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'Teflon opposition'.

ySTANBUL (CyHAN)- One could argue that those deputies occupying the seats reserved for the political opposition in Turkey's Parliament can claim the moral high ground vis-a-vis today's corruption probe: "Out of power, so no chance of wrongdoing."

However, many members of Turkey's two major opposition parties, the Republican People's Party (CHP) and Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) hold elected offices elsewhere; think of town halls with an opposition majority.

Besides, there was a time when other parties than the Justice and Development Party (AK Party) ran the country itself. Hence, scrutiny of opposition politicians is nothing but a legitimate democratic exercise.

A nation does not simply wake up one morning to discover that favoritism and corruption have high-jacked its politics as if from nowhere. It is a slow process which enters people's minds over time, not overnight. Some say power as such corrupts; hence a swing of that pendulum of power is required to help keep the system "clean." This, of course, only works as long as there are credible alternatives at the time voters head for the ballot box.

One could go so far as to say that when the AK Party was overwhelmingly chosen by the electorate in late 2002, it inherited a country rife with corruption, particularly in terms of public procurement; the AK Party knew very well that one of its major tasks was to rid Turkey of this malaise. Apparently this takes more time than expected, and it seems that it is far from completed.

And in this context, Turkey's political opposition looks far from perfect, too.

There is no better way to get an understanding of how the CHP conducts politics than to take a look at those regions in which they have a majority, notably in the Aegean and parts of the Mediterranean coastal constituencies. They run municipalities and enjoy the support of the business community. They staff many chambers of trade or commerce, too. Hence, "They are in power."

Let me give you some hints. Starting with the CHP stronghold of yzmir, in the past years a number of serious corruption cases broke into the news, leading to (temporary) arrests and, how shall I put it, a "re-shuffling" in the city hall. Further south, a single mayor was first accused, although he was later found not guilty, of no less than 23 individual charges of wrongdoing whilst in office. Then there is talk of a public hospital having been constructed under what can only be referred to as "dubious circumstances" in a third opposition-controlled city. Would some of those local mayors perhaps have preferred to work with "friendly" businesspeople who first -- as if by magic -- know about the lowest competing bidder, ultimately win a local tender and then later on tick a certain box for another election? And only a few weeks ago, two local opposition politicians began to fight each other over an alleged sex tape and alleged blackmail, as were reported in the national media; then police and prosecutors became involved. Is this an imagined Hollywood drama?

By adding Turkey's major political opposition to the mix, I am not endeavoring in any way to divert attention from today's national corruption probe; far from it. What I want to say instead is the following: First, favoritism and in some instances outright corruption, including bribery, were not "invented" by the AK Party. Brussels realized this, too, and the European Union acquis chapter on public procurement is the most cumbersome for Turkey ever to comply with. Second, does this make today's corruption probes less serious? Of course not. Third, as corruption had been there before, indeed, no opposition politician should ever act as if in the past it did not exist. Fourth, judging from evaluations of a number of non-Ankara events, those very same opposition parties are far from faultless. "Teflon opposition"? Nice try!

Is a sleaze, graft and corruption-free Turkey possible? Of course it is, as long as everyone correctly analyzes the past and present and develops a much better system for the future. And I am not giving up on this one either: A continued EU membership negotiation process will facilitate these efforts. I shall write about this and related subjects in detail in an upcoming article.

KLAUS JURGENS (Cihan/Today's Zaman) CyHAN

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Publication:Cihan News Agency (CNA)
Date:Jan 25, 2014
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