November 5, 2015

The G-20 summit in a country of unlawfulness and oppression

Bülent Keneş

…Unfortunately, the G-20 Leaders' Summit will be held in a country whose democracy is bleeding out and whose legal and judicial system is in its death throes, and which conducted its last election under extremely unfair and noncompetitive conditions. As it has undermined its domestic rule of law, Turkey is now a country that can hardly be defined as a state governed by the rule of law. In a climate where no one, including foreign investors, enjoys security of law, people are seriously concerned about their security of life and property, and have worries about the most fundamental freedoms, the leaders of democratic members of the G-20 cannot be expected to turn a blind eye to the developments in Turkey.

After what happened to Koza İpek Holding, a business conglomerate of 22 companies, which was forcefully taken over by the state on the eve of the election in breach of the sanctity and right of property, and the principle of the freedom of the press, we cannot say that freedom of the press and freedom of expression is of no concern to the leaders of the G-20 countries that have business ties with Turkey. Rather, the G-20 leaders must be hearing alarm bells ringing over the arbitrary takeover of one of Turkey's largest conglomerates, which houses two major TV channels and two leading dailies, based on a decision by a criminal judge of the peace that was itself based on the unfounded allegations of a constitutional crime prosecutor -- both judicial “projects” launched by the President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan regime.

Today, the right to continue for the business circles that haven't fully submitted to Turkey's repressive and unlawful Erdoğan regime is endlessly shrinking. Pro-Erdoğan and pro-AKP media outlets openly target dissident media outlets and firms. Turkey's largest media outlets, including foreign-owned Fox TV, are openly being threatened with a takeover similar to that of the İpek Media Group. In such an oppressive environment, the G-20 leaders are very unlikely to remain indifferent to this despotic frenzy, which has poisoned Turkey's investment climate, inhibits the competitive environment, violates the sanctity of property, breaches the principles of free enterprise and disregards the security of law.

The AKP secured 49 percent of the national vote in Sunday's election by scaring the broad masses with the threat of more terrorism, violence and an economic crisis thanks to manipulations via the nation's media, 80 percent of which is controlled by the governing party. While the AKP's Chairman and Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu had previously declared three principles on which Turkey's term presidency for the G-20 would be based: inclusiveness, implementation and investment for growth. However, in today's Turkey governed by Davutoğlu under the dark shadow of Erdoğan, a significant proportion of businessmen and dissident groups are excluded from the economy and their competitiveness is being or has been pruned by unlawful pressures, making them increasingly isolated.

Even, the firms disliked by Erdoğan and Davutoğlu are taken over by the government. If they are not directly seized, critical media groups are either silenced by threats, heavy financial sanctions or unlawful fines. Dissident journalists continue to be intimidated, with hundreds of lawsuits having been launched against them, solely in connection with their views and opinions. Many have even been jailed without receiving a fair judicial process or the due process of law. Critical newspapers and journals are pulled off the shelf even before they have hit the marketplace. One by one, dissident groups are being stripped of their means to express themselves. Prime Minister Davutoğlu and President Erdoğan should be asked about these developments so they can explain how inclusiveness can be implemented in such a suffocating and poisonous atmosphere.

If the public procurement law is amended more than 160 times with the sole intention of awarding pro-Erdoğan businessmen with public tenders worth of billions of dollars, and if the companies that refuse to act in line with Erdoğan's benefits are not only excluded from such tenders, but also intimidated with financial audits and fines, and if the educational institutions run by dissident businessmen are frequently raided by heavily armed police, then isn't it obvious that the promise of inclusiveness is an empty one?

To be fair, Prime Minister Davutoğlu's promises are rhetorically striking. For instance, he talks about how he embraces every member of the 78-million nation without discrimination and how they don't want to otherize or exclude anyone and how they won't act unjustly to anyone. But in practice, any non-AKP member of the business world, the civil society or the media is treated as an enemy and all sorts of unlawful or arbitrary practices are implemented to destroy them. I think Davutoğlu should be asked if this is what he meant by 'implementation' as one of his G-20 term presidency goals.

With its ill-tempered, rude and discriminatory discourse and arbitrary, unlawful and despotic acts, the Erdoğan regime clearly hates at least 50 percent of society and even sees them as enemies. Obviously, this 50 percent nurture profound doubts, concerns and fears about the existing repressive administration. How can good conditions for investment be created in a milieu where at least half of the society is demoralized and doomed to unhappiness and fears? The Erdoğan regime and the AKP government unlawfully and arbitrarily took over the companies and media outlets of national and local businessmen with a conquest-centric mentality and as if they were the spoils of war. Given this, Erdoğan and Davutoğlu should be asked how they plan to build confidence for foreign investment and growth.

As expected, the Antalya summit of the G-20, which was created to discuss global economic and financial issues, may be overshadowed by geopolitical problems. What's worse, it may even be overshadowed by Erdoğan and the AKP's unlawfulness, arbitrariness and oppression, which may pave the way for Turkey losing its status as an investable country.

Excerpted from the author's column published on Today's Zaman, 5 November 2015, Thursday