰁮󰁧󰁴󰁯󰁮, DC • B󰁥󰁲󰁬󰁩󰁮 • P󰁡󰁲󰁩󰁳 B󰁲󰁵󰁳󰁳󰁥󰁬󰁳 • B󰁥󰁬󰁧󰁲󰁡󰁤󰁥 •
 
A󰁮󰁫󰁡󰁲󰁡 B󰁵󰁣󰁨󰁡󰁲󰁥󰁳󰁴 • W󰁡󰁲󰁳󰁡󰁷 • T󰁵󰁮󰁩󰁳
 
OFFICES
Analysis
Not the Usual Suspects
Te urkish public is used to waves o beore-dawn raids by public prosecu-tors and the police on the homes and offices o bureaucratic and political elites suspected o having committed crimes. Tis was the method employed within the last three years to take into custody some o the top retired officers o the urkish Armed Forces suspected o having plotted a coup against the elected government as well as local government officials suspected o collaborating with the PKK, the Kurdish terrorist organization. What made the December 17, 2013, wave unusual was not how it was conducted but who was involved. High ranking bureaucrats, the mayor o an Istanbul borough, prominent businessmen and the sons o three ministers in Prime Minister Recep ayyip Erdoğan’s cabinet were brought in or ques-tioning. Te sons o Erdoğan Bayraktar (environment and urban affairs), Muammer Güler (interior), and Zaer Çağlayan (external trade) were ques-tioned by judges; the latter two were then arrested.Tose taken into custody were accused o one or more o the ollowing crimes: changing zoning decisions and securing rents to developers in return or bribes, issuing building permits in zones that endangered the saety o the newly built subway system, engaging in illegal trading o gold, money-laundering by bribing bureaucrats, and giving urkish citizenship to oreigners in return or money. In addition, Egemen Bağış, the minister or Euro-pean affairs was allegedly involved in helping an Azeri citizen get Italian citi-zenship in return or pecuniary gain. He could not be questioned because he enjoyed parliamentary immunity.Te raids, the taking into custody o important personalities, and the subse-quent arrests sent shock waves through urkish society. In normally unc-tioning democracies, one would have predicted that the ministers whose sons allegedly used influence that they possessed only because o their athers’ position would have resigned while government officials would have been temporarily removed rom their jobs in order to allow or investigations to proceed smoothly. Prime Minister Erdoğan, however, upon having heard what had transpired, set out to deend all those who had been taken into custody, accusing the prosecutors o having deliberately ailed to inorm him and acting with political moti- vations to undermine the success o
 
Analysis
2
 
Analysis
the government. Apparently, he asked the ministers whose sons were accused to hand in their resignations a ew days later, linking their departure not to the allegations but to a broader cabinet change that had been in the making or some time.
The Grand Conspiratorial Nexus
Ever since the wave o arrests, the prime minister has made it no secret that he views the entire situation as a conspiracy against him and his government. He has talked about array o orces that are plotting to undermine him. Leading the list is the Gülenist Movement, led by a cleric currently residing in Pennsylvania, whose flock is alleged to have penetrated the judiciary and the police. Although the governing AKP has incorporated it into its ruling coali-tion, the movement and its supporters have maintained their distinct identity. Many analysts have attributed the success o the government in bringing the retired top military commanders and some active duty officers to trial or conspiring to organize a military takeover to the determined efforts o public prosecutors and police who were Gülenists. As such, they were dedicated to ending the military tutelage over urkish politics and the hardline secularism o the urkish state.Te symbiotic relationship between the AKP and the Gülenists were not without disagreement on matters o both domestic and oreign policy. But these appear to have been contained until early in 2012, when a public prosecutor decided to invite Hakan Fidan, the head o the urkish Intelligence Agency, or questioning with regard to his meeting the representatives o the PKK in Oslo to discuss peace negotiations. Te prime minister reused to allow his trusted intelligence chie to go to court and rapidly pushed through legislation that would prevent the occurrence o similar contingencies in the uture. He judged the affair to be a show o orce by the Gülenists and an affront to his policies.Shortly aferwards, Erdoğan began making reerences to closing down the college preparatory centers that high school students attend to prepare or the highly competi-tive university entrance exams. Gülenists operate a huge network o these centers, which constitute both a major source o income and new recruits. A recent government ruling that these centers be closed or converted into regular schools was thereore perceived as an existential attack by the Gülenists, culminating in a no-holds-barred fight. Te prime minister has alleged that an apparatus parallel to that o the state has been set up. He intends to cleanse the government o these extra-legal gangs. According to Erdoğan and his advisors, the Gülenists are the major partner in a “motley” coalition that aims to weaken his party and get urkey off the course to becoming a global economic and political actor. Other members o the coalition include the elusive “interest lobby,” İstanbul-İzmir based industrialists, Israel, the United States, some Euro-pean countries, and urkey’s opposition parties, but the list may be expanded as occasions warrant.
Securitizing and Polarizing Politics
Why is Erdoğan so inclined to conspiratorial explana-tions or everyday politics? o begin with, he operates in a cultural
milieu
 that is satisfied by conspiratorial explana-tions without submitting them to the difficult task o being supported by evidence. Second, there may be elements in the prime minister’s psychology that avails him to sinister interpretations o events. Such proclivities as may exist are exacerbated by a circle o advisors whose limited exper-tise about the world predispose them to being content with conspiracy-based analyses, reinorcing those o the prime minister. Tird, Erdoğan perceives any challenges to his power or his policy preerences as being subversive. Tis may reflect an authoritarian streak in his personality. But, ourth, the idea that the Gülenist networks pose an organized challenge to the policies o the ruling party and to Erdoğan himsel is probably not a wholly inaccurate appraisal.Te depiction o the challenge he aces as a conspiracy has allowed Erdoğan to “securitize” the problem. Rather than ocusing on corruption, he has tried to move the discussion to the domain o security, arguing that urkey is under the threat o a combination o domestic and outside powers that aim to remove the government that represents the popular will and to subvert its policies directed at benefiting the urkish people. Tis is a strategy o polarization that the prime minister has employed in the past. Te intention is to increase the political distance between government and

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