Three objectives to cut off democracy

By: YAVUZ BAYDAR

The criminalization of the opposition is in full gear. The latest spectacular example is the legal probe launched against a group of people who , under the umbrella of the “Labor and Freedom Platform,” took part in an anti-corruption rally in Antalya, on Dec. 26 of last year.

They are being investigated for the right to assemble, for shouting slogans against what they believe is “thievery of the highest order.”

The left-wing Evrensel daily’s headline story yesterday was that they were all investigated under Article No. 301, namely “denigrating Turkishness, the republic and its institutions.” Reports say they were asked whether or not they had shouted slogans against the prime minister.

Meanwhile, the pro-government segment of the has press intensified its role as the machinery of fabrications about imagined enemies and foes. The level of political frenzy gripping government supporters is gravely worrisome.

It takes place as three objectives of the executive branch have crystallized: The National Intelligence Agency (Mİ) bill is being pushed through Parliament, seemingly at all cost, it is taking control of one of the remaining autonomous state institutions, the Central Bank, and it is discrediting and crippling the Constitutional Court.

The MİT bill, aimed at reorganizing MİT, is bound to cause higher tension. Critics agree, Today’s Zaman reported yesterday, “that the bill would damage Turkey’s democratic credentials and turn the country into an intelligence state. They also argue that the legislation would help Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, who has found himself struggling with a corruption investigation that went public on Dec. 17, 2013, to escape legal action over claims of corruption and bribery.”

Prof. Metin Feyzioğlu, head of the Turkish Bar Associations’ Union, called the draft text “a horrific amendment,” adding in an interview with Fox TV: “The bill will expand the powers of MİT to the point that it will be beyond control. Not only will it be given the expanded intelligence gathering, but also right to conduct covert operations at home and abroad. MİT is intended to be given powers to enter any bank’s and company’s and media outlet’s system and collect data. This means an end to privacy and commercial secrets in the country.”

He also adds that it will grant impunity to MİT staff and permit non-accountability in its negotiations with the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).

Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) deputy Faruk Bal said the Justice and Development Party (AK Party) government wants to pass the MİT law in Parliament because it wants to save several of its officials from an ongoing corruption and bribery investigation.

“The government wants to hush up claims of corruption, theft, money laundering and gold smuggling. It also wants to conceal evidence related to those crimes. The government will give MİT a mandate to save it from the investigation [if the draft bill is adopted].”

Apart from such a worrying move, which the opposition argues will turn Turkey into a “Mukhabarat state,” two areas are important for Erdoğan’s ambitions as Turkey approaches the presidential polls: the economy and judicial checks.

The prime minister and his circle of staunch supporters circle insist that interest rates be lowered — a seemingly unending refrain — as Erdem Başçı, governor of the Central Bank, finds it harder and harder to maneuver without causing friction. But there are now reports hinting that Başçı may be replaced, and if so, Turkey will face a period marked by intense populism.

The prime focal point of resistance to Erdoğan’s personal thrust towards a rule that aims to subordinate every power, branch of state and the judiciary is the Constitutional Court. Not only is it being demonized, but increasingly its structure and composition are being opened to questioning.

Erdoğan knows that however he imposes his chosen political direction — and he will use Parliament fiercely to do so — he will face scrutiny and a possible backlash from the top court’s 17 judges. If it passes, even the MİT bill will pass through their scrutiny.

The reversal of democratic reforms since Dec. 17, 2013 shows, therefore, that the democratic gains brought to Turkey by the 2010 referendum can also cause a deep allergic reaction. How right the “yes” vote was.

SOURCE: TODAY’S ZAMAN