The main reason Turkey’s government has been roiled with resignations, the Turkish Lira and domestic assets are plunging, the central bank is paralyzed, and pundits are ever more concerned about what the potential contagion effect is should the worst happen to the country, has been an ongoing scandal involving corruption at the very highest echelons of power as we reported late last year. So, what is a perturbed government, on the verge of losing legitimacy and credibility, to do? Well, following Stalin’s advice always works: “no man, no problem“… if perhaps not quite as “terminally” then just as decisively. According to Reuters the corruption investigation has been brought to a screeching halt, after Turkey’s government ‘purged’ both the judiciary and police systems, firing and transferring dozens of judges and officers and making it impossible for any ongoing investigative efforts to continue.
However, this may just be the beginning of Turkey PM Erdogan’s problem: “Turkey’s purge of the judiciary and police has brought a corruption investigation shaking the government to a grinding halt and could undermine confidence in state institutions, senior legal figures and the opposition said on Wednesday.”
Reuters has the details on Turkey’s decisive (if not yet final) “solution” to its problems:
Ninety-six judges and prosecutors were reassigned overnight, the biggest purge of the judiciary since a graft scandal erupted on December 17 with the arrest of businessmen close to Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan and three ministers’ sons.
Erdogan has portrayed the corruption inquiry as an attempted “judicial coup” orchestrated by U.S.-based cleric Fethullah Gulen, whose network of sympathizers, known locally as “Cemaat” (religious community), hold considerable sway in many parts of the state including the police and legal system.
The government’s response, transferring thousands of police officers and seeking to tighten its grip on the courts, has brought sharp criticism from the European Union, which Turkey has been seeking to join for decades, and rattled investors, helping send the lira to record lows.
“Turkey is ablaze with the justice agenda,” said Metin Feyzioglu, chairman of the Turkish bar association.
“Everyone in the country has started to ask when there is an investigation or trial what side the judge, prosecutor or police officer is on,” he said. “The foundation of the state and the country’s legal order has been shaken.”
The roughly 120 judges and prosecutors reassigned since the graft scandal broke make up a fraction of the 13,000 working in Turkey as a whole, but the move has put sensitive cases on hold and shaken confidence within the profession.
The government’s party line so far has been simple: as explained before, “Erdogan has portrayed the corruption inquiry as an attempted “judicial coup” orchestrated by U.S.-based cleric Fethullah Gulen, whose network of sympathizers, known locally as “Cemaat” (religious community), hold considerable sway in many parts of the state including the police and legal system.”
As a result, Erdogan decided to simply reassign the entire judicial branch!
Judges and prosecutors across the country – from Istanbul in the west to the southeastern city of Diyarbakir, and from the southern border region with Syria to the northern Black Sea coast – were reassigned in the move announced late on Tuesday.
The High Council of Judges and Prosecutors (HSYK), already headed by the justice minister and set to fall further under government control under a ruling party bill before parliament, said the 96 were being transferred to new locations. The government denied involvement.
“These appointments have absolutely nothing to do with our ministry. This is completely at the discretion of the relevant (HSYK) chamber,” a senior justice ministry official said.
The police fared similarly:
Nearly 500 police, mostly in Ankara, were also removed from their posts and reassigned on Wednesday, media reports said, bringing the total since December 17 to several thousand. Erdogan’s supporters say the police and judiciary are dominated by Cemaat sympathizers and that the government’s actions strengthen not weaken their independence. Erdogan himself refers to a “parallel state” within the judiciary.
But Aykut Erdogdu, the chief corruption investigator for the main opposition CHP, said the purge had become so broad that many of those removed were not even linked to Cemaat.
“We’ve reached the point where members of these institutions are unable to do their job,” Erdogdu told Reuters. “More important is the damage done to these institutions. It can take decades to build up competent staff to run the institutions of state. Moreover, it will take years to undo the memory of this among prospective candidates in the future.”
It seems that the people, at least some of then, aren’t buying it:
“While the government claims that it is fighting against a parallel structure, it is actually closing off the corruption investigations … It is taking away those who know their cases best. It causes a great deal of harm,” said Murat Arslan, chairman of the YARSAV association of judges and prosecutors.
“It is quite clear there is political intervention here … they are quite clearly intimidating the whole of the judiciary. It is sending the message that ‘you cannot conduct an investigation which touches me’,” he told Reuters.
Welcome to Banana republic status gents… incidentally Turkey is way behind of the US, where no investigation that touches the people in charge is allowed, while any prosecution of corporate CEO that are deemed Too Big To Prosecute is promptly killed by none other than the Justice Department. The corrupt Justice Department.
But importantly, unlike the US where the myth that one party is different than another is just that, in Turkey the people do have the power to replace those in charge:
Erdogan has essentially banished the army from politics in 11 years in power. His popularity seems as yet largely unaffected by the current turmoil and there is no sign of the summer demonstrations that shook his government reigniting on a similar scale. He will, in short, be trusting voters will flee towards the elected power.
And if voters support him, well, they too deserve the government they “pick.”