How Erdogan’s Troubles Are Good for Turkey

The massive corruption scandal that has rocked the Turkish government, may be bad for its Prime Minister, but good for Turkey in the long-term

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Burhan Ozbilici / AP

Turkey's Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan speaks during a news conference in Ankara, Turkey, on Dec. 18, 2013.

Translation does not do proper service to Adalet ve Kalkınma Partisi, the full name of the party headed by Turkey’s besieged Prime Minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan. In English, it comes out as “Justice and Development Party.” But in the country it has dominated for more than a decade, the party is known by its all-important initials, AK, two letters that form a word understood as “white,” “pure,” “clean” or, best of all, “unblemished.”

Those qualities constituted the fundamental appeal of the newly-minted party at the moment of its creation, in 2001: More than it ever was “Islamist,” AK Parti (AKP) was a populist effort in a Muslim country where staunchly secular parties just one year earlier had driven the economy deep into the ground, with the gross national product falling into negative territory and the country’s currency, the lira, losing a third of its value. What AKP promised was reform. Religious piety, too, but chiefly as the quality that informed the character of its leadership — just as it did the surging Anatolian business establishment that lined up behind it, and the heartland Turk to which it made its appeal.

“Are you ready to bring an AK Parti government with your votes as white as your mothers’ milk?” Erdogan asked in his stump speech, the same one that railed against “those who emptied the banks.” The crowd of textile workers and shopkeepers roared their approval, as it has in every election since.

“Everybody’s religious belief is something personal,” a laborer named Nevzer Birtekin told me after the Istanbul rally. “But he’s honest. That’s what determines it for me.”

Today, having overseen the expansion of a Turkish economy that’s triple the size of what it was when he took office, Erdogan staggers under the weight of a corruption scandal that rises directly from the extraordinary success of his no-longer unblemished party: As the most dominant player in Turkish politics, the AKP grew only more powerful and cozy with its business backers.

On Dec. 18, police reported finding $4.5 million in shoe boxes in the home of manager of the state-owned Halkbank. The sons of three ministers were arrested; then eight days later their fathers resigned their government posts. The one said to be closest to the premier, urban planning minister Erdogan Bayraktar, declared on a private news channel that Erdogan should step down too, saying “the majority of the construction plans” at issue in the corruption case were approved on his order.

It was a galvanizing moment, all the more so for what was happening at almost the same instant in Cairo: The Egyptian government was declaring the Muslim Brotherhood a terrorist organization – the same group that, six months earlier, held the presidency and parliament, each won by free elections, until the military coup of July 3.

It’s the kind of thing that used to happen in Turkey: Four times since 1960 the secular Turkish military pushed aside elected governments. But today, the generals remain on the sidelines, defanged in a massive coup-conspiracy case brought by the same prosecutor now knocking on Erdogan’s door.

The prosecutor, Muammar Akkas, has been knocked off the case, as were several hundred police officers. But it’s all happening in plain view, amid a tumult that can only be described as invigorating. Like the street protests that erupted across Turkey over the summer (also occasioned by a real estate project), the latest crisis tests not so much Erdogan – whose vainglory appears impervious to events – but the strength of Turkish democracy, which in the space of just months shows signs of maturing. News outlets that ignored the summer protests out of fear of the prime minister – Turkey leads the world in jailed journalists — have been breathless on this story. Over the past weekend, two papers published a copy of the prosecutor’s summons for Erdogan’s own son, Bilal, on suspicion of “forming a criminal gang.”

Erdogan says his primary tormentors are aligned with a former supporter, Fethullah Gulen, the Turkish leader of a formidable, moderate Islamic movement who lives in Pennsylvania. If the allegation is true, count it as yet another achievement of an AKP teetering under the weight of its success: The fault line in Turkish public life now runs between two publicly religious politicians (both of them followers of  Islam’s mystical and tolerant Sufi strains). If the focus stays on facts — with the media and judiciary showing their work — the scandal might well leave Turks with what they’ve never quite had: a democracy in more than name.

“At some point there was bound to be a correction,” says Hugh Pope, who follows Turkey for the International Crisis Group. “Erdogan still has reserves of raw political power, but will have to convincingly reach back to the AKP’s more reform-minded, inclusive past if he is to convince Turkish voters in the coming series of elections that he is still in tune with the mainstream.”

What’s not on the line in Turkey is that thing Erdogan’s career was always supposed to be about: The future of political Islam. In an earlier incarnation, Erdogan was indeed a proud political Islamist – one who believes that the teachings of the Koran must be put into effect governing the nation. But his personal ambition turned out to be stronger, and he bent his philosophy to fit Turkey’s resolutely secular democratic structure. The result was a watershed in Middle Eastern political history: “The Turkish Model” of democratic governance in a Muslim nation.

