In an exclusive interview with Today’s Zaman, the CHP leader lashed out at the prime minister for his handling of the corruption probe; Kılıçdaroğlu said Erdoğan wants to sweep claims of corruption and bribery leveled against himself and his government under the carpet.
“The scope of [alleged government] corruption and theft that was exposed after Dec. 17, 2013, is so big,” Kılıçdaroğlu said, describing the scandal.
He added: “Evidence supporting corruption and theft charges is all over the place. The evidence is so strong that there is not a justice system or a constitutional state order on earth that could acquit [anyone of] such immense theft.”
Commenting on a new law on the Supreme Board of Judges and Prosecutors (HSYK) that was passed in Parliament over the weekend thanks to the AK Party holding the majority of seats, the CHP leader said the ruling party wants to make the board subordinate to the AK Party unconditionally. According to the main opposition leader, the AK Party wants to demote HSYK members to the position of office clerks who are supposed to receive orders from the ruling party.
“This scandal [the AK Party’s meddling in the judiciary] has already gone down in history as a ‘record of shame’ that cannot be overlooked by the civilized world. The AK Party wishes to commit a massacre of the law, and this implies, albeit indirectly, that the ruling party acknowledges it carried out a major theft,” Kılıçdaroğlu said.
“We [the CHP] will call the AK Party to account before the law for a coup it has staged against the constitutional order.”
The CHP leader also said there is a “parallel state” in Turkey, but this parallel state is not the Hizmet movement, a faith-based group inspired by Turkish Islamic scholar Fethullah Gülen, or any other religious group, as alleged by the prime minister. The parallel state, according to Kılıçdaroğlu, is one that comprises the prime minister, several ministers, their sons, bureaucrats and businessmen. “This is a parallel state established for corruption,” he said.
The following are excerpts from the interview:
First of all, thank you for sparing your time for an interview with us at such a busy time. Let’s begin with the hottest development. The HSYK law was passed in Parliament. What does this mean and how will your party react?
Only three years have passed since the Sept. 12, 2010 constitutional referendum, which was presented to the people [by the government] as the biggest democratic revolution in the history of the Republic of Turkey. A planned amendment to the HSYK, which the AKP [AK Party] government is currently working to destroy in violation of the Constitution, was the most fundamental campaign issue for that constitutional referendum. The amendment, which Erdoğan highly praised during the referendum period, has recently been declared by the prime minister himself as the focus of all things bad. When did this happen? After Dec. 17, 2013. In other words, shortly after the major bribery and corruption operation [went public]. The real issue is …
What is the real issue?
The scope of corruption and theft that was exposed after Dec. 17, 2013, is so big; evidence supporting corruption and theft charges is all over the place. The evidence is so strong that there is not a justice system or a constitutional state order on earth that could acquit [anyone of] such immense theft. For this reason, the AKP and Erdoğan have resorted to saving themselves by paralyzing Turkey’s existing constitutional order. The HSYK stands as one of the fundamental institutions guaranteeing judicial independence. The thing the AKP wants to do is make this institution subordinate to it in a manner that cannot even be explained by “politicization of the law.” The AKP wants to demote HSYK members to the position of office clerks who are supposed to receive orders from the AKP. This scandal has already gone down in history as a “record of shame” that cannot be overlooked by the civilized world. The AKP wishes to commit a massacre of the law, and this implies, albeit indirectly, that the ruling party acknowledges it carried out a major theft. We will call the AKP to account before the law for a coup it has staged against the constitutional order.
The Internet law sits on the desk of the president. What is your expectation?
I think not only I but the entire free world expect a position from the president that complies with the standards of the 21st century and [one that] stands by freedoms. Sooner or later, demands of freedom create their own natural tunnels and carry themselves to the future. There is not a power to prevent this from happening. No man would like to go down in history as a political figure that stood before the youth and blocked freedoms.
Does any political responsibility fall on the president? If yes, what kind of responsibility is this?
One cannot think that no responsibility falls on the esteemed president while [it] falls on every citizen for the society they are parts of. The authorities of the esteemed president are also a mirror of his responsibilities.
There are two main topics that have been occupying the agenda in Turkey since Dec. 17. One is claims of corruption and the other is the parallel state. For you, which one is more realistic and dangerous?
