Opposition leader Destici: Since when has exposing graft been a crime?

Date posted: January 19, 2014


Muhsin Yazıcıoğlu, the late leader of the Grand Unity Party (BBP), challenged the architects of the upheaval that followed the Feb. 28, 1997 coup, saying that Turkey will not be like Iran but that they would never let it be like Syria, either.

After 16 years, Turkey is experiencing a second Feb. 28. Fethullah Gülen and the Hizmet movement are facing a lynching campaign. The media close to the ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party) relies on plain propaganda tactics to remind us of the old extraordinary years.

Allegations previously dismissed by judicial authorities are being raised again. People in the bureaucracy are being profiled. Officers have been removed from their posts in some ministries. Furthermore, mayoral elections are scheduled for March, and campaigning is becoming tenser.

What does all this mean in political terms? The BBP follows traces of the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) tradition; it is one of the parties that had to deal with the shadowy operations of the old state. Yazıcıoğlu died in a suspicious helicopter crash. Mustafa Destici, his replacement, responded to our questions at the BBP headquarters.

Do you agree with the claims that there is a junta within the judiciary and the police and that the Hizmet movement has created a structure within the state?

If by parallel state structure they mean the Hizmet supporters within the judiciary and the police, then there are many parallel states within this state. If we take every group holding a political position as a parallel state and view members of these groups through this prism, then all parties have members in the state and you should see all of them as parallel states. Therefore, we can speak of multiple parallel states. People, regardless of their ethnic origin, sect, political orientation or group identity, may assume roles and positions in the state administration and bureaucracy. What matters is whether these people abide by the law in the performance of their official duties. Are they observing the law? This should be investigated. We need to look at whether or not they act in compliance with the law and the Constitution, not whether they act in line with the requests of the government. If they remain within the boundaries of the law, you cannot blame anybody.

Is there a parallel state within the state?

Look, a terrorist organization created a structure called the Kurdistan Communities Union (KCK). They basically said, “We will set up a state within the state and create Kurdistan.” This has been confirmed by their co-chair and executive chair. They say, “This will become free Kurdistan,” and want to create their own education, judicial and tax systems. You don’t use this reference for such people, but you make these accusations against volunteers and altruistic people who spend their lives promoting the image of Turkey. This is not fair.

How do you respond to the prime minister’s words, “We will seize their caves”?

Whose caves will they seize? If they look for a cave to seize, they should look for the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) caves. They reportedly have more than 10,000 caves. They should seize the caves of terrorists who have been killing public officers and innocent people for three decades. If by caves you mean houses and dorms, it is inappropriate to make such references to these places. Second, when you go in there, you will find copies of the Quran, hadith collections and religious books, nothing else.

Is the political administration angry because the [Hizmet] movement has not submitted to the government?

The ongoing bribery and corruption probe is being presented as an operation being carried out by the [Hizmet] movement. What is graver than this accusation? The allegation that they held this operation in cooperation with external actors is just unfair. They should prove this. On the one hand they say that the American envoy in Turkey received the envoys of EU states in our country at a dinner where he made insulting remarks against Turkey, while on the other they also assure the US that they do not hold this position. If that is the case, then they are lying and slandering the Hizmet movement. Is exposing corruption a crime?

What do you think?

The police and prosecutors have done their job. But let us assume that this is an external operation; should we not also blame the thieves? When an external actor seizes some information and exploits your weaknesses, this means that you are exposed to their operations. In the end, your management style and policies led to this situation. But instead of dealing with this problem and identifying the perpetrators, you seek solutions to cover up the corruption. But you cannot do it. The people will always remember.

İdris Naim Şahin has referred to an oligarchic circle that has influence over the government. Does such a structure direct the prime minister?

Şahin refers to an oligarchic structure which we are not sure intends to govern. A year ago, I said that there was a structure that wanted to take the prime minister to the line of the PKK. This group has been successful; talks were held, and in the end all of the demands of the PKK, with the exception of independence, were accepted. It appears that the same circle is now targeting the Hizmet movement. İdris Naim Şahin is one of the founding members of the party for which he served a decade-long tenure as senior party deputy, so his allegations should be taken seriously.

Operations are being conducted against some groups and even political parties. Some of these parties have been divided. Could we say that the ruling party is trying to eliminate those elements refusing to comply and obey?

Every administration has done things like that to consolidate its power, but it is not something that can be pursued in democratic regimes. On the contrary, strengthening the opposition, civil society and communities, and removing barriers to freedom of expression should be among the priorities of administrations in democratic regimes. Civil society refers to all social groups outside of the government.

How should we comment on the statements of support for the ruling party made by some civil society organizations?

There are attempts and efforts to align unions and civil society organizations with the government. They raise one agenda behind closed doors and another one in public. Even the labor unions fail to defend labor rights. They seem to promote the interests of the government. There are leaders of civil society organizations who actually serve the propaganda of the government. A political party or administration may consider weakening its opponents, but this is done on the election ballot; if it does so by employing the power it holds, it is antidemocratic.

How do you see the attempts at changing the structure of institutions such as the Council of State and the Supreme Board of Judges and Prosecutors (HSYK)?

In a democratic country, a judicial, administrative and educational system is established once and preserved for centuries. A political administration facing corruption charges would not even consider changing the law and creating a system where the judiciary is made subordinate to the government as an option. Everybody would submit to the judiciary and hold confidence in it. The government proposed the current structures of the HSYK and Constitutional Court three years ago and the people extended support for it in a referendum. So what happens now that they want to change it? Why are they transferring the powers of the board to the minister again? If this change is made, it will have huge consequences for judicial independence. It will be a step backwards. This would be against the Constitution and a betrayal of the 2010 referendum. The realignment of government opponents in 2010 is happening again with the current administration. The removals and reappointments in some institutions have become particularly serious now. The government is acting recklessly but it does not know that if it keeps doing so, our democracy and our nation will have to pay for it dearly.