Frequently invoked in the immediate afterglow of the Arab Spring as an option for Arab neighbors groping for a way forward without despots, Erdogan took it on the road in 2011. His first stop was Egypt. “The Turkish state is in its core a state of freedoms and secularism,” he said in Cairo. A couple years on—with the Islamist parties in Egypt and Tunisia that Erdogan backed now banned or in retreat—it’s not clear anyone was listening. At least not with the same attention evident when Erdogan stood before that crowd of textile workers in Istanbul a decade earlier.

“This has got nothing to do with Islam,” a man named Abdullah Kocak told me at the time. “We see a hope here.”

56 comments
Vuslat Eksi
Vuslat Eksi

i've enjoyed reading the comments more than the article itself

SuhailShafi
SuhailShafi

Mr Erdogan is the most competent leader Turkey has had in over a generation and he still commands support from the majority of the Turkish public. But he and his administration needs serious soul searching over the way it has alienated some Turks with its autocratic tendencies.


Aysenil
Aysenil

The problem remains that a majority of illiterate and uneducated women are still behind him, and will still vote for him in the upcoming elections. Further proof that a country is only as developed as its women are educated. Erdogan must of course go, but long-term investments have to be made to improve social and cultural status of women in Turkey. While a small minority is highly educated, the majority is still treated as second class citizen, abused (physically and emotionally), illiterate and capable of tilting elections. They are used to "dictatorship" in the household, and do not react or even comprehend how manipulative and corrupt Erdogan is.

SamPaul
SamPaul

The big problem for Turkish democracy is the lack of alternative offered by the country's opposition parties.

Szaybeque
Szaybeque

What appears to be going on in Turkey is this. Erdogan is a Saudi supported Islamist whereas his allies, the Fetullah Gulenists are U.S. suppported Islamists--for those who don't know Fetullah Gulen lives in compound in Pennsylvania with a green card obtained with the help of two former CIA agents.

It seems the Gulenists/US have become uncomfortable with Erdogan and are making a move to take him down using Erdogan's weakness: his corruption and alleged crimes committed while in office. Erdogan is fighting against the takeover by eliminating the separation of powers and consolidating all government power in his hands, the judiciary, the legislative and the state's police power.

Meanwhile, the public loses. As with everything in the Middle East, the best thing here for all would be for the U.S. And the Saudis to butt out and leave the Turks to elect a government that is truly independent and works exclusively to promote the interests of Turkey and it's people.

nipped
nipped

Dear Lori,


It's about the rule of law. RTE has personally admitted he ordered the police to intervene last summer resulting in some of the worst human rights violations in recent Turkish history committed by his police force. The judiciary he appointed then started to convict persons who were doing their democratic duty in protesting. In any democracy in the world you have to keep criticizing your leaders, even if you voted for them. He used the judiciary and law enforcement when he needed them and praised them for their harsh responses. Now he and his henchmen are being investigated by the same system he himself commended before. If you are a righteous and a member of a party called the JUSTICE AND DEVELOPMENT PARTY, you have to respect the rule of law. If you are wrongfully convicted you can appeal and the process has been designed not to incarcerate innocent people. So rapidly changing these laws has shown that he does have something to fear and indicates wrongdoing. 


If you believe in conspiracies, you must know the golden rule. Only a few can be part of it otherwise it becomes public knowledge, not thousands.... 


RTE will face the law in the end. All these leaders do.... I hope there will be a ICC case and ECHR against him and all indicators show that in the end there will be. If he is that innocent, he can prove it. 


For now he needs to face it that Turks do not want a leader that constantly shouts, calls people names and see every kind of opposition as an international conspiracy. Respect those who offer you criticism, answer it with the same respect and work together for the future of the country, not just for those who voted for him..... 


The result of all this will be a pluralistic political system with multiple conservative and secular parties, dropping of the immense 10% voter threshold,  a country ruled by coalitions and where everyone is being respected. 


Regards from Turkey,

Ilker Nedimoglu
Ilker Nedimoglu

You've only been fed with the usual lies and propaganda they're propagating, which gullible Muslims are prone to believe. Turkey is neither the ninth richest country nor will it become an atomic power (whatever use that has). We've only regressed in the last ten years. Political Islam is nothing but a recipe for disaster. The sooner any Muslim country discards this folly and joins the rest of the civilised world the better. I see that you're an Afghan. Of course compared to your country Turkey must look like Switzerland. :)

kon-tiki
kon-tiki

Erdogan is on a fast track to get the country back to stone age. Already he has alienated Turkey from West and is despised by its neighbours Egypt and Syria. His Islamic Ideologies like converting the churches to Mosques has earned the wrath of the Christians. Segregation of Dorms. Curfews  for closing Bars. Allowing Head Scarfs. I am sure Kemal Pasha Ataturk will be turning in his grave now with this guy at the helm. 

