I highly recommend Reuben Silverman’s blog (here) for an incredibly detailed account of the issues and events surrounding the corruption investigations and their larger context — the history of Hizmet versus AKP jostling. Silverman has done a great service by doing this research (and documenting it). He says he is working on the economic angle (firings at the stock exchange, mass withdrawals from the Gulen-associated Bank Asya, etc) and will add that when he’s done. Keep an eye on his blog.
You can find Eric Meyersson’s fascinating statistical analysis of Turkey’s institutions here. His practical, fact-based approach is a refreshing alternative to news hyperbole.
Thus the problem is not simply that its institutions are bad, but that they are unbalanced toward state power at the expense of citizens’ rights, executive constraints, as well as openness and accountability.
Moreover, this imbalance appears to be getting worse…
Turkey’s institutions are correlated with countries that have significant authoritarian characteristics and strong security establishments, some – like Iran, Russia, and Belarus – are international pariahs.
Meyersson builds his argument using a variety of available databases to comparatively analyze patterns in institutional behavior, such as judicial independence, press freedom, imprisonment, and constraints on government power. Below is one of several fascinating charts in the essay.
The AKP’s executive board, in a meeting chaired by PM Erdogan, has decided not to extend the term limit for prime minister from three to four terms. This means that Erdogan will not have another term as PM and instead will likely run for president in August. The presidency has in the past been a largely ceremonial post, its incumbent elected by parliament. This will be the first time the president is elected by popular vote. Erdogan attempted unsuccessfully to change the constitution to give the presidency more power, but in his public statements has said that, if he were president, he would wield more power because the position would be an elected one. In other words, in a kind of magical thinking, he believes that the popular vote on its own confers powers beyond the letter of the law regulating the institution. If president, Erdogan would also likely seek a weak PM.
The current president, Abdullah Gul, is holding his cards close to his chest. Popular and respected, and a more conciliatory figure than Erdogan, Gul could run again for president (against Erdogan) or put his hat in for prime minister (not the weak PM Erdogan as president would prefer). Either route puts him at odds with Erdogan’s aspirations. Or he could choose to leave the dirty game of politics to those with sharper claws and less conscience. Many hope, though, that President Gul’s conscience and concern for his country is strong enough to sacrifice a comfortable retirement in order to place himself between the rock of Erdogan’s autocracy and the hard place of democratic reform.
Clear minute-by-minute timeline of December 17, 2013, the day the corruption scandal broke, from the early morning arrests of dozens of people in PM Erdogan’s circle to frantic attempts by Erdogan and others to hide vast quantities of money and beat the rap. Incorporates video footage and wiretap recordings gathered as evidence in the corruption case (these were later leaked to the public when the prime minister removed prosecutors, thus squelching the case). All in Turkish, unfortunately. Put together by Can Dündar, one of Turkey’s most respected journalists.
Here is a study of why voters voted as they did. Corruption allegations and leaked tapes had little effect. AKP voters chose AKP mainly because of the leader Erdogan and because of the services AKP provides.
This very creepy AKP election ad was recently rejected for use by the Higher Election Board because it misuses the Turkish flag, which by law is not allowed to be used in political propaganda. PM Erdogan said he would “ban the ban”, showing yet again his contempt for law and the integrity of state institutions. But the imagery in the video itself is hair-raisingly evocative in the worst possible way.
The spoken text is from the national anthem:
Friend! Don’t let scoundrels into my country! Shield with your body, let this shameless invasion stop. Days which God has promised to give you will dawn; Who knows, maybe tomorrow, maybe sooner than tomorrow.
This rhetoric was used against Erdogan in AKP’s early days, but during the Gezi protests last year, he began using ultranationalist language and conspiracy theories himself. Here is an article from Al Monitor analyzing the video (with another link to the video).
My personal reaction to the video was horror, deja vu (with an admixture of Islam), and that I was seeing ants, not citizens.