The economic crisis, censorship, corruption… everything seems to indicate that Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s days at the head of the Turkish government are numbered. It is also true that when talking about Erdogan nothing can be taken for granted. In the midst of the tug-of-war with Russia and the US over purchases of the s-400 anti-missile systems, Washington’s likely sanctions and the attempted purchase of F-16 jets from the Americans themselves, a new corruption scandal has come to light in Ankara. This time it targets the Turkish president’s family, putting him back in the spotlight at a difficult time for the country.
Last week, organisational documents were leaked from the Turkish Youth Foundation (TÜGVA), of which the Turkish president’s son, Bilal Erdogan, is one of the leaders. The information in these documents, published by El País, contains copies of correspondence with various municipal, provincial and central government authorities, CVs, property records, account sheets and even ‘lists of members of the foundation who are recommended to be placed in various state bodies’, from the management of educational establishments to positions within the police and armed forces.
As soon as this information was made public, opposition leader Kemal Kiliçdaroglu has lashed out at the government: “I demand that you do not comply with requests that go beyond the law. You cannot hide behind orders. You are honourable officials of the state, not of the Erdogan family”. Kiliçdaroglu is not known for his combative tone, but on this occasion, he did not hold back at all, saying that “from Monday 18 October, all your support for this illegal order will be your responsibility”, showing a strong stance against the ongoing scandals surrounding the executive.
The information about TÜGVA was initially denied by its president, Enes Eminoglu. However, only a day later, he admitted to the media that “there might be some truth to it”. This is not the first scandal about the organisation. Turkey’s opposition has long accused the association of having become “a parallel state structure”. And it does not stop there. One of TÜGVA’s former provincial directors, Tamer Özsoy, has lashed out at the organisation to which he belonged and says that all the information that has come to light “is just the tip of the iceberg”.
“I call on Turkey’s prosecutors: prosecute all those responsible, starting with me. This matter must be thoroughly investigated,” Özsoy said in an interview on TELE1. Observers believe that both the leak and the words of the former head of the organisation are part of a strategy. In view of the fact that it will be very difficult for Recep Tayyip Erdogan to regain victory in the next elections – scheduled for June 2023 – they are seeking to clean up his image for future posts in a new government that does not include the Justice and Development Party.
Erdogan’s government has too many open fronts. Ankara has been positioning itself in a highly complex space in recent years without making its position very clear, something that is still dragging it down today. While NATO – with less and less weight – is criticising Turkey’s rapprochement with Russia, Turkey is trying to do business with the United States for fighter jets, while Washington itself is preparing sanctions for the acquisition of Russian systems. Controversy surrounds a government whose days are numbered if things do not change much between now and the next elections.