Musa Polat
Musa Polat

when political balances, political stiuation of middle east change,than changes governments in TURKEY . İRAN(rusıa)-USA which great powers of middle east compromised on rich underground resources and energy resources of middle east .. prime minister of Turkey and Spain are co-chairman of Mİddle East Project whıch about provide the security of İsrael and cahnge of border and governments 23 middle east states. Turkey and Spain failed to carry out this project..and now both government accuused corruptıons to leave them in a difficult situatıon and create change of government and go into liquidation in middle east..

Muhammed Yakup Çetin
Muhammed Yakup Çetin

diplomasi hocam diplomasi bu bazen siyasal etikin dışına çıkar hatta genelde.

LorieTurner
LorieTurner

Can the attempts to topple this man be any more transparent?
People posting here shouldn't forget that a big MAJORITY of Turks in Turkey and abroad support him.  Just because there are attempts to blacken his name, a minority youth who don't even remember or know what it was like 10 years ago and are protesting for their rich moms and dads who had it very well under the old deep state.  RT Erdogan will be re-elected PM again or elected President.  Anyone who doesn't think so is obviously buying into the current propaganda.

Musa Polat
Musa Polat

prominent cleric Fethullah Gulen which leader of moderate İSLAM,congregation OF fettullah and his supportes in law enforcement agency and intelligence service and EERDOGAN government arrested tens of innocent journalist and politicans unjustly...and now they are conflict eachother

LorieTurner
LorieTurner

Can the attempts to topple this man be any more transparent?

AymanAgamy
AymanAgamy

The end of political Islam started in Egypt and won't stop in turkey. if this man goes it would be a good thing for the world.

Bugra Selluncak
Bugra Selluncak

size ne lan elin derdi sizi mi gerdi gidin kendi obamacarenizle ugrasın

Ramazan Zağlı
Ramazan Zağlı

this guy is a great chance for turkey...if he is loses it means loses turkey

Cemal Gumus
Cemal Gumus

Erdogan is the greatest leader that I've ever seen. We support him forever.

Ahmadshah Afghan Afghan
Ahmadshah Afghan Afghan

I know him very well and i proud of him as well its all the propaganda of Zionist and U,S,A he bring turkey as a biggest ninth country a cross the world he don a lot of things for his own pplz now the Zionist is very abut their destiny soon if u have erdogan the turkey will be atomic and full economical Islamic country and they will tak down the enemy of Islam we pray for him may all bless him

Yonca Kunt
Yonca Kunt

Getting bad situation. It is not good for us :(

Aytaç Yarıktaş
Aytaç Yarıktaş

Dear Afghan you know everything better than the citizens of Turkish Republic ? I dont understand this either, everyone talks without any knowledge. You have even no idea about what is going on it seems like.

LorieTurner
LorieTurner

Dear nipped,

All you have stated above the final line is a matter of perspective and opinion.  Can you honestly say that RTE personally ordered them people to be killed and that that all the gezi protestors were peaceful and not politically motivated? Did the police open live fire against the crowds like they do in Egypt? You seem to want to only look at things from one angle whilst ignoring the other arguments. 

The fact that you believe he will face ICC or ECHR really just shows how naive your thinking is.  There are many other politicians that deserve to go to ICC of ECHR but do they? Do you think Putin or Obama will as a result of orders that they gave while in power? Bush caused much of the worlds current problems but is he paying? 


You are correct that he can be a little outspoken and fiery but that is his job and that is his style of politics.  People may be sick of seeing it but the simple matter is that a large majority of Turks support him which will be made clear in the next election. 


Also the pluralistic political system that you mentioned was what Turkey had for decades before the AKP rose to power.  I don't want to list here point by point what was wrong with it but simply that Turkey was a haven for corruption, debts to IMF, living standards much below par, you name it, we had it.  If you are in your 20's tho you would not remember those days and if your older you are clearly ignoring facts.  I remember an Istanbul with dirt roads, sewerage running on the side of the roads, some trees but nothing close to the amount now (and even they would be covered in dirt and grit.) Do you really want Turkey to return to the old system? 


