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

Mali's Female Basketball Players Rebound After Islamist Occupation

Islamist extremists ruled northern Mali for most of 2012, imposing strict Sharia law, and now some 18 months later, the region is slowly getting back on its feet More

Video Vietnamese Staging Chinese Product Boycott After Oil Rig Spat

Many Chinese-made products go unsold, for now, with numerous Vietnamese consumers still angry over recent dispute More

Koreas Mark 61st Anniversary of War Armistice

Muted observances on both sides of heavily-armed Demilitarized Zone that separates two decades-long enemies More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Students in Business for Themselvesi
X
Mike O'Sullivan
July 26, 2014 11:04 AM
They're only high school students, but they are making accessories for shoes, fabricating backpacks and doing product photography - all through their own businesses. It's the result of a partnership between a non-profit organization that teaches entrepreneurship and their schools. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan and Deyane Moses met the budding entrepreneurs near Los Angeles.
Video

Video Students in Business for Themselves

They're only high school students, but they are making accessories for shoes, fabricating backpacks and doing product photography - all through their own businesses. It's the result of a partnership between a non-profit organization that teaches entrepreneurship and their schools. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan and Deyane Moses met the budding entrepreneurs near Los Angeles.
Video

Video Astronauts Train in Underwater Lab

In the world’s only underwater laboratory, four U.S. astronauts train for a planned visit to an asteroid. The lab - called Aquarius- is located five kilometers off Key Largo, in southern Florida. Living in close quarters and making excursions only into the surrounding ocean, they try to simulate the daily routine of a crew that will someday travel to collect samples of a rock orbiting far away from earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Not Even Monks Spared From Thailand’s Junta-Backed Morality Push

With Thailand’s military government firmly in control after May’s bloodless coup, authorities are carrying out plans they say are aimed at restoring discipline, morality and patriotism to all Thais. The measures include a crackdown on illegal gambling, education reforms to promote students’ moral development, and a new 24-hour phone hotline for citizens to report misbehaving monks. Steve Sandford reports from Bangkok.
Video

Video Virtual Program Teaches Farming Skills

In a fast-changing world beset by unpredictable climate conditions, farmers cannot afford to ignore new technology. Researchers in Australia are developing an online virtual world program to share information about climate change and more sustainable farming techniques for sugar cane growers. As VOA's Zlatica Hoke reports, the idea is to create a wider support network for farmers.
Video

Video Airline Expert: Missile will Show Signature on Debris

The debris field from Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 is spread over a 21-kilometer radius in eastern Ukraine. It is expected to take investigators months to sort through the airplane pieces to learn about the missile that brought down the jetliner and who fired it. VOAs Carolyn Presutti explains how this work will be done.
Video

Video Treatment for Childhood Epilepsy Heats up Medical Marijuana Debate

In the United States, marijuana is classed as an illegal drug by the federal government. But nearly half the states have legalized it, to some degree. Proponents say some strains of marijuana might have exceptional health benefits, for treating pain or inflammation in chronic conditions such as cancer, multiple sclerosis and epilepsy. Shelley Schlender reports on a strain of medical marijuana developed in Colorado that is reputed to reduce seizures in childhood epilepsy
Video

Video Airbus Adds Metal 3D Printed Parts to New Jets

By the end of this year, European aircraft manufacturing consortium Airbus plans to deliver the first of its new, extra-wide-body passenger jets, the A350-XWB. Among other technological innovations, the new plane will also incorporate metal parts made in a 3-D printer. VOA's George Putic has more.
Video

Video AIDS Conference Welcomes Exciting Developments in HIV Treatment, Prevention

Significant strides have been made in recent years toward the treatment and prevention of HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. This year, at the International AIDS Conference, the AIDS community welcomed progress on a new pill that may prevent transmission of the deadly virus. VOA’s Anita Powell reports from Melbourne, Australia.
Video

Video IAEA: Iran Turns its Enriched Uranium Into Less Harmful Form

Iran has converted its stockpiles of enriched uranium into a less dangerous form that is more difficult to use for nuclear weapons, according to the United Nations’ Atomic Energy Agency. The move complies with an interim deal reached with Western powers on Iran's nuclear program last year, in exchange for easing of sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.

AppleAndroid