January 19, 2015

AK Party gov’t rejected motions to set up commission on KPSS scandal

The governing Justice and Development Party (AK Party) has turned down seven motions submitted by the opposition to establish a parliamentary commission to investigate irregularities and cheating claims in the State Personnel Examination (KPSS) since 2010, Parliament's records have shown.

The motions asked Parliament to look into allegations of cheating that emerged in August of 2010, when 3,227 people answered most or all of the questions in the KPSS correctly, a first in Turkey. Even though the exam was partially cancelled and a judicial investigation was launched into the claims, the AK Party parliamentary group, using its majority, was able to defeat the opposition motions to establish an investigation commission in Parliament.

The ruling party's defense for the rejection was a claim that the opposition wanted to cast a shadow on the reliability of the exam and smear the government. Members of the Cabinet and senior AK Party officials vehemently defended the exam system that was administered since the late 1990s when late Prime Minister Bülent Ecevit was heading the government.

The first motion was submitted to Parliament by the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) lawmaker Mehmet Serdaroğlu and was co-signed by 21 other lawmakers. The motion stated the unprecedented success led to claims that some of the candidates had either cheated during the test or obtained the questions ahead of time. Some of the most successful candidates were either married to each other or were friends living in the same house. It said Parliament should weigh in on this scandal and thoroughly investigate the matter. It was rejected by the votes of the AK Party.

Lawmakers from the main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP) Sezgin Tanrıkulu, Veli Ağbaba, Ali İhsan Köktürk, Aytuğ Atıcı and Muharrem Işık presented five different motions to establish a commission about the KPSS claims. They were all rejected by the AK Party as well. Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP) lawmaker Altan Tan and Demir Çelik also submitted a similar motion on the KPSS, which was turned down as well.

Claims emerged that a copy of the KPSS questions had been obtained before the exam day and that they had been shared among thousands of candidates.

The investigation into the claims seemed to go nowhere for five years, and no government official has resigned over the allegations except one. However, the government has recently renewed its enthusiasm and revived its focus on the allegations of cheating. It was reported that the government has been plotting to unjustly frame members of the Hizmet social movement that is inspired by Islamic scholar Fethullah Gülen.

The plot involves blaming the cheating on members of Hizmet by using fabricated or planted evidence that was added to the case file later. The plot is also aimed at distracting public attention from growing accusations of favoritism and nepotism in the government that have been raised by the main opposition political party in recent weeks.

The plot to frame Hizmet was also made public when a government whistleblower -- using the pseudonym Fuat Avni and claiming to be a member of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan's inner circle -- said the government was preparing to permanently lift the KPSS exam requirement for the public service, in a move seen by many as a way to open the door for the recruitment of people close to the AK Party.

He also said the government had ordered the fabrication of evidence in order to make the Hizmet movement a scapegoat for the 2010 scandal before doing away with the KPSS. The whistleblower revealed the names of all of the people in the prosecutor's office and the police who have been operating under the orders of Erdoğan and who have been planting evidence in the hard drives of computers seized from suspects in order to incriminate members of Hizmet.

Parliamentary records also show that the government defended the KPSS scandal at the time, with Erdoğan, then prime minister, accusing the opposition of trying to discredit the KPSS. “What is the purpose of this? It was to cast a shadow on the KPSS, which is a very sensitive matter,” Erdoğan said at the time, stating that the opposition wanted to terrorize Turkey by trying to discredit the KPSS, which was a hope for millions of young people for employment opportunities. He claimed that the KPSS exam was conducted successfully.

Responding to a parliamentary question by MHP deputy Mehmet Ekici, then-Customs Minister Hayati Yazıcı stated on Jan. 23, 2011, that there was no conclusion reached in the investigation.

It was also reported in the Hurriyet daily at the time that Erdoğan asked the National Intelligence Organization (MİT) to investigate the connections among suspects who were investigated for cheating and their background. However, there was no announcement made about the findings of MİT since Erdoğan had tasked the agency almost five years ago.

Published on Today's Zaman, 19 January 2015, Monday