At the end unless they bring him down in an undemocratic manner he will clearly still be the preferred leader of a majority of (so called uneducated) Turks.  


sincerely a Turk


twocuteblogs
twocuteblogs

AKP 6000 go! Do your illiterate duty and contradict the above.

Szaybeque
Szaybeque

Why don't you identify specifically who is trying to topple him?

LorieTurner
LorieTurner

How can you be a dictator if you have been elected in 4 or 5 FREE & FAIR (monitored) elections?  Do you understand what a dictator is?

Ali_Karp
Ali_Karp

He has been a "great chance" for family and allies... 

Ali_Karp
Ali_Karp

Great in corruption. No one has seen corruption to this extent in Turkey's history.

Ali_Karp
Ali_Karp

He is very good at deceiving people. I see he was able to charm you as well.

LorieTurner
LorieTurner

Why attack him for? Why because he doesn't tow your way? Why don't you be so kind and tell us your knowledge?  BTW i am a citizen so explain very carefully with facts not made up bolony

nipped
nipped

@LorieTurner A question for you. 


If this parallel state has been thriving under the AKP and has only grown in strength, will the AKP take accountability for that? admit to wrongdoing? Will their supporters punish mr Erdogan for letting that happen in the last decade? 


Or are we just going to point fingers at others?

nipped
nipped

@LorieTurner 

The facts: 


Erdogan admitted to giving the order for police action in a speech in Istanbul. After the deaths took place he commended the police force for their actions. I witnessed many of these police actions even attacking a hotel in Ankara with only families, journalists and business men. Far away from any demonstrator.... 


Comparing wrongs doesn't make it right. I agree Bush should be at the ICC just as well... I know there is a case being built, read the ECHR responses. 


He is not only outspoken, he intentionally offends people, but those who offend him get sued. Even on social media. 


He is losing the support from his own MP's. 


The economy has been following world averages, but tripled the national debt under Erdogan. It even under-performed in the last few years.


Your leader has called for a war of independence!!!!!!! a war!?! against his own people.... 


Law is not an undemocratic manner, it stems from democracy itself and is its backbone. For a leader to change it to his advantage is undemocratic and has been proven illegal by the higher courts..


The 10% threshold was there before, he didnt introduce it, but he could sure remove it. When removing those votes, the AKP never had more than 50% of the votes. Meaning more Turks are against the AKP than support it..... 


YurdaBudak
YurdaBudak

he is not a dictator but he is an Authoritarian...Authoritarian is defined as: favoring or enforcing strict obedience to authority, esp. that of the government, at the expense of personal freedom.

Do you even understand what's going on in Turkey or the mentality there? BTW, I am a citizen also...

Ali_Karp
Ali_Karp

@LorieTurner  Here are a few reasons why I don't support him and his cohorts: He does not "tow" the democratic way. He is in charge of one of the most corrupt administrations in Turkey. He cannot tolerate any dissent, many journalist are either in jail or lost their jobs for writing articles critical of him, including two personal friends of mine. All major contracts go to firms that support him politically, including some that employ his relatives. I can go on and on, but this is a starter into AKP and Erdogan shenanigans. 

YurdaBudak
YurdaBudak

will explain it with one word for you the citizen: CORRUPTION...is that enough for you?

DeryaOzak
DeryaOzak

 @LorieTurner Just you asking this questions tells me so much about you, the fact that you are not a Turk and the fact that you really don't understand what is going on there, it's ok you have an American mentality and are still ignorant to the fact that John Kerry himself asked the Turkish government to create a 'red line' with Syria in an effort to invade the country, oh wait no American media outlet has reported on this yet...I guess we'll just wait for the land of the free to take some accountability and admit to their wrongdoing too.  @nipped

DeryaOzak
DeryaOzak

The only people who call him a dictator are people like you @LorieTurner, aren't you too busy waiting for you child to come back from buying bread for breakfast, hope he comes back safe the Turkish LORI TURNER, when will you be accountable for your disillusioned opinions, no worries if you are indeed in Turkey you won't be allowed to have those after August so enjoy your 'independent" thoughts while you're still allowed to think them (we all know you can't voice them now in Chi... or I mean Turkey), why don't you tweet about it, maybe post a video on YouTube, I'll look for your opinion there!!! @YurdaBudak  


EE
EE

@LorieTurner  First of all, many dictators in history were elected and re-elected. So, dictators can be elected or re-elected.


Second, it is astounding to me that the double standard you and many people who share your beliefs has when it comes to judging Erdogan. The man has been on a relentless attempt to consolidate the legislative and judiciary branches under the executive. It is a joke  if you cannot see this, when the prosecutor responsible for the corruption scandal was taken off the case and hundreds of police officials have been reassigned. These are obviously not mundane re-assignments that were just bound to happen. They are politically motivated  re-assignments, which has no place in a true democracy. But when the same prosecutor was in charge of the Ergenekon case, he was a "hero" and a "saint."


