TURKEY UPDATE: Crony capitalism, 60,000 ‘wanted’, protest leaflets and women’s outrage

A Journal of People report

Media reports and articles on Turkey show developments the country is going through.

William Armstrong wrote on July 6, 2017 in Hurriyet Daily News:

“In Transparency International’s most recent annual Corruption Perceptions Index, Turkey ranked a lowly 75th. The country has been declining steadily on the index in recent years, as an earlier reform drive is abandoned and ordinary citizens increasingly come to see corruption as the normal way of doing things.

“Infrastructure development has been central to the AKP’s electoral appeal. But this has gone hand in hand with an increasingly well-oiled machine of cronyism, as the state dishes out contracts to friendly companies.”

William Armstrong writes while reviewing the book Politics of Favoritism in Public Procurement in Turkey: Reconfigurations of Dependency Networks in the AKP Era by Esra Çeviker Gürakar (Palgrave, 127 pages, $54):

“Esra Çeviker Gürakar closely examines a key aspect of how the economic environment under the Justice and Development Party (AKP) has decayed since the party first came to power in 2002.”

In the review, William Armstrong writes:

“Corruption in public procurement was among the chronic problems in Turkey’s economy in the 1980s and 90s. The legal framework was ambiguous and full of loopholes, allowing ruling coalition parties to pursue rent-seeking and patronage-based relations with key constituencies by doling out goodies. When the economy went into meltdown in 2000-01, reform of the state procurement system was demanded by the IMF in return for funds that Turkey desperately needed to pay off its massive debt.

“When the AKP first emerged it presented itself as a break from the corrupt old order of traditional parties (“ak” meaning “pure” or “white” in Turkish). In January 2003 it enacted a new Public Procurement Law, previously drafted in line with the wishes of the IMF and the World Bank. The EU also demanded reforms enhancing transparency and efficiency in return for the start of membership negotiations with Ankara.

“But almost as soon as the new law was passed the AKP started to dilute it. It has now been amended more than 150 times, with the government increasing its discretion in awarding contracts, reducing transparency, and opening the door to corruption. All in all, the 2003 Public Procurement Law is a salutary example of ‘good governance’ medicine being taken but simply regurgitated back up. As in other policy areas, promising early steps by the AKP proved to be red herrings.”

The book review headlined “Crony capitalism in Turkey” said:

“Gürakar’s book studies the effect of the amendments in granular detail, based on a data set of 49,255 state procurements. It shows how the changes greased the wheels of AKP-linked cronyism. ‘The number and the value-share of public procurement contracts that fall outside transparent public procurement process (open auctions) increased substantially during the period from 2005 to 2011,’ writes Gürakar. The AKP has secured its own electoral success while building its own loyal elites by establishing, preserving and developing networks of dependency. ‘Through social housing projects, construction of highways, and municipal services, the AKP government has both managed to touch upon the very lives of the voters and at the same time distribute rents to ‘politically connected’ private sector firms,’ writes Gürakar.

“Corruption leads to terrible inefficiency. Value for taxpayers’ money is not achieved because allocation of resources is politically driven. Gürakar notes that in Turkey the cost of all procurements to taxpayers would be much lower than it is currently if related policy-making was based on economic rationale. An important factor that is today little mentioned is the almost total emasculation of the Court of Accounts (Sayıştay) in recent years. The court is responsible for oversight of the use of public resources but it has become non-functional – the result of a series of legal changes limiting its scope. After 2011 it was ordered to exclude the “public loss” section from its audit reports, and in December 2013 it was ruled that state institutions would no longer be obliged to provide account details to the court. The government has thus created a vacuum where monitoring of state budgets should be.

“Gürakar writes that local administrations not affiliated with the AKP are also susceptible to favoritism. She cites data showing that the metropolitan municipality in İzmir, run by the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP), also exercises considerable discretion in favor of affiliated firms. CHP members say in defense that they are starved of resources by the central government, but clearly when interests and pocketbooks dictate they are happy to play their part ensuring that graft in Turkey remains systematic rather than the fault of the government alone.

“Perhaps the major difference between corruption today and in the past is that the AKP has been able to dominate the game nationally for 15 years, widening the scope for its own cronyism to an unprecedented degree. As a guide to a key part of that trend, Politics of Favoritism in Public Procurement in Turkey is a forensic and surprisingly punchy study.”

A reality of economy and politics comes out from the review of the book.


Protest leaflets say: ‘Death to the Dictator’

A few days ago, Istanbul police were hunting for a German activist after finding a printer hidden in a hotel room that spewed fliers calling for action against President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Istanbul.

A report by Newsweek on July 4, 2017 said:

“According to German website Bento, the leaflets said ‘Do not be a will-less flock of followers who will allow neighbors to be killed or imprisoned.’ It also stated: ‘Together we are stronger than any system. Death to the dictator!’

“The leaflets were printed on Saturday morning, and hotel staff immediately notified police of the stunt.”

The report by Jack Moore said:

“The hotel in the city’s Taksim district was booked in the name of 26-year-old German national Sebastian Enden.

“A German activist from the Center For Political Beauty (ZPS) told the website that it was the work of the organization, which carries out protests of political activism. The center had called for a campaign of distributing leaflets in opposition of ‘dictatorships.’”

