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Turkish Prime Minister Reshuffles Cabinet Amidst Corruption Scandal And Resignations Reuters
By Dan Williams
Posted: 12/25/2013 9:52 pm EST | Updated: 12/26/2013 8:59 am EST
ISTANBUL, Dec 26 (Reuters) – Turkey’s opposition accused scandal-hit Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan on Thursday of trying to rule via a secretive “deep state”, after a cabinet reshuffle that would tighten controls on police already beleaguered by government-ordered purges.
Among 10 new loyalist ministers Erdogan named late on Wednesday was Efkan Ala, a former governor of the restive Diyarbakir province who will wield the powerful Interior portfolio and oversee Turkish domestic security.
Ala replaces Muammer Guler, one of three cabinet members who resigned after their sons were detained in a graft probe that erupted on Dec. 17. Guler, who like Erdogan had called the case baseless and a plot, sacked or reassigned dozens of police officers involved including the chief of the force in Istanbul.
“He (Erdogan) is trying to put together a cabinet that will not show any opposition to him. In this context, Efkan Ala has a key role,” Kemal Kilicdaroglu, the head of the biggest opposition party CHP, said in remarks carried by Turkish media.
“Erdogan has a deep state, (his) AK Party has a deep state and Efkan Ala is one of the elements of that deep state,” added Kilicdaroglu, using a term that for Turks denotes a shadowy power structure unhindered by democratic checks and balances.
During his three terms in office, the Islamist-rooted Erdogan has transformed Turkey, cutting back its once-dominant secularist military and overseeing rapid economic expansion. He weathered unprecedented anti-government protests that swept major cities in mid-2013.
But the corruption scandal has drawn an EU call for the independence of Turkey’s judiciary to be safeguarded and has rattled stocks and the lira, with the currency falling to a historical low of 2.1025 against the dollar on Monday.
The affair is a potent and personal one for Erdogan.
It lays bare his rivalry with Fethullah Gulen, a U.S.-based Turkish cleric whose Hizmet (Service) movement claims at least a million faithful including senior police officers and judges.
Another of the three cabinet members who quit on Wednesday over their sons’ detention, Environment Minister Erdogan Bayraktar, broke ranks by urging the premier to follow suit.
The Turkish leader, in power for 11 years and facing local elections in March and a national ballot in 2015, was unmoved. Vowing no tolerance for corruption, he said on Wednesday graft investigation was tainted by foreign interests.
Unlike anyone else in the 20-member cabinet, Ala is not a member of parliament and thus does not answer directly to a constituency.
In his previous post as undersecretary of the prime ministry, political sources told Reuters, he urged a crackdown on demonstrators who flooded the streets over the summer in protest at what they see as Erdogan’s authoritarianism.
“Who would you trust other than your undersecretary, with whom you have been working closely for years?” said one government source, who characterised the new ministers as “surprise” picks conveying Erdogan’s desire for fresh faces. (Additional reporting by Humeyra Pamuk and Orhan Coskun; Writing by Dan Williams; Editing by Andrew Roche)
Around the Web:
- Graft Scandal Is Approaching Turkey Premier – NYTimes.com
- Hit by scandal and resignations, Turk PM names new ministers …
- Turkey PM reshuffles cabinet amid graft scandal – Yahoo News
- Turkey Signals Cabinet Change Over Graft Scandal – ABC News
- UPDATE 5-Turkey’s Erdogan defiant as three cabinet members quit
- 3 Turkish Cabinet minister resign over corruption scandal
Hard news for Turkey’s journalists
By Selin Girit BBC Turkish
Investigative journalist Ahmet Sik was injured twice while covering the protests in Istanbul last summer
“The police were just behind us. The first tear gas they threw hit me. I clutched my head. Blood was pouring out.”
Ahmet Sik is a widely respected, well-known investigative journalist in Turkey. He recalls the day he got injured while covering the protests in Istanbul’s Gezi Park this summer. He is convinced that he was targeted by the police.
“There were at most 10 metres between us,” he says.
“A gas bomb that’s thrown by hand hits me directly on the head. The people who were hospitalised just after me were: a pro-Kurdish opposition MP, a main opposition MP and the journalist who took the iconic picture of a woman in red dress being tear-gassed. This can’t all be coincidence.”
More than 100 journalists were injured while covering the Gezi protests.
But although some journalists were – against all odds – trying to report on the protests, the mainstream Turkish media initially avoided covering them.
This fuelled the suspicion of protesters that the media had either been ordered by the government to look the other way, or were doing so out of fear or favour.
Ahmet Sik believes the media blackout actually fuelled the protests. “If those people [protesters] could have heard their voices on television, I do not think these protests would have got this big,” he says.
Turkey’s Union of Journalists say more than 100 journalists were injured while covering Gezi Park protests
I approached several media bosses for comment. None of them was willing to talk.
The Turkish government denies any press censorship. Instead, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has blamed the foreign media for misrepresenting Turkey.
I had been sent by the BBC from London to cover the protests in Istanbul and I tweeted a comment from one protester calling for an economic boycott for six months to get the government to listen.
Later, the quote was ascribed to me by the mayor of the Turkish capital, Ankara, as if I had had been the one calling for a boycott.
He started a Twitter campaign against me, calling me a British agent and a traitor and called on his more than 700,000 followers to show their “democratic reaction”. Thousands of death and rape threats followed.
Two days later, Mr Erdogan accused me in a speech of “being involved in a conspiracy against my own country”.