The topics on the agenda and [the actual] realities may not always be the same. We have often witnessed that some topics were invented [by the government], even virtually, in an attempt to cover up some facts. One indisputable fact of our country is that the Republic of Turkey has been plundered by the AKP government. The fact that Turkey has been cruelly robbed is a fact evident to everyone. The AKP government seeks to create fake topics to occupy the national agenda through the use of instruments of its political power, immense opportunities and the media in order to bury the fact of major corruption underground.
What do the reassignments in the bureaucracy and judiciary that began after Dec. 17 mean?
You may understand the motives behind the massive reassignments in the bureaucracy and judiciary by examining the developments that have followed the reassignments. The motive is not limited to providing all suspects involved in theft, bribery and corruption with an opportunity to acquit themselves of the charges. It is not limited, either, to providing a gang that has turned out to have plundered Turkey with immunity from legal action. It is understood that this gang has declared a war against the state’s honorable public servants who have raised their voices against the plundering of the country. The AKP is taking revenge from the state, which has exposed the party’s corruption. In short, the motive behind the reassignments is to paralyze the mechanisms of the democratic state. Claiming that a state that lacks a separation of powers will still function would be too much optimism.
Are you worried that claims of corruption will be swept under the carpet? How will you pursue those claims as the CHP?
There is no doubt that they [the government] are working to bury the claims of corruption. However, a mechanism or method to bury such immense corruption has not been invented yet. I know that the AKP will do its best to bury the claims, including attempting to manipulate the media and change the national agenda through new topics of discussion. But I am not worried. This filth can no longer be covered up or buried. We will exert our utmost to call [the AKP] to account over this great siphoning, which includes corruption, bribery and money laundering. We know that respect for people’s rights and the principles of the rule of law makes this a necessity. For this reason, I am calling on every citizen and political party that does not tolerate theft, corruption or bribery to call the AKP to account for what it has done. I am also calling on the media, too. It will be easier to call wrongdoers to account for corruption thanks to a media that has been cleared of the “Alo Fatih” incidents [a scandal concerning the prime minister’s alleged interference in the media].
You closely follow developments related to motions [summarizing corruption charges against several former ministers.] What is included in those motions?
There are many ways to rob the state. They [the AK Party government] have created a parallel state for corruption. Ministers, dirty bureaucrats, ugly businessmen and chief thief Erdoğan … [are included in this parallel state]. Trust me, if you happen to read the motions, you will see that they [the corrupt parallel state] have found methods to make corrupt dealings that cannot be imagined by the devil.
The motions have been returned [to the office of the prosecutor.] Shall we forget about all that has happened?
We will not. They cannot be forgotten. Believe me that the corruption of this government will be an inspiration for books and films. The motions mention tricks [by ministers engaged in corruption] that Hollywood scenarists cannot even think of. They can play both ends against the middle. This government crosses people’s minds when one says “corruption.”
Is there a danger of a “parallel state” as claimed by the government?
Yes, there is a parallel state. There is a parallel state created for corruption. The prime minister, some ministers, their sons, bureaucrats and dirty businessmen [are included in this parallel state]… . And now they are working to create a legal infrastructure for this parallel state. The prime minister has changed the definition of corruption. Giving and receiving bribes is no longer a crime. For him, corruption is limited to money that is stolen from the coffers of the state.
You mentioned the secret agenda of Erdoğan in one of your meetings. What’s that? Can you please elaborate?
This is an agenda in which he [Erdoğan] works to gradually impose his own media, beliefs and views on society. He seeks to establish civilian dicta. How can a prime minister who says the “legislative and judiciary branches are a hindrance for the government” not have a secret agenda? Plans to restructure the HSYK seek to politicize the judiciary. Turkey has not undergone times when people’s confidence in the judiciary was damaged so deeply before. Erdoğan wants to break Turkey off the West and turn the country into a Middle Age country. And when doing all this, he does not keep from telling lies while looking into the eyes of the people. I have not seen another politician who tells so many lies. When his lies went beyond the borders of Turkey, the ambassadors had to refute the prime minister. This, on its own, is a cruelty for this country.
Where do you think Turkey is heading?
Westerners are quick to label Turkey’s implementation of democracy as “hybrid.” Actually, our democracy sustains another blow after any bit of tampering with the legal system. Senior government officials, such as the undersecretary of the Justice Ministry, can meddle with how this system functions, calling on prosecutors to stop proceeding with certain graft investigations. Unethical practices that are rarely seen in a smoothly functioning democracy abound [here] with this ruling party in office. Turkey’s democracy is bleeding. Moral values are in a steep decline. Therefore, this is our promise for the nation: As soon as the CHP comes to power, we will prioritize the passing of a political ethics bill.
