The New York Times reports: Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey said in comments reported Thursday that he believes he is the ultimate target of a bribery and corruption investigation that has plunged his government into one of its worst crises since he came to power a decade ago.
In remarks published in Hurriyet, a Turkish daily newspaper, Mr. Erdogan said that those who tried to embroil him in the investigation would be “left empty-handed.” He made the comments to reporters on a plane as he returned from a visit to Pakistan on Tuesday.
Mr. Erdogan reshuffled his cabinet late Wednesday, replacing 10 ministers, after three top ministers whose sons had been detained as part of the investigation abruptly resigned. One of the departing ministers shook the Turkish political establishment by calling for Mr. Erdogan to step down, a defiant move that underlined the growing fissures in Mr. Erdogan’s governing Justice and Development Party.
Turkey’s opposition on Thursday accused Mr. Erdogan of trying to rule via a secretive “deep state,” following the cabinet reshuffle in which he moved to cement his control over the police by installing a key ally at the powerful Interior Ministry. The term “deep state” has a sinister connotation in Turkey, and alludes to a murky group of operatives linked to the military who operate outside democratic structures.
The government has dismissed more than a dozen high-ranking police officials as part of a purge of those it believes are driving the investigation, prompting criticism of Mr. Erdogan from people both within and outside his party who accuse him of interfering in judicial affairs.
Mr. Erdogan “is trying to put together a cabinet that will not show any opposition to him,” Kemal Kilicdaroglu, the head of the biggest opposition party, the Republican People’s Party, or C.H.P., said in remarks reported by Turkish media. “Erdogan has a deep state.”
The resignations on Wednesday, coming only hours after the ministers welcomed Mr. Erdogan at the Ankara airport as he returned from Pakistan, were enough to inspire new talk of a deepening crisis, which Mr. Erdogan has repeatedly denounced as a foreign plot.
But the call for Mr. Erdogan’s resignation by one of the departing ministers was considered stunning, coming from within a political party known for silencing dissent. That instantly raised the significance of the entire inquiry and left members of the Turkish public wondering if they were witnessing the collapse of their Islamist-rooted government of the last decade. [Continue reading…]