The prime minister has argued that there is a coup against the government and is calling on the opposition to support the government to thwart these attempts.

We expressed our position when a coup was staged in Egypt; in any part of the world, if there is a coup against an elected government, we are opposed to it. We demonstrated this as our stance in the Feb. 28 coup. But I do not see the ongoing developments as a coup attempt against the government.

So what is the government facing?

The prosecutors and the police conducted a corruption investigation, but further operations were blocked. It was not a coup attempt. If someone alleges there is a coup and that external actors are responsible for it, they must prove it. I view this claim of an alleged coup as a discursive strategy to keep the support base aligned.

The prime minister defined the corruption operation as a riot and a coup attempt against the government, like the Gezi protests. Was Dec. 17 an extension of the Gezi incidents?

Gezi was different from Dec 17. Both those involved and not involved in Gezi have expressed their positions clearly. The United States, the European Union and others supported the Gezi protests. The prime minister presenting this corruption probe as an extension of Gezi is nothing but an effort to keep his support base aligned with him. He gives the impression of trying to cover up the corruption by presenting himself as a victim.

There have been protests like Gezi in some cities, and those protestors have asked for the resignation of the government.

I believe that they did not emerge spontaneously. They are being carried out as part of a controlled tension project. There is a political tendency of relying on conflict; they want to raise tension first and then cause conflict among the people. They are laying the ground for polarized politics. It is a deliberate strategy.

How is that?

Since 2002, we have seen the AK Party win elections by polarizing the people. They have identified absolute enemies and kept the support base alive via tension, which has had an impact in the elections. Tension is promoted in this process, and the same strategy is being pursued.

So you are saying the government deliberately raises the tension.

What should be discussed at this point? Corruption, bribery, thievery, terrorism, the budget and a new constitution should be discussed, but all of this has been strategically covered up. A new budget was adopted; have you heard anything about it? There have been some constructive remarks, but nothing critical. We are way behind the Greek part of Cyprus in terms of per capita income. We are facing serious economic problems. It is a lie that we are a social welfare state.

In extreme circumstances, the people have been provoked to take to the streets. Will this polarization become worse in March?

There have been attempts to polarize and discriminate against people in order to pursue a political strategy. Some groups have deliberately taken to the streets. These groups are ready to do so. They are allowed to take to the streets. They are allowed to hold protests; in doing so, they send the message, “If this government goes, this is what you will have instead.” Religious and conservative voters are intimidated by this message. They say, “Look, if the AK Party goes, this is what you will have.” They consider chaos to be a way of garnering a political advantage.

Can the AK Party push the youth into the streets?

Right now they are trying but I am not sure if they will be able to do so. There are shallow rallies, but politics has become divided because of the power of the government and local administration. Even workers employed in public institutions have been identified based on political tendencies as profiled by local party administrators. One of the most dangerous things in this process is extreme partisanship; our people should avoid partisanship and support the truth. Those who are trying to divide and polarize the people should not be given this opportunity to achieve their evil purposes and goals.

How will the local election shape politics?

Recent developments are important. The parliamentary elections might be rescheduled and combined with the local elections on March 30. The government’s attitude in this process shows that it could happen. There might be further losses [in votes] in the ruling party. Operations similar to Dec. 17 might take place. In the end, Turkey may have to hold early elections. The general elections may be merged with the local elections on March 30 or an early election may be held in late May or early June before the presidential elections. Depending on the results of the local elections, some important developments may take place. The AK Party received 38 percent of the vote in 2009. We are talking about an election where the ruling party had many advantages. Now it is entering a controversial election. Some arguments of the ruling party are invalid. If the government receives less than 38 percent and loses the mayoral elections in İstanbul and Ankara, it will have to agree to an early election.

What result would be considered successful for the BBP?

We have named our candidates in every election district. In this election we will have a greater number of candidates than ever before. They have destroyed many alternatives, but not us. We will be the only winners of this election in that we will increase both the number of people voting for us and the number of mayoral posts we hold. In 2009, we won 20 mayoral elections in districts previously administered by the ruling party. We have done better than them. They have made the people believe there is no other alternative, but our people should know that we are an alternative. The BBP has the right projects and political figures to address and resolve the ongoing problems in Turkey.

Will the Yazıcıoğlu investigation be resolved?

There is an ongoing investigation into the death of our dear former Chairman Muhsin Yazıcıoğlu. The investigation of the Office of the Prosecutor at the Supreme Court of Appeals involving top-level bureaucrats is nearing its end. Official statements have been received from governors, commanders and high-level bureaucrats. The actual investigation is being carried out in the Malatya Prosecutor’s Office. The Inspection Board of the Office of the Prime Ministry is also conducting an administrative investigation. We have also asked state units to take statements from [pro-government Muslim scholar] Hayrettin Karaman because of his remarks about Muhsin Yazıcıoğlu. Hayrettin Karaman told me that the remarks he wrote in his controversial column [in the Yeni Şafak daily several weeks ago] should be read as, “Yazıcıoğlu always put public and national interests ahead of his own.”

If the ship sinks, we go down together

We should avoid unfair accusations, ungrounded allegations and slanderous remarks. We should stay away from a pragmatist, logical approach in this process; on the contrary, we should adopt a constructive and inclusive approach. We should keep in mind that there is glory in unity and there is destruction in disunity, as noted in a hadith by the Prophet Muhammad. If brothers have problems, we must address them before they turn into a real fight. All in all, we are aboard the same ship; if it sinks, we all drown together.

Source: Todays Zaman , January 19, 2014

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