If we are going to go forward as a civil society, we must set aside the complexes that we have developed due to the traumas caused by modern Turkish  political history. It's time to wake up. The days of the so-called "secular elite" characterizing the religious as uneducated and looking down on them are over. The "secular elite" has shrunk and is almost powerless. Most of them also realized that the people who they characterized as "naive" or "uneducated" in the Turkish population were not so. On the other hand, the military, thankfully, is out of the political scene. We have to find a way to share our country with each other, through positive dialogue and engagement. This time, in a democratic fashion. From the message given by the gezi protesters last summer until now, Turkey has had a unique opportunity to step in the right direction towards an inclusive and comprehensive democracy (instead of a one that equates people's lives to votes and alienates half of the population). 


Erdogan has to put his ego aside and stop trying to become the "Ataturk" of the religious and pious. If he is truly the great leader that many claim that he is, he would start listening to criticism the way he listens to praise. He might be the leader of a slight majority (slightly over 50 per cent) but he needs to be the leader of the whole country if he wants to go down in the history books as a "great leader" (he might not want that and might just want the shoeboxes full of millions, he has yet to prove many that he doesn't). The article above has a great point with regards to freedom of press in Turkey. Its a step forward that the mainstream media has actually gotten over the intimidation and is actually reporting things now, instead of what they did during the gezi protests, ignoring...



LorieTurner
LorieTurner

Sorry we don't understand, as you can probably guess by reading other anti-Erdogan posts we are uneducated and naive muslims who in the right hands should not be given the option to exercise democracy because our more richer and educated so called secular brothers know whats best for us. 

You keep calling that apple and orange, maybe just maybe one day it will start tasting like it too.


Szaybeque
Szaybeque

He is effectively becoming a dictator. He has silenced all dissent.

Journalists who publish articles criticizing Erdogan or his government are jailed. Erdogan is eliminating the separation of powers between the executive, legislative and judiciary. The police, previously tied to the Gulen faction, are now being tied to him as well. That makes him a dictator, one who has absorbed all of the states' powers under his domain.

What about that is it that you don't understand?

Politicians are not above the law in any democracy. We saw that in the U.S. During the Watergate scandal, which required Nixon to resign, and when Clinton was investigated for lying under oath in the Monica Lewinsky Scandal. No one screamed "Coup! Coup!!" And the U.S. Is considered a very healthy democracy.

In Turkey, rather than allowing the corruption investigation against government officials to proceed, Erdogan has fired the prosecutor, reassigned hundreds of police and is now going after the judiciary. His son who was subpoenaed for testimony in connection just didn't show up.

Instead of allowing the investigation to proceed Erdogan pulled out the old card of an attempted coup, "there's a mafia (his old Gulenist allies) trying to take over the government" and the old "I won the election so I can do whatever I want".

None of these are the signs of a democratic leader, but of a man intent on consolidating all power solely in his hands, a dictator.

LorieTurner
LorieTurner

@YurdaBudakHave you got a problem understanding what is written? The point is that he is not a dictator.  I also didn't ask for a description on Authoritarianism as i know very well what it means thank you. 


I suggest you try to understand what is being said and respond accordingly.  All your doing is trying to sell people an orange when they can quite clearly see it is an apple.


Finally yes i do understand, but you can not even entertain the notion that you guys are a minority.  A majority of your countrymen well over 50% voted for him.  I am a citizen too so what? Does that give me any more right to talk on posts? Whats your point??


There will be elections soon and with that we will see the true will of the people.  After that you can continue shouting dictator! dictator! on the streets with your little gangs :)

DeryaOzak
DeryaOzak

@LorieTurner  Stand outside with a shoebox, I think you will understand Erdogan alot better then, see you in 10 years 

LorieTurner
LorieTurner

good mate! good! want to joint dip S#it?

Szaybeque
Szaybeque

@LorieTurner

Can you name even one other politician associated with someone in whose home police found $4.5M in cash stuffed into shoe boxes?

Can you name any other democratic government charged with money laundering on the order of 87 Billion Euros?

If you can, please do.

twocuteblogs
twocuteblogs

Hey Lorie. How are your other 5999 friends?

LorieTurner
LorieTurner

@YurdaBudakWow yurda thanks for letting me know.  Can you name a politician in the world which is not?  Thanks for your 2 cents but no go.  Also my argument was him attacking another post.  What the heck is your problem?