The Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan is in deep trouble in Turkey. The opposition-organized protesters in Istanbul, Ankara and Izmir are demanding his immediate resignation. Erdogan’s Justice and Development Party (AKP) is charged with wide-scale corruption. In an effort to save his government, Erdogan has reshuffled his cabinet and added 10 new members to the 26 member strong cabinet. These changes were made with the consent of Abdullah Gul, the president of Turkey.
The present crisis is seen as a conflict of interests between Erdogan and his former ally, Fethullah Gullen. Gullen is in self-imposed exile in Pennsylvania, U.S. after he was charged with plotting to overthrow the secular government in Turkey and to replace it with an Islamic state. Gullen has over one million followers in Turkey. He is very influential in the judiciary and the police.
The raids that were carried out early in the week led to the arrest of three sons of ministers in Erdogan’s cabinet, as well as the chief executive of the state-run Halkbank, prominent bureaucrats, businessmen and members of the ruling AKP. In total, 52 people were arrested under charges of bribery allotting in public tenders, money laundering and gold smuggling.
The three ministers whose sons were arrested during the raids have resigned. They held the portfolios of economy, interior and environment and urban planning. In addition, Erdogan has also dismissed his European Union affairs minister and a deputy prime minister.The ex-minister for environment and urban planning, in a surprise move, asked Erdogan to resign as well during a live television interview which was abruptly taken off air.
The recent corruption scandal has landed Erdogan in deep trouble in Turkey. The political analysts are of the view that this scandal was brought to light by the followers of Gullen after Erdogan planned to shut down Hizmat network of schools, which was being run by the Gullen movement.
The police raided and arrested Erdogan’s party members and his close associates. Erdogan retaliated by sacking five prominent police commissioners. According to reports, around 400 hundred police officers have been transferred nationwide.
Erdogan has termed these raids and subsequent arrests as a part of a smear campaign against his government. He says that the present protests are organized by Islamic fanatics, mostly the followers of Gullen. Their aim is to overthrow the secular government and to establish an Islamic fundamentalist state. Further, he adds that these “dirty raids” are a part of an international conspiracy to halt the progress of Turkey.
The opposition, on the other hand, says that Erdogan and his administration are corrupt. According to the leaders of the opposition, he is undermining and subverting the ideals of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, the founder of modern Turkey. The opposition believes that Erdogan has damaged the international image of Turkey and it is time that he quit the office that he has held for 11 long years.
Whatever the truth, the present crisis is leading to a daily deteriorating law and order situation in Turkey. The present scandal is also harming the economy of the country as the lira at present is at an all-time low against the dollar. The present anti-graft drive, Erdogan’s reaction and now the protests have landed Erdogan in deep trouble in Turkey.
By Iftikhar Tariq Khanzada