News / Europe

    Hit by Scandal, Turkey PM Names New Ministers

    Turkey's Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan addresses members of his ruling AK Party, at its headquarters in Ankara, Dec. 25, 2013.
    Turkey's Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan addresses members of his ruling AK Party, at its headquarters in Ankara, Dec. 25, 2013.
    Reuters
    Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan reshuffled his cabinet on Wednesday after three members quit over a corruption scandal that has posed an unprecedented challenge to his 11-year rule.

    The crisis erupted on December 17 when dozens of people, including the head of state-run Halkbank, were arrested on graft charges. Erdogan responded by purging police investigators. The ensuing feud with the judiciary reignited long-simmering street protests and rattled foreign investors.

    Earlier on Wednesday, three ministers who had sons among those detained resigned. Two of them echoed Erdogan in depicting the inquiry as baseless and a conspiracy. The third, Environment Minister Erdogan Bayraktar, turned on the premier.

    ”For the sake of the wellbeing of this nation and country, I believe the prime minister should resign,” he told NTV news.

    By breaking ranks, Bayraktar may have diluted any easing of pressure on Erdogan afforded by the ministers' resignations, although some commentators thought their timing was off.

    ”These are very late and difficult resignations. They don't have any value in terms of democracy,” said Koray Caliskan, an associate professor at Istanbul's Bogazici University.

    After nightfall, a tired-looking Erdogan announced he was appointing 10 new ministers to replace the three who quit and others planning mayoral runs in local elections in March.

    During his three terms in office, Erdogan has transformed Turkey by tackling its once-dominant secular military and overseen rapid economic expansion. He weathered anti-government demonstrations that swept Istanbul and other cities in mid-2013.

    The gauntlet thrown down by Bayraktar set off fresh protests in Ankara, Istanbul and Izmir. Erdogan was unmoved.
           
    Protocol, purges

    In a speech earlier on Wednesday, Erdogan vowed no tolerance on corruption. He argued that the work of the about 70 police investigators he had sacked or reassigned - including the chief of the force in Istanbul, Halkbank's headquarters - was deeply tainted.

    ”If a verdict is made by the opposition party on the second day of the investigation, what's the point of having judges? If a decision is made by the media, what's the point of having these long legal procedures?” - Erdogan said to provincial leaders of his Islamist-rooted AK party.

    Alluding to TV news reports that have riveted Turks with footage of cash-filled shoe boxes allegedly seized at suspects' homes, he asked: “How do you know what that money is for?”

    The 14-month investigation was conducted largely in secret.

    At the weekend, the government changed regulations for the police, requiring officers to report evidence, investigations, arrests and complaints to commanding officers and prosecutors. Journalists have been banned from police stations.

    The Hurriyet newspaper said up to 550 police officers, including senior commanders, had been dismissed nationwide in the past week by Interior Minister Muammer Guler, who has now resigned.

    Erdogan's critics see an authoritarian streak in his rule.

    ”The only way you can explain an interior minister removing the police chiefs working in an investigation regarding his own family is that the aim is to obstruct evidence,” said Koray Caliskan, who writes for the centrist newspaper Radikal.

    ”The prime minister thinks Turkish people are not very clever [but] he will be slapped hard at the ballot box,” added Caliskan.

    Turkey's next parliamentary election is not until 2015. But with the local ballots looming, pollsters say the scandal's so-far modest erosion of AK's popular support could quicken.

    In a fourth resignation on Wednesday, AK lawmaker Idris Naim Sahin, a former interior minister, told the party he was also stepping down, according to sources in his office.

    The scandal has laid bare rivalry between Erdogan and Fethullah Gulen, a U.S.-based Turkish cleric whose Hizmet (Service) movement claims at least one million followers, including senior police officers and judges, and which runs schools and charities across Turkey and abroad.

    While denying any role in the affair, Gulen described Erdogan as suffering “decayed thinking” after the premier portrayed himself as fending off a shadowy international plot.

    In an apparent reference to Gulen, Erdogan said on Wednesday: “We would not allow certain organizations acting under the guise of religion but being used as the tools of certain countries to carry out an operation on our country.”

