Erdogan’s crisis of legitimacy

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan continues to portray the recent corruption probe as a foreign conspiracy, even after one of the implicated ministers urges Erdogan to step down.

al-monitor (L-R) Turkey's European Affairs Minister Egemen Bagis, Interior Minister Muammer Guler, Environment and City Planning Minister Erdogan Bayraktar and Economy Minister Zafer Caglayan greet their supporters at Esenboga Airport, Ankara, Dec. 24, 2013. Photo by REUTERS/Umit Bektas.

Topics covered

turkey, resignation, recep tayyip erdogan, corruption, conspiracy

Dec 29, 2013

In a photo that made the rounds on social media yesterday [Dec. 25], the four ministers at the center of the corruption and bribery probe were seen sharing a moment of joy, smiling and holding hands up in the air. One of them was using his free hand to make the “four-finger” salute [in solidarity with Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood] as if he were saying, “Look, here we are, the four of us.”

The ministers were atop a bus at Esenboga Airport, apparently saluting the crowd that had gathered to greet Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan as he returned home from Pakistan. Three of them traveled to the airport to greet the prime minister, while the fourth was already part of the delegation that accompanied Erdogan in Pakistan.

I couldn’t make any sense of why they were smiling, why they were there to greet the prime minister and posed with him atop the bus or why one of them even took part in the Pakistan trip. Were they able to stand there as if nothing had happened because they are the ones in the eye of the storm? The eye is known to be the calmest spot in the storm. The winds, however, are blowing very strong and the eye of the storm is moving.

We don’t know who whispered what to whose ears after the photo was taken, but things took an abrupt turn the following day. The photo became history. Economy Minister Zafer Caglayan and Interior Minister Muammer Guler resigned.

I was just about to finish this article when Environment and Urban Affairs Minister Erdogan Bayraktar announced his resignation, hitting the government like a ton of bricks. I had to rewrite my piece.

Bayraktar resigned not only from his ministerial post but also from his parliament seat. Moreover, he called on Erdogan to resign as well. Here is what Bayraktar said: “I cannot accept this kind of pressure on me [that could be summarized as] 'You resign over the probe that involves allegations of bribery and corruption and make a declaration to relieve me [of responsibility].' Most of the lawfully approved zoning plans that the investigation covers have been drawn up on the orders of the prime minister. I’m resigning from the ministry and parliament in this context. But I believe the prime minister, too, should resign to relieve the nation. Earlier today, we were sent [pre-prepared] resignation and declaration texts. Naturally, I’m willing to help out my party, but I’d like to point out that [the method in] this situation is wrong. Let it be for the best.”

So, Bayraktar is pointing to Erdogan and saying, “Whatever I did, I did it because he wanted it.” The first thing Bayraktar should do now that he has resigned from his parliament seat as well is to go to the prosecutor to give his testimony and reveal the whole truth that he implied in his statement.

The shockwaves of the so-called “Dec. 17 bribery and corruption operation” have finally hit the top echelons of the government. Erdogan, however, behaves as if he has not grasped it, continuing to portray this severe situation stemming from the very heart of the government as a foreign conspiracy against Turkey. In his speech yesterday [Dec. 25], he completely ignored Bayraktar’s call for him to step down.

This tactic is not sustainable. The [government’s] attempts to cover up the fraud allegations ever since the operation began on Dec. 17 were already the omen of a looming crisis of legitimacy. Bayraktar’s suggestion that Erdogan was aware of everything that went on is now the declaration of this crisis of legitimacy. Erdogan — to use the phrase that he is so fond of — should now “take the necessary steps” in the political, administrative and legal realm to end the crisis. Each day he fails to do that, he will be increasing the costs — both for his party and the country.

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