The report headlined “Erdogan Protest: Hidden Hotel Printer Floods Istanbul Street With Leaflets Calling For ‘Death to the Dictator!’” said:

“Erdogan has been increasingly criticized by the Turkish opposition and European Union member states for what they say are increasingly autocratic policy decisions following the failed military coup in July 2016.”

It said:

“Police said they found the source of the leaflets — hundreds were spewed onto the street — to be a remote-controlled printer.

“Philipp Ruch of ZPS said it was not an act by a sole German national, as reported by Turkey’s government-leaning media outlet Daily Sabah, but by several volunteers who prepared the action in different hotels with several printers.  ‘Actually we had four printers,’ claimed Ruch. ‘We called them Churchill I to IV.’

“It remains unclear if Enden is a fake name or someone who remains on the run. Daily Sabah posted a picture of Enden and his identity card, while the hotel said that Enden had checked out on Friday without returning. The website claimed that Enden may have already left the country on a flight to Germany on Saturday.

“Turkish police have opened an investigation into the incident. While the exact punishment Enden would have faced for insulting the Turkish leader is unclear, he would have likely felt the strong arm of the Turkish justice system. The maximum punishment for insulting the president in Turkey is four years in jail.”

The report said:

“As of mid-2016, Turkish prosecutors had filed some 2,000 defamation cases against citizens deemed to have insulted Erdogan since he rose to the presidency in August 2014. Those accused of such a crime have included a former Miss Turkey, students, academics and media workers.”


Interpol and Turkey

A report by daily Karar said:

“Interpol has removed Turkey from its database after Ankara uploaded a list of 60,000 people sought over suspected links to what Turkish prosecutors call the Fethullahist Terrorist Organization (FETÖ).

“The decision to suspend Turkey’s access to the database of sought individuals came after the July 2016 coup attempt.”

According to the daily, Turkey uploaded the names of suspected members of FETÖ, widely believed to have been behind the thwarted coup, after they fled abroad. Interpol allegedly said the issue constituted “an issue of trust.”

NATO soldiers, police officers and bureaucrats are among those sought by prosecutors in Turkey. Many Gülenist suspects fled abroad after the attempted takeover, including prosecutors Zekeriya Öz, Fikret Seçen and Celal Kara.

Access to the database has reportedly been blocked for almost a year despite protests from Turkey, which says it makes it easier for the followers of US-based Islamic preacher Fethullah Gülen to travel around Europe and the United States.

Without an Interpol notice, the sought coup attempt suspects are able to use their current passports.

The Interpol database, which includes passport information of the sought individuals, enables countries to detain suspects after their passport numbers are determined on the system. Interpol’s decision has blocked Gülenist suspects’ passport numbers to be shown on the system.

According to the report, Turkish authorities told the Interpol secretary general that the names were not picked randomly, that legal investigations were being carried out regarding thousands of suspected FETÖ members, and that the names were determined after years of legal investigations.

However, the International Criminal Police Organization (Interpol) has denied reports that it has removed Turkey from its database after Ankara uploaded a list of 60,000 people sought over suspected links to what prosecutors call the Fethullahist Terrorist Organization (FETÖ), BBC Turkish has reported.

Interpol’s spokesperson said on July 6 that no access bans had been implemented for Turkey, including for people who had international warrants, over Interpol’s databases.

“Interpol supports each and every one of its 190 members as part of security cooperation benefits. No access block has been implemented in Interpol’s databases, including for those who have international warrants in Turkey,” the statement said

Interpol also stated that some notifications of countries had not been accepted in its database due to “non-occurrence,” which includes lacking documents, between Interpol’s charters.


Female student assaulted for wearing shorts: women outrage

Turkish prosecutors issued an arrest warrant recently for a man caught on camera punching a woman because she was wearing shorts during the Islamic month of Ramadan.

The attack took place on June 14 on an Istanbul bus. Footage of the incident has sparked uproar from Turkish women’s activists.

University student Melisa Saglam was sitting on the bus when a man got up to exit the vehicle. As he moved toward the door, he punches Saglam in the face.

Before the punch, the man asked the student: “Are you not ashamed to dress this way during Ramadan?” She chased him as he went to leave the vehicle, but he threw her to the back of the bus and ran away.

Police detained him but subsequently released him after he said he had been “provoked” by her choice of clothing.

The Turkish arm of women’s rights activist group FEMEN tweeted: “Yet another woman was attacked in Turkey for wearing short shorts!!!”

Women’s rights organization We Will Stop Femicide Platform wrote on Twitter: “The release of the attacker is a threat to all women. We will wear whatever we want outside. We will not give up our freedoms.” It also shared footage of the video and retweeted dozens of supportive messages from Turkish women who used a hashtag of Saglam’s name.

The organization said that men in Turkey have murdered 173 women between January and May this year. The number was 328 for the whole of 2016.

Rights groups have alleged that the Turkish government’s increasing Islamization of the secular country is eroding women’s rights.

Saglam said she wants justice and for life to return to normal again after the assault. Speaking to media in Turkey, she said: “My only wish from the justice system is that an appropriate, dissuasive punishment is given to the assailant. I do not want him to walk around freely because I cannot anymore. Since being assaulted I have been unable to go anywhere without my mother. I cannot even get on public transportation.”

A man attacked yet another woman in Istanbul for wearing ‘improperly.’ People around reacted saying “It’s not your damn business

“Police stopped me from entering Istiklal Street because of my t-shirt. I asked: ‘What’s wrong with it?’ They said: ‘It reads feminist.'”


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