AK Party gov’t plans to suffocate opposition parties by cutting off Treasury funding, report says

The government is planning to cut off Treasury funds that help finance political partiesand’ election campaigns, a move that is seen as another attempt to weaken the countryand’s opposition, the Taraf daily said on Thursday.
The proposal will reportedly revise a regulation in the Political Parties Law and is to be introduced by the government in the meetings soon to be held with opposition parties as part of an initiative to change the Constitution. The government will propose that the current law regulating the distribution of Treasury funds to parties be replaced with a new one that will enable parties to raise money from donors such as businesspeople and party members, Taraf reported.
If the planned change to the law is put into practice as stated, it is likely that virtually no businesspeople or companies will donate money to opposition parties out of fear of government reprisal, the daily emphasized.
Several opposition deputies told Todayand’s Zaman that opposition political parties already have difficulty finding independent media platforms where they can express themselves and the proposal will likely make this even more difficult.
Another problem may arise related to issues of transparency and accountability if the envisaged change is made to the law. In an environment where massive corruption claims dominate the political agenda, there are serious concerns that the relationship between political parties and the business sector will not be regulated in accordance with accepted principles of transparent and accountable funding.
In its news report, Taraf stated that senior figures of the Justice and Development Party (AK Party) have already started preparations for an amendment to the law. It noted that no political party was given Treasury funds for the November repeat of the general election parties were forced to finance their campaigns themselves.
In recent government-led seizures of management, several previously critical media outlets were transformed into media organs that propagate in favor of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party). On Oct. 30, just prior to the Nov. 1 election, the ipek Media Group was taken over in a government operation and five media outlets, including the Bugandun and Millet dailies, as well several TV channels saw their editorial policies become one that supports the AK Party.
Speaking to Todayand’s Zaman on the issue, main opposition Republican Peopleand’s Party (CHP) deputy Utku andcakirandOzer stressed that when opposition parties are given little chance to get their messages out to the public by the state-run Turkish Radio and Television Corporation (TRT) and the AK Party is given the lionand’s share of campaign coverage airtime, cutting off Treasury funds will deal them yet another blow.
and”If fair competition conditions had been established before the election and if opposition parties had been given their right to fair representation in the media, then introducing a system based on the peopleand’s choice in which they raise money in accordance with their political preferences could be considered. But, here in Turkey, critical media outlets are seized and others are under government pressure for critical coverage. In a similar vein, the business sector also faces similar oppression. Companies whose owners are thought to have opposing leanings are immediately punished through inspections by the Finance Ministry. All these factors make state funds necessary for opposition parties. This situation makes it impossible for them to seek financial support from the business sector. Cutting off the [state] aid makes the current unfair election circumstances worse,and” andcakirandOzer said.
Three opposition political parties received a total of TL 538 million before the June 7 general election. The Peoplesand’ Democratic Party (HDP) had no representation in Parliament as a party before the June election as it had not crossed the required 10 percent threshold, merely individual deputies.
Speaking to Todayand’s Zaman on the issue, HDP deputy Meral Danii Beitai said that her party had not been eligible to benefit from the funds, adding that the current law is already unfair since parties that are not represented as such in Parliament are excluded from the assistance. If the planned change is made, then it will worsen the current unfairness.and”
Stressing that the AK Party has already created a business class that will support the party, as relationships between some businesspeople and senior AK Party figures have indicated, Beitai went on to say: and”The AKP [AK Party] will not face any problem in raising money from pro-government business circles. The inequality between the AKP and the remaining political parties will be deepened if the Treasury funds are cut off.and”
There are now four political parties in Parliament eligible to receive Treasury funds to subsidize their campaigns as they have already surpassed the 10 percent election threshold, given the recent success of the HDP in surmounting the threshold.
The ruling AK Party, the main opposition Republican Peopleand’s Party (CHP), the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) and the pro-Kurdish Peopleand’s Democratic Party (HDP) have qualified for Treasury aid, according to result of the Nov. 1 general election.
MHP Deputy Chairwoman Ruhsar Demirel also underlined that opposition parties will be negatively affected if the law is changed as reported.
and”Opposition parties already have hurdles to sending their message to the public stemming from government pressure on the media. The planned change will serve to nothing but to promote more unequal competition in future elections.and”

SOURCE: TODAY’S ZAMAN

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