WorldErdogan's family corruption scandal erodes Turkish president's popularity

Erdogan’s family corruption scandal erodes Turkish president’s popularity

The cracks in the foundations that support President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s power began to become visible. The passionate defenses, the silences of those who remained silent, acting in unison like a firm hand — because anyone who moved would not come out in the photo — began to give way to loud desertions, public criticisms and leaks of documents that compromise the family of up to now all-powerful Turkish leader and his Islamic party. All this in an environment of crisis and economic mismanagement, which has left the Justice and Development Party (AKP) with the lowest level of popular support in nearly two decades of ruling Turkey. Taking advantage of this, the increasingly united opposition went on the attack.

“I demand that you fail to comply with requests that depart from the law. You cannot hide from the fact that you have been ordered about. They are honorable officials of the state, not of the Erdogan family […]. It’s the last warning: as of Monday, October 18, all support you give to this illegal order will be your responsibility.” This harsh message to public officials, released last Saturday by the usually measured Kemal Kiliçdaroglu, leader of the centre-left opposition, infuriated the government. Erdogan himself replied that it is a “crime” and a “threat” that seeks the insubordination of public servants.

What motivated the opposition’s new aggressive stance were the revelations of a new scandal involving the president’s family. Last week, internal documents of the Youth Foundation of Turkey (TÜGVA), which has Bilal Erdogan —son of the president— as one of its main leaders, were revealed by the press, allegedly by a member of the organization itself. These files —to which EL PAÍS also had access— are composed of copies of correspondence with various municipal, provincial and national authorities, expense and revenue spreadsheets, property records, résumés and lists of foundation members recommended for positions in the State , from the direction of schools to different levels of the Armed Forces and the police.

The president of TÜGVA, Enes Eminoglu, initially denied the veracity of the papers, but the next day he admitted that “there could be something right in them”. The foundation was created in 2014 and has quickly become one of the top student residences administrators in Turkey, in large part thanks to having been given the management of numerous expropriated properties from Fethullah Gülen’s followers following the outlawing of the movement that bears his name as a result. of its participation in an attempted coup d’état in 2016. The opposition accuses TÜGVA of having become a “parallel state structure”, as were formerly the gülenistas, who sought to infiltrate the Administration to ensure progressive control of decision-making bodies.

Among the documents, there are also several that reveal which public institutions pay the expenses of the foundation’s headquarters, using taxpayers’ money and non-transparent agreements. According to documents leaked to other journalists, TÜGVA also organized the participation of women members of the foundation or leaders’ wives in the local version of the popular contest Who wants to be a millionaire?, shown on a channel belonging to a group run by the brother of one of Erdogan’s sons-in-law.

“This is just the tip of the iceberg,” said Tamer Özsoy, former provincial director of TÜGVA, interviewed by Tele1 channel: “I appeal to Turkish prosecutors: sue all those responsible, starting with me. It is necessary to investigate this issue in depth”, he stated. According to analyst Murat Yetkin, these statements, as well as the leaks themselves, are a form of shielding. “The upper-middle-level bureaucrats are often the first to feel the winds of change, and they may be looking to retain their jobs after a possible shift in power,” the analyst writes on his website Yetkinreport.

Özsoy is now affiliated with the Future Party, one of two splits from the ruling AKP that have migrated to opposition in the past two years. The Party of the Future is headed by former Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, while the Party for Democracy and Progress (DEVA) was founded by Ali Babacan, former Minister of Economy and Foreign Affairs.

But they weren’t the only ones to jump off the Erdogan Government’s boat in recent months. Education Minister Ziya Selçuk asked to leave in August — supposedly uncomfortable with the influence of religious foundations and brotherhoods in his portfolio — and two vice presidents of the Central Bank were fired for refusing to attend a meeting with their boss. with investors. Both were opposed to the policy of cutting interest rates ordered to the monetary institution by Erdogan, which caused a new devaluation of the local currency and made it difficult to fight the rampant inflation that plagues the population.

After years of silence, big business also started showing up. On Friday, this path was opened by Ömer Koç, chairman of the board of one of the largest conglomerates in the country, who criticized economic management. On Tuesday, the leaders of the main employer, Tüsiad, attacked the lack of independence of the Central Bank, the precarious separation of powers and Turkey’s withdrawal from the Istanbul Agreement against macho violence. “It’s interesting that business groups feel like speaking publicly. Will it be a new sign of confidence in the opposition?” asks economic analyst Timothy Ash.

At the same time, leftist organizations and trade unions called for a unitary demonstration in defense of employment for next Sunday. Amid an increasingly critical economic situation for most of the population, corruption scandals, images of waste and ostentation by some leaders (who receive several public salaries at the same time) are shaking support for Erdogan and his broken. Polls indicate that the AKP’s voting intention has dropped in two years from 40% to 30% (below the support received in its first victory in 2002), and also its far-right partners lose votes. That half of the country that loved Erdogan is getting smaller and smaller.

Even polling companies once firmly attached to the AKP publicly criticize the party’s pressures. “Yesterday we published a survey. As it did not give the results that the AKP expected, they called us from the party leadership and accused us of not respecting scientific or ethical criteria. It didn’t surprise us”, denounced Mehmet Pösteki, general director of the ORC company, on Twitter, who attributes the loss of support of the AKP in part precisely to the tendency of its leaders not to accept reality, preferring instead to “discredit those who do not. give what they want”.

Opposition Negotiations

One of the advantages Erdogan has exploited so far has been the fragmentation of the opposition, but this appears to have found a way after they banded together to take several important city halls out of the hands of the AKP. Since early October, delegations from six opposition parties have been negotiating an itinerary to replace the current presidential system, approved in a disputed referendum in 2017, with a new parliamentary regime that guarantees an effective separation of powers.

Among the main opposition parties, the only one not taking part in these negotiations is the pro-Kurdish HDP, although it is probably a tacit agreement to prevent the government from criticizing the opposition for allying itself with a formation that maintains ties with the group. armed PKK. However, the HDP has bilateral meetings with the other opposition parties and has shown itself to be in agreement with the general lines agreed upon by them. In turn, the main opposition party, the centre-left and nationalist CHP, launched a proposal to negotiate a peaceful solution to the Kurdish conflict in Parliament, with the HDP as its main interlocutor.

The increasingly self-assured Turkish opposition is no longer discussing how to beat Erdogan at the polls, but rather what it will do after that. The most striking thing is, perhaps, that the population has begun to believe this: according to a survey by the Metropoll company, today, for the first time, a majority (50%) predicts that Erdogan will lose the next elections, against 44% who believe he should win again .

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