by Behzad Fatmi
Three years ago on 17th December 2013, the Turkish police raided multiple locations in Ankara and Istanbul simultaneously and arrested prominent figures close to the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP). The event took the Turkish government and the world by surprise as it was the biggest assault on the authority of the long-time Turkish strongman Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
Erdogan, who now is the president of Turkey, was the prime minister of the country at that time. Prior to the disclosure of the corruption investigation, his policies and style of governance already smacked of growing authoritarianism but the public revelation of his inner-circle’s wrongdoings brought a ruthless leader out of him.
Immediately after the raids and arrests, the investigation was rejected as an attempted “judicial coup”, hundreds of police officers and many prosecutors were dismissed or transferred to other low profile positions, and legislations undermining the authority of the judiciary were passed by the AKP-dominated parliament. These measures have impacted the country badly.
The dismissal of hundreds of experienced police officers after the corruption probe naturally created a security vacuum in the country, the consequence of which has been the loss of hundreds of innocent lives in several terrorist attacks. More than 350 people have died in the last one year alone in 17 terrorist attacks across the country.
However an assumption that the government is merely a victim of its own mistakes and that it has no role to play in what is happening in the country now would be too credulous an approach to Turkish politics. There are mounting evidences against the government and President Erdogan themselves that they may be complicit in the chaos that has ensued in the country after the emergence of the Kurdish dominated People’s Democratic Party (HDP) in the June 7, 2015 general elections.
Nevertheless the sacking of terrorism experts and experienced officers from police departments – which started after the revelation of the corruption probe in 2013 and intensified after the failed coup earlier this year — has greatly damaged the country’s potential to neutralise threats coming either from external or internal forces.
Erdogan’s government had been credited for triggering robust economic growth in Turkey in the first decade of the 21st century. However over the past few years economic growth in the country first stagnated and now is moving down the hill. The GDP of the country has recently contracted for the first time since 2009. It shrank by 1.8% in the third quarter of this year.
Due to dwindling confidence of investors in the Turkish economy, the Turkish Lira has steadily lost value over the past three years. The loss in the value of the currency has been so sharp in the recent days that President Erdogan felt compelled to urge citizens to convert their foreign currency savings into liras and gold.
The credit rating agencies do not see a positive picture of the Turkish economy either. In September this year, the Moody’s Investor Service reduced Turkey’s sovereign credit rating to ‘junk’, while Standard & Poor also downgraded its rating to two notches below investment grade.
Ever since the disclosure of the corruption probe in December 2013 the Turkish politics is marked by despicable hate speech and deliberate attempt at polarising the society. The independence of every state institution has been eliminated and self-declared witch-hunt against all the non-loyalists has been carried out across the sectors.
If instead of dismissing police officers Erdogan had moved against the people who were arrested on 17 December 2013, Turkey would have been in a different shape today. But could he have done so when he himself – as has turned out – is the ring leader of the scam?