Turkey continues to ride the turbulence raised by the struggle between its government and the judiciary, following the arrests of dozens of corruption, fraud and money laundering suspects some two weeks ago. The net tightened around Prime Minister Erdogan’s entourage, including three cabinet ministers’ sons, the head of a public bank and other company bosses and members of the ruling AK party.
Recep Tayyip Erdogan denounced the operation as the workings of a state within the State. He had more than a hundred senior police officers removed from duty or reassigned, among them the prefect of Istanbul, Huseyin Capkin. The purge was felt within the judiciary.
Jarred by the scandal, Erdogan’s government was reconfigured, ten of its members changed – far more than had been in the offing in view of municipal elections coming up in March. That same day, December 26th, an anti-corruption prosecutor was fired after he accused the police of having refused to arrest AK party apparatchiks.
Sociology professor Ihsan Yılmaz, at Fatih University, said: “When the prosecutors couldn’t prove anything, couldn’t show any evidence, then they would lose. But they (the government) couldn’t wait, they panicked, and they simply tried to replace the prosecutors or change them or add a few more to them and they replaced the police officers and so on, so this shows that they want to interfere with the case.”
Erdogan accuses the justice system, the media and rival politicians of conspiring to undermine the country, with pressures brought from abroad.
Erdogan said: “Sovereignty does not lie with the judiciary or with the executive but with the nation. If the judiciary were to seize sovereignty ignoring the national will… that the judges must be judged for!”
The scandal has brought Turks out into the streets in protest again, six months after major demonstrations defying the government. Some observers are saying this hurts the prime minister’s chances of standing as a presidential candidate later this year. And, the longer the turbulence goes on, the bumpier the ride for the Turkish economy.