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Turkey: A volatile cocktail of corruption and conspiracy

This article is over 10 years, 4 months old
Ron Margulies looks at the government corruption scandal that could open up new opportunities for the left in Turkey
Issue 2387
Turkish prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan (right)

Turkish prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan (right) (Pic: Österreichisches Außenministerium)

What would happen in any country in the world if a government minister was caught with his hands in the till? He would resign, wouldn’t he?

And what would happen if not one, not two, but four ministers, including the interior minister, were caught taking bribes of millions of pounds? 

You would expect not just the ministers in question but the government to resign, wouldn’t you? Not if you are in Turkey.

The scandal broke out for the governing Justice and Development Party (AKP) on 17 December last year. 

But not only has the government not resigned, it may even emerge from this unholy mess with its voter base consolidated. 

It is certainly now a wounded and weaker government. But few doubt that it would win if an election were held today. 

Unless further revelations render it untenable, the government is likely to win local elections at the end of March.

The reason is that there is more than meets the eye to every aspect of the whole affair. 

Prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has not even bothered to deny ministerial wrongdoing. 

A cabinet reshuffle was due anyway and he simply removed the four ministers, although one had recently been appointed. There was no explicit admission of guilt.

Instead Erdogan launched a campaign arguing that the scandal was an attempt to overthrow his government by hostile forces in the West and shady actors at home.

He has also accused the Gulen Jamaa people of acting as their tool. 


Gulen Jamaa is a religious community that follows a very moderate Muslim cleric who lives in the US. 

The Gulen people, claimed Erdogan, have been organising a “state within a state” by infiltrating the judiciary and the police.

This sounds like a fantastic conspiracy theory. It sounds like delusional paranoia. 

But what gives Erdogan’s propaganda a chance of success is that every part of his story has a grain of truth.

It is true that the US has given up on Erdogan who picks fights with Israel, follows his own agenda in Syria and refuses to toe the line.

It is true that a section of Turkish capital has always been unhappy with the Erdogan government, despite it being a government of big business.

Parts of the military, the bureaucracy and the judiciary work together in Turkey in what is popularly known as the “deep state”. 

It is true that this is constantly looking for an opportunity to overthrow what it considers to be an “Islamic” government.

And finally, although Erdogan hugely exaggerates the Gulen community’s strength, the prosecutors who pursued ministerial corruption are members of the community.

All this may be true. 

But the fact remains that the AKP runs a typical conservative, pro?business government. 

So it is mired in corruption, bribes, kickbacks, and favouritism in the awarding of huge and lucrative government and municipal projects.

There can be no better time for the left. Many AKP voters will be very unhappy with the government. 

But they will certainly not vote for the so-called social democratic opposition party which is Islamophobic, nationalist and pro-military.

This is the chance to begin to break many working people away from what they thought was an honest, reforming party.

Memorial Meeting on the life of Dogan Tarkan (1948-2013) – Leader of the DSIP part of the IS Tendency in Turkey.

Don’t mourn, organise/ Aglasma orgutlen.

Place: Halkevi Community Centre

Date: 29 January 2014

Time: 7.00-9.00



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