Turkish government faces its toughest test ever

Allegations of corruption in high places could see the demise of the AKP, Turkey’s ruling party.

Last week, over 50 people were arrested in dawn raids in Ankara and Istanbul on suspicion of being involved in bribery and corruption. The sons of three ministers, noted businesspeople and bureaucrats were all numbered among the detainees.

It is also alleged that several ministers have been implicated in acts of bribery. The lengthy list of accusations is topped by rigging state tenders, organising bribery to obtain major urbanisation contracts, obtaining permits to build on protected land, using falsified documents to aid foreigners to get Turkish citizenship, export fraud, document forgery and gold smuggling. It is even alleged that some of the detainees illegally sold historical artefacts that had been discovered during the excavations for the Marmaray underwater rail project which connects Europe to Asia.

Several previous governments have been voted out of office following corruption scandals and Prime Minister Erdogan has been desperately trying to deflect the spotlight away from the government by claiming that there is a plot by the USA to undermine the current government.

The US Embassy to Turkey has denied any role in the investigation. “All allegations in news stories are downright lies and slander,” it said in a statement.

Erdogan characterised the current scandal as a “dirty operation” against the government. Twenty-nine senior police officials from the İstanbul and Ankara police departments who had been ordered by the prosecutor’s office to conduct the investigation were immediately removed from their posts and two new prosecutors were appointed to the investigation. The removals and the appointment of new prosecutors led to speculation by legal experts that attempts were being made to hinder the investigation.

In 2013, Turkey ranked 53rd out of 177 countries in terms of corruption at the government level on the Corruption Perception Index produced by the international monitoring group Transparency International (TI).

The ongoing investigation also calls into question the current government’s ability to stamp out corruption. It has been said that the current investigation will have a huge negative impact on local election results in March 2014 and that the people will hold the AKP accountable for its wrongdoings.

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