    You May Like

    Video Obama Remembers Fallen Troops for Memorial Day

    President urges Americans this holiday weekend to 'take a moment and offer a silent word of prayer or public word of thanks' to country's veterans

    Upsurge of Migratory Traffic Across Sahara From West to North Africa

    A report by the International Organization for Migration finds more than 60,000 migrants have transited through the Agadez region of Niger between February and April

    UN Blocks Access to Journalist Advocacy Group

    United Nations has rejected bid from nonprofit journalist advocacy group that wanted 'consultative status,' ranking that would have given them greater access to UN meetings

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Chinese-Americans Heart Trump, Bucking National Trendi
    X
    May 27, 2016 5:57 AM
    A new study conducted by three Asian-American organizations shows there are three times as many Democrats as there are Republicans among Asian-American voters, and they favor Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump. But one group, called Chinese-Americans For Trump, is going against the tide and strongly supports the business tycoon. VOA’s Elizabeth Lee caught up with them at a Trump rally and reports from Anaheim, California.
    Video

    Video Chinese-Americans Heart Trump, Bucking National Trend

    A new study conducted by three Asian-American organizations shows there are three times as many Democrats as there are Republicans among Asian-American voters, and they favor Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump. But one group, called Chinese-Americans For Trump, is going against the tide and strongly supports the business tycoon. VOA’s Elizabeth Lee caught up with them at a Trump rally and reports from Anaheim, California.
    Video

    Video Reactions to Trump's Success Polarized Abroad

    What seemed impossible less than a year ago is now almost a certainty. New York real estate mogul Donald Trump has won the number of delegates needed to secure the Republican presidential nomination. The prospect has sparked as much controversy abroad as it has in the United States. Zlatica Hoke has more.
    Video

    Video Drawings by Children in Hiroshima Show Hope and Peace

    On Friday, President Barack Obama will visit Hiroshima, Japan, the first American president to do so while in office. In August 1945, the United States dropped an atomic bomb on the city to force Japan's surrender in World War II. Although their city lay in ruins, some Hiroshima schoolchildren drew pictures of hope and peace. The former students and their drawings are now part of a documentary called “Pictures from a Hiroshima Schoolyard.” VOA's Deborah Block has the story.
    Video

    Video Vietnamese Rapper Performs for Obama

    A prominent young Vietnamese artist told President Obama said she faced roadblocks as a woman rapper, and asked the president about government support for the arts. He asked her to rap, and he even offered to provide a base beat for her. Watch what happened.
    Video

    Video Roots Run Deep for Tunisia's Dwindling Jewish Community

    This week, hundreds of Jewish pilgrims are defying terrorist threats to celebrate an ancient religious festival on the Tunisian island of Djerba. The festivities cast a spotlight on North Africa's once-vibrant Jewish population that has all but died out in recent decades. Despite rising threats of militant Islam and the country's battered economy, one of the Arab world's last Jewish communities is staying put and nurturing a new generation. VOA’s Lisa Bryant reports.
    Video

    Video Meet Your New Co-Worker: The Robot

    Increasing numbers of robots are joining the workforce, as companies scale back and more processes become automated. The latest robots are flexible and collaborative, built to work alongside humans as opposed to replacing them. VOA’s Tina Trinh looks at the next generation of automated employees helping out their human colleagues.
    Video

    Video Wheelchair Technology in Tune With Times

    Technologies for the disabled, including wheelchair technology, are advancing just as quickly as everything else in the digital age. Two new advances in wheelchairs offer improved control and a more comfortable fit. VOA's George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Baby Boxes Offer Safe Haven for Unwanted Children

    No one knows exactly how many babies are abandoned worldwide each year. The statistic is a difficult one to determine because it is illegal in most places. Therefore unwanted babies are often hidden and left to die. But as Erika Celeste reports from Woodburn, Indiana, a new program hopes to make surrendering infants safer for everyone.
    Video

    Video California Celebration Showcases Local Wines, Balloons

    Communities in the U.S. often hold festivals to show what makes them special. In California, for example, farmers near Fresno celebrate their figs and those around Gilmore showcase their garlic. Mike O'Sullivan reports that the wine-producing region of Temecula offers local vintages in an annual festival where rides on hot-air balloons add to the excitement.
    Video

    Video US Elementary School Offers Living Science Lessons

    Zero is not a good score on a test at school. But Discovery Elementary is proud of its “net zero” rating. Net zero describes a building in which the amount of energy provided by on-site renewable sources equals the amount of energy the building uses. As Faiza Elmasry tells us, the innovative features in the building turn the school into a teaching tool, where kids can't help but learn about science and sustainability. Faith Lapidus narrates.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora