Trouble in Turkey

February 26, 2014 - 1:29:03 am
These are hard times for Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Controversies are not leaving him and as he laboriously tries to emerge from problem, he finds himself surrounded by another one. In his own words, he is a victim of several conspiracies.

The latest scandal to hit Erdogan is the leaking of a tape. The tape, which was released on YouTube though it wasn’t immediately clear who posted it, sounded like Erdogan and his son Bilal discussing ways to conceal funds. The prime minister has vociferously said the tape was fake. Even if it is, it will only add to the list of problems he is facing.

Erdogan’s government has been caught up in a graft scandal since December. The premier has accused opponents, including followers of US-based cleric Fethullah Gulen who were once his allies, of bugging his office and taping his conversations with family members to undermine his Justice and Development Party. In other words, what the country is witnessing is a fight between Erdogan and Gulen and it is likely to escalate as a result of the alleged tape. Reports say an official investigation into the activities of the Gulen movement cannot be ruled out.

What Turkey is going through is not a normal crisis, but one that has shaken the nation to the core and undermined its international standing and reputation. Until the problems of Erdogan started, the country was seen as a successful model of Islam and Western democracy, projected as a model for other Islamic countries. It was also a major power in the Middle East whose economy was on an upswing. The current crisis has taken off some of that sheen. Erdogan has been accused of trampling democratic principles, suppressing the media, muzzling the judiciary and a slew of such things which are not supposed to happen in a country like Turkey. Economic progress was Erdogan’s biggest achievement. Now the economy is in turmoil. The country’s currency, bonds and stocks were among the world’s worst performers in the month after the corruption allegations surfaced with the detention of businessmen, officials and the sons of three cabinet members on December 17 last year.

So far, it’s Erdogon who is winning though the entire opposition is aligned against him. He gained the upper hand in the political feud by purging a police force and judiciary that helped him become the country’s most powerful leader in decades. But if he is winning, it’s Turkey which is losing. What the country needs is peace, stability and unblemished democracy. The country needs consensus. Instead of targeting his opponents, Erdogan must seek the path of reconciliation and dialogue.