The ruling “White Party” in Turkey is turning gray, say critics

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Crime pays off in Turkey. That is apparently the lesson from former Trade Minister Ruhsar Pekcan – who was fired in April for selling anti-COVID-19 disinfectants that were sold to the ministry she heads by a company she shares with her husband – out of the affair.

A video published today by Turkish investigative journalist Ismail Saymaz shows a man and woman who are alleged to be Pekcan’s chauffeur and secretary pouring bottles of disinfectant through a sieve to catch fungal particles that have formed in the yellowish liquid . The obvious purpose was to sanitize the disinfectant before it was bottled again for sale.

Images of the alleged scam became a top trending topic on Twitter amid screams of disgust.

Pekcan has not yet commented on the allegations, but few would blame her for believing she is above the law. In May, a parliamentary motion from the main opposition to investigate allegations of nepotism and fraud against Pekcan (claiming she had sold her product to the ministry for above market value) was rejected by the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) legislature. and her allies from the far right Nationalist Action Party. Opposition officials say their offenses are the tip of the iceberg.

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his “AK” (or “White Party”, as the AKP calls itself) came to power in 2002 and vowed to rid Turkey of the web of systemic corruption that government officials and institutions with the business community and the world Mafia for decades. It also promised to save the Turkish economy, which was fraught with collapse.

As things stand, the economy is in worse shape than it was in the days of the AKP, and “corruption has become a defining characteristic of” [Turkey’s] authoritarian regime, ”said Berk Esen, assistant professor of political science at Istanbul Sabanci University.

Little has changed in this regard: the ruling party awards contracts to government insiders and business friends who also benefit from easy loans from state banks.

For the past seven to eight years, as Erdogan began to concentrate power in his own hands, “the disbursement of funds and booty from members of his closest circle is directed by President Erdogan. People ascending within the regime use their political influence to gain economic gain and commit serious crimes, ”Esen said. “The more authoritarian and personal the regime becomes, the greater the corruption. The Ruhsar Pekcan affair is just another example. “

During its first decade of 19 years of uninterrupted rule, the AKP helped lift millions of Turks out of poverty, with cheap credit fueling steady growth and EU membership talks building business confidence. However, rumors of corruption began early on when potential foreign investors complained that they would have to pay heavy bribes to get an audience with Erdogan, who was believed to be the key to closing deals.

It was then that the Turkish media began to defuse the situation. Aydin Dogan, the country’s top media chief, was fined billions of dollars when his titles began to cover government trafficking. However, few could have predicted how bad things would get, critics say.

Turkey is currently ranked 86th (with a score of 40) out of 180 countries in Transparency International’s corruption perception index. Compared to seven years ago, the country has dropped 33 places in the ranking and 10 points in the overall standings.

Sedat Peker, a refugee head of organized crime, has been making explosive allegations against members of the Erdogan government from his refuge in Dubai since May. They range from cocaine trafficking and extortion to murder and rape. The number of recent cocaine seizures involving Turkish citizens and travel destinations prompted Ali Babacan, a former AKP economics minister who founded his own political party, to complain that “Turkey is now internationally known as a drug state” .

So far, Peker has not embroiled Erdogan, but instead presented his revelations as Cris de Coeur to inform the Turkish leader – and the public – about the filth the country has sunk into. The main target for the time being is the Turkish Minister of the Interior, Süleyman Soylu. Peker has included screenshots of text messages and audio recordings incriminating Soylu and his staff.

However, Beijing’s latest series of bombs, posted on a 50-tweet Twitter thread, appears to be shifting the gun towards the president’s inner circle. Peker alleged, among other things, that Burhan Kuzu, an AKP MP who died of COVID-19 in November, used the switchboard in the office of the president’s communications director in Ankara to call various bureaucrats he was pressuring to finance various shady businesspeople To give favors and members of the underworld.

Prior to his death, Kuzu was prosecuted for allegedly helping Naji Sharifi Zindashti – a notorious Iranian heroin trafficker who allegedly helped kill numerous Iranian dissidents by the Iranian regime – to evade justice. One of Kuzu’s advisors, Sinan Ciftci, sparked further controversy today by claiming the former MP was murdered. “They pulled the plug (on the ventilator) in the hospital to silence him,” claimed Ciftci in an interview with journalist Saban Sevinc.

Kuzu, a Paris-trained constitutional lawyer who sat on Parliament’s Constitutional Committee for many years, played a key role in shaping the executive presidency, which replaced the parliamentary system in 2017 and paved the way for Erdogan to one-man rule.

He is accused of receiving bribes in the millions from Zindashti and other Kingpins.

Ciftci went on to claim that Kuzu “used” Erdogan’s son-in-law, former Economy Minister Berat Albayrak, Vice-President Fuat Oktay and Speaker of Parliament Mustafa Sentop to support his plans.

Peker accused Kuzu of falling victim to his weakness for women, which was then exploited by criminals who blackmailed him in exchange for their silence.

While many of the allegations have yet to be confirmed, none have been investigated, with the exception of the alleged role of a former Turkish general in the 1996 murder of an investigative journalist from Turkish-occupied Northern Cyprus Criticizing, prosecuted and sentenced government to prison terms, said Ahmet Sik, an MP for the left-wing Turkish Labor Party.

It is unthinkable that Erdogan did not know the allegations, said Timur Soykan, investigative journalist and author of a recently published book about the drug wars in Turkey.

“The reason Erdogan doesn’t comment on any of the claims is because he hopes they’ll fade over time,” Soykan added.

The government has managed to bury previous corruption scandals, including one that pointed to Erdogan’s complicity in a multi-billion dollar oil-for-gold sanctions scandal program by incarcerated Turkish-Azerbaijani businessman Reza Zarrab.

Zarrab is currently serving as a witness on the federal district court’s indictment against Turkish state moneylender Halkbank, which is accused of being at the center of the money laundering system.

This time around could be different, Sik argues, because the economy – which long underpinned Erdogan’s electoral success – is in tatters and voters may be less forgiving in the nationwide presidential and parliamentary elections to be held in 2023. “Peker’s claims may be fabricated” or incomplete, but most of them are true. The public believes that, ”said Sik.

In any case, Erdogan’s dilemma is that he is now held hostage in the labyrinth of corrupt businesses “because they support his power,” says the political scientist Esen.

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