Thanks to the continuing domestic strife created by the massive ongoing graft probe in Turkey, the country is about to have what may be the world's most highly-trained traffic police force. The reason? As the corruption investigation continues, targeting current officials, former ministers, their relatives and businessmen close to the ruling Justice and Development Party -- the government of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan is fighting back with a wholesale reassignment of police chiefs, many of them being demoted to work in traffic divisions and in other less desirable places.
The police purge has been striking: yesterday, in Ankara alone, some 350 police chiefs and officers were reassigned, many of them from high positions in departments investigating terrorism, corruption and organized crime. Since the large corruption case started last month, close to 1,700 police commanders all around Turkey have been either fired or reassigned.
But the police is not the only national institution feeling the heat. Since the probe began, several prosecutors working on the investigation have been taken off the case, while some of the new police chiefs installed by the government have refused to carry out further arrest orders issued by the judiciary. Meanwhile, Zekeriya Oz, an Istanbul prosecutor dealing with the graft case (and who earned his name investigating the Ergenekon and Balyoz coup trials, which resulted with the jailing of numerous military officers), has now found himself being accused by the pro-government media of himself being involved in shady dealings, by accepting a $35,000 trip to Dubai for himself and his family paid for by a construction company whose owner is himself a target of Oz's probe. The prosecutor has denied the claims, but on Tuesday Turkey's Supreme Board of Judges and Prosecutors (HSYK) decided to launch an investigation against Oz, as well as three other prosecutors working on the bribery case.
Put it all together and what you have is a fine mess, one that calls into question just how well are Turkey's state institutions currently functioning and how well they can continue to function under the current state of affairs? From the CNN website's report on the recent developments in Turkey:
Other observers are sounding the alarm about the independence of the judiciary in Turkey, which is both a member of the NATO military alliance and a nation that's negotiating to join the European Union.
"The future of law enforcement, the separation of powers, the constitution is in danger," said Suat Kiniklioglu, a former member of parliament from Erdogan's ruling Justice and Development Party.
Faced with the greatest challenge yet to his rule, Erdogan -- who, like many other, believes it is the powerful movement of preacher Fethullah Gulen that is behind the recent corruption probe -- is working to root out of the police, judiciary and even government bureaucracy people who are believed to be Gulen supporters. It's an approach that may buy him and his government some time and keep the bribery investigation from expanding, but it's one that will likely end up only further diminishing and hollowing out Turkey's state institutions -- except for the traffic police, that is.