Erdoğan’s Self-Inflicted Crisis

The battle between Turkey's Erdoğan government and its erstwhile ally, the Gülen movement, has escalated to the point where it is hard to imagine a reconciliation. Though the fight is exposing the corruption on which Erdoğan’s regime was based, Turkish democracy will be the loser – at least in the short term – regardless of who wins.

PRINCETON – The dramatic battle between Turkey’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) and its erstwhile ally, the “Hizmet” religious movement led by the self-exiled cleric Fethullah Gülen, has begun to expose the massive rule-of-law violations that these two groups employed to consolidate their power. Prosecutors widely thought to be Gülen sympathizers have launched a wide-ranging corruption probe that has so far ensnared four ministers and reaches all the way to Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s son.

Erdoğan and his advisers have now hit back. They accuse the Gülenists of mounting a “bureaucratic coup” and engaging in a wide range of dirty tricks, from “planting evidence” against generals who were convicted last year of plotting to overthrow Erdoğan’s government to “extensive unauthorized wiretap[ping].”

Turkey’s landmark trials of the alleged military-coup plotters are now widely recognized for what they were – witch hunts based on evidence that was flimsy at best, and often simply concocted. The trials were stage-managed by Gülenist police, prosecutors, and media. But they had crucial support from Erdoğan’s government, which put its weight behind them. The Erdoğan camp’s current effort to wash its hands of these trials and put the full blame on the Gülenists is disingenuous to say the least.

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