Friday, October 14, 2011


The least surprising event in these intense days is the new Cabinet. Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan changed only a fourth of his ministers in a calm reshuffle. This signals policies oriented towards serving the people, with the ministerial choices based on experience and performance. The focus will be on social services (under the new Ministry of Family and Social Policies) in a new era of institutionalizing of “sharing the pie” structures. Ömer Dinçer, the new minister of education, will be someone to watch simply because of his skills in the field. The ministry is expected to take a leap in deepening the much-needed reform in schools, particularly the quality of the content. Erdoğan's choice of two of his closest aides for the key ministries of Internal Affairs and Defense is telling about his plans to tighten control over security. He will need to expend much energy on civilian control of the army, which also needs an institutional renewal. The rest is, simply put, a continuation with well-known faces. The surprise is elsewhere. With a massive, ongoing police operation, the entire football world of Turkey is suddenly under scrutiny, with harsh accusations and suspicions of match-fixing and bribes. The picture emerging from behind the smokescreen is a vast network, giving enough hints about a rotten domain. In another move, we have learned that the two-year-old investigation of the so-called “Lighthouse” case is accelerating. Five people, including Zahid Akman, a former head of the Radio and Television Supreme Council (RTÜK), are now in custody on charges of organized crime and swindling. Akman was once in Erdoğan's inner circle. Meanwhile, Turkey is also preparing for another critical Supreme Military Council (YAŞ) meeting. Currently, about one-tenth of the officers on duty with the rank of general are in jail, almost all of them in the Sledgehammer case. It has put enormous strain on the high command. The reports say that about 15 of the generals jailed will be forced into early retirement. The military, once the most “untouched” institution, has now turned into one whose domestic scene has been turned upside down. All of these developments are of historic significance. In what sense? In what may look like a rather chaotic picture, it is important to see a clear pattern: The “ancien regime” is cracking and collapsing in slow motion. This world, based on corruption, privileges, immorality and impunity, is increasingly exposed, spreading from one sector to another, confirming what critics of the “old Turkey” have – at the risk of losing their lives, jobs and dignity – been saying for decades: that Turkey as a police state was a land ruled by mafia, gangs, murderers, dirty businessmen and filthy media, all of whom were operating under and for a system of tutelage. There are similarities with Italy of the early 1990s. From 1992-96 the country was under the influence of “mani pulite,” a series of investigations that covered business, bureaucracy, military, politicians and media. “Tangentopoli” was the nickname for a country ruled by corruption on every level. Just as Italy was in the grips of tentacles, so has Turkey been. The main dynamic for change is the tremendous push for a structural transformation that is constantly keeping the Justice and Development Party (AK Party) under pressure to be the carrier of the process, both as a political power and political opposition (to the ancien regime). The more we have been exposed to the shocking patterns of corruption (such as the vast allegations encompassing many football clubs), the more hopeful we can be about a national “soul-cleansing” with the aim of establishing the rule of law. Will no stone be left unturned? We are not there yet. The steady push for change is rattling all segments of society, but we are facing a massive mountain. The old system was solidified on profound cronyism, on balances of terror (each corrupt actor knew the secrets of the other and vice versa) and an enormous network of those who were immune. Bank owners, media proprietors, Kurdish village guards paid by the state, smugglers related both to the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) and security units, judges, prosecutors, local governors, etc., etc. The task is overwhelming. What should cause concern is the next destination. It is necessary for society to know. Public trust is crucial if the process is to be made irreversible. The outcome of the vote on June 12 is encouraging, but it must be the leadership of Erdoğan, a key leader for a secure Turkey, that must clarify what is happening and why. 2011-07-07

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