Your party’s candidate selection process on Feb. 9 was very contentious and there were protests. What do you think is the reason for this?
It is true that the mayoral candidates our party administration endorsed on Feb. 9 led to certain disputes, but this is a minor issue. Actually, it is quite natural for any process that directly concerns the future of our democracy and involves critical decisions for the public to be controversial, and having disputes or challenges regarding such processes is better than not having any. This, I think, is a sign of stronger loyalty from our supporters, of their refreshed hope for winning the coming elections and, more importantly, of the proper functioning of the democratic mechanism within our party.
Do you ever think that you should have selected candidates earlier?
We are being meticulous in finding what is best for us and for our country. This is our guiding principle. During the candidate selection process, we were too fussy, so to speak. We did our best to obtain the public’s endorsement as well as our party’s candidates, put in place a primary system, assess the services our mayors provided to the public and ensure greater participation of youth and women in election processes. A five-member commission including four deputy chairmen and the party’s secretary-general worked round the clock to evaluate the candidates in consultation with the Central Executive Board [MYK] and the Party Assembly [PM]. Our candidate selection process started long before other parties’. Therefore, I don’t say we should have kicked off the process earlier. Still, I can say we should work harder and this is a piece of advice I frequently give to our colleagues.
You tend to stress a process of change at the CHP. What is the direction of this change? A new CHP?
The CHP is an established party, dating back to the days of the War of Independence and the founding of the Turkish Republic; the new CHP today relies more on youth and women. It has implemented three revolutions before and, now, we seek to implement a fourth revolution. The new CHP does not otherize anyone or discriminate against anyone based on language, religion, color, race or sect. It embraces everyone and promotes humanitarian values, fundamental rights and freedoms with determination, and it is in a state of permanent renewal.
What are your expectations regarding your candidates’ performances in İstanbul and Ankara?
We seek to win the elections in İstanbul and Ankara. Actually, I am sure we will win.
What is the main theme of your election strategy: corruption?
No. The AKP’s corrupt practices have become so manifest in the eyes of the world that it cannot cover up its poor showing. The ruling party cannot put the toothpaste back into the tube. Sooner or later, they will account for their corrupt practices at the Supreme State Council. Of course, our party will do everything to make sure the general public does not forget about corruption, bribery, money laundering, the millions of dollars stashed in shoeboxes, the safes in the bedrooms of some ministers’ sons, the money counters, the minister who phoned his son to give him advice on how to stop the police’s seizure of TL 1 billion at his home, another minister who wears a watch worth TL 700,000 — a sum with which you can buy 10 apartments in Mamak, Ankara — a prime minister who coordinates all these despicable acts, and his son Bilal and his daughter, who demanded a solution be made regarding the pools at villas. The main themes of our election strategy will be [to discuss] the services to be provided by our mayoral candidates, press freedom, fundamental rights and freedoms, rule of law, the fight against bans, the principle of the separation of powers, the state being responsible for providing proper living conditions to every citizen, the need for avoiding feuds among Muslims and fraternity.
What is your benchmark for success in the local elections, 26 percent or 30 percent?
I believe our local election performance will be very good. This performance will facilitate the decline of the ruling AKP, which resembles a truck that has gone out of control. As for our targeted electoral support, I never specified any figure in the past, and I will not name one now. But I am sure our performance will come as a relief for the entire country.
Do you believe your party’s opposition is effective?
Until very recently, many people would ask, “Is there any opposition party in Turkey?” Of course, people were rightly justified in asking this question. The truth manifested itself after the graft and corruption operation of Dec. 17: The government and pro-government circles were muting the opposition. The prime minister’s adviser confessed that they had banned Parliament’s TV channel in order to silence opposition parties. For this reason, they delayed the parliamentary debate of a censure motion to be held at 7 p.m. The second incident is even more obvious: the “Alo Fatih” hotline. The prime minister disgracefully phoned an editor-in-chief of a TV station to block coverage of certain statements from opposition leaders. We, as opposition parties, certainly have our flaws and defects. But I want everyone to know that it is a challenging duty to be an opposition party in Turkey. Our billboard ads weren’t put on display. We paid [for them to be put up], but we couldn’t get them put on display. Why? Is this democracy? Goebbels’ principles of propaganda are in effect.