Erdogan Says Turkish Corruption Probe ‘Black Stain’ on Democracy
Ankara – Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan described a corruption investigation shaking his government as a “black stain on Turkey’s democratic history” on Tuesday and a worse betrayal than any of the military coups of past decades. Addressing members of his ruling AK Party in parliament, Erdogan said the corruption investigation was being driven by outside forces opposed to Turkey’s assertive foreign policy and bent on damaging its economy ahead of elections this year.
He appeared to soften his stance on plans to give government greater control over the naming of judges and prosecutors, saying he would drop the proposals if the opposition agreed instead to changes to the constitution. But the main opposition CHP, which argues the government’s plans violate the constitution, said it would come to the negotiating table only if Erdogan withdrew the proposals first. A senior AK Party official said he was not optimistic of reaching a compromise.
The corruption scandal, one of the biggest challenges of Erdogan’s 11-year rule, erupted on December 17 with the detention of dozens of people including businessmen close to the government and three cabinet ministers’ sons. Turkey has been held up by the United States and other Western allies as an example of a working Muslim democracy since Erdogan was first elected in 2002. But a crackdown on popular protests in June and Erdogan’s reaction to the corruption scandal have raised doubts about democratic reform.
“December 17 is a black stain on Turkey’s democratic history. It has surpassed all previous coup attempts and has been recorded as a betrayal to the state, democracy and the nation,” Erdogan said to applause from his party members. “This operation targeted our national foreign policy, our national will, our national intelligence agency,” he said. (Reuters)