The threats and the hate campaign against me have fizzled out but, months later, some journalists in Turkey are still being intimidated by officials.
continue reading: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-25395024
How Far Will Turkey’s Recep Tayyip Erdogan Go to Stay in Power?
by Dexter Filkins March 12, 2012
Recep Tayyip Erdoğan was elected in 2003, despite having been banned from holding office, and since then he has taken an increasingly harsh line against his opponents. In the past five years, more than seven hundred people have been arrested. Photograph by Abbas.
The Deep State
The Prime Minister is revered as a moderate, but how far will he go to stay in power?
Not long ago, at a resort in the Turkish town of Kızılcahamam, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan stood before a gathering of leaders of the Justice and Development Party to celebrate both his country and himself. Erdoğan, a tall, athletic-looking man of fifty-eight, with a receding hairline and a pale mustache, wore a blue Western suit and no tie. His wife, Emine, wearing a traditional head scarf, looked on from a nearby seat. Erdoğan recalled the milestones in Turkey’s remarkable economic and geopolitical ascent since 2002, and the rise to power of the A.K. Party, as it is known by its Turkish initials. He pointed to the doubling of the gross domestic product; the sweeping transformation of the Turkish state and society; and the leading role that Turkey has come to play in world affairs. “With the A.K. Party, the whole world hears Turkey’s words,” Erdoğan said.
Erdoğan (pronounced er-do-wan) spoke with a vehemence that at times approached anger. When he came to the European Union, an organization that Turkey has aspired to join for forty-nine years, he practically shouted into the microphone. Over the past decade, he has led an ambitious campaign to remake the Turkish state as the Europeans asked him to, overhauling the judicial system and expanding the rights of women and minorities, only to find Turkey still outside the gates. “Look at their state of affairs,” he said of the E.U.’s member states. “They are crumbling! Their currency is in disarray!” He gripped the lectern, jabbing the air with his forefinger. “Turkey is on its feet—no thanks to them but to its own people!” He flashed a sharp, joyless grin suggesting both triumph and resentment. “Actually, we have already met the E.U. criteria. Why haven’t we become a member? you ask. They know very well why we haven’t been accepted, and we also know. . . . It doesn’t matter anyway.” Erdoğan was referring to the widespread belief among Turks that the E.U. has rebuffed Turkey because its population, of seventy-four million, is overwhelmingly Muslim.
Erdoğan carried on, mixing his paeans with bitter allusions to enemies and slights. The starting point of his speech was the state of affairs he inherited nine years ago, when Turkey was in an acute economic crisis and under the rule of an entrenched secular élite. There was also a deeply personal subtext. As every Turk knows, Erdoğan was imprisoned, in 1999, for his Islamist leanings. Now, with Turkey’s economy booming, and the opposition in disarray, the need for the Old Guard had receded, he suggested—and so had the need for dissent. “Dear friends, to be one, to be together, to walk together toward the same future is the biggest strength of our people,” he said. “For this reason, the first priority should be to eliminate those who do not want Turkey to grow, develop, and advance. Everyone should be at ease—we will not let anyone disturb this harmony.”
continue reading: http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2012/03/12/120312fa_fact_filkins
Recep Tayyip Erdogan
Updated: Jan. 5, 2012Fabrice Coffrini/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images
Recep Tayyip Erdogan became prime minister of Turkey in 2003. The leader of an Islamic movement, he has successfully challenged the nation’s secular elite, and pushed the military out of its longstanding role as guardian of the country’s secular governing tradition.
Supporters credit Mr. Erdogan with elevating Turkey’s profile in the Middle East, turning the country into an increasingly assertive regional player at a time when several of its neighbors are locked in sometimes violent struggles for democracy.
Mr. Erdogan has also moved the country further up the road, although sometimes a bumpy one, to European Union membership. His Justice and Development Party, known by its Turkish acronym AK, has brought the country strong economic growth of 8.9 percent, though unemployment remains stubbornly high at nearly 12 percent and income distribution remains uneven.
The ruling power in Turkey is Mr. Erdogan’s conservative party, but the undisputed force in the country is Mr. Erdogan (pronounced ERR-doh-ahn). The former mayor of Istanbul from 1994 to 1998, he was a semiprofessional soccer player and is a favorite son of Kacimpasha, a neighborhood in Istanbul known for its tough and outspoken men (and women, too, some say).
In June 2011, the prime minister’s party won a third term in parliamentary elections with a strong showing that critics worried might be used to further consolidate its power after nearly a decade of rule. A month later, the mass resignation of the country’s top military leadership stunned the nation and opened new possibilities for Mr. Erdogan, by removing the biggest danger he had to face — a powerful military willing to act above the law.
But the sudden change raised fears that what many critics call a creeping authoritarian streak under Mr. Erdogan could accelerate.
At a time when Washington and Europe were praising Turkey as a model of Muslim democracy for the Arab world, Turkish human rights advocates said in early January 2012 that the government had been showing an ominous trend toward repressing freedom of the press through a mixture of intimidation, arrests and financial machinations, including the sale in 2008 of a newspaper and a television station to a company linked to the prime minister’s son-in-law.
As of early 2012, there were 97 members of the news media in jail in Turkey, including journalists, publishers and distributors, according to the Turkish Journalists’ Union, a figure that rights groups say exceeds the number detained in China. The Turkish government denies the figure and insists that with the exception of four cases, those arrested have all been charged with activities other than reporting.
The arrests threatened to darken the image of Mr. Erdogan, who is lionized in the Middle East as a powerful leader who can stand up to Israel and the West. Widely credited with taming Turkey’s military and forging a religiously conservative government that marries strong economic growth with democracy and religious tolerance, he has proved prickly and thin-skinned on more than one occasion. It is that sensitivity bordering on arrogance, human rights advocates say, that contributes to his animus against the news media.
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