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Middle East Turkey

Erdogan Sues Opposition Over Corruption Charges, Offers to Resign if True

Ankara (GPA– Following accusations of corruption by the Turkish opposition on the 21st, President Recep Erdogan said he would consider resigning…if they can prove it.

Last Tuesday, Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, leader of the Republican People’s Party (CHP) called on Erdogan to release information concerning his families finances following information from the recent Paradise Papers leak.

Turkish President Recep Erdogan
Image: Flickr – Democracy Chronicles

While Erdogan was not specifically named in the Paradise Papers, it was found that his Prime Minister Binali Yildirim and members of his family were keeping what appears to be government money in offshore havens. Erdogan’s son-in-law, Turkish Energy Minister Berat Albayrak, was also found to have ties to several offshore shell corporations in the documents.

Following the release of the Paradise Papers, Turkish media (which is almost all dominated by the state or Erdogan loyalists) followed the example of other countries by just not reporting on the financial dealings of their leaders. With no media or public pressure (despite an offer to investigate by Yıldırım), Erdogan’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) has also managed to swiftly block a probe into these matters which is what led Kılıçdaroğlu to speak out.

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Speaking in parliament following the AKP vote to stop any legal proceedings, Kılıçdaroğlu let loose, asking “Did the AKP reject the probe with your [Yıldırım] will or the presidential palace’s will? I want to know. I believe it was the will of the palace,” referring to Erdogan.

He then went on directly challenge Erdogan to “Reveal to us however many millions of dollars you have,” and asking “where is that money?” He went on to essentially site the leaks, saying “Erdogan, I will ask you a simple question: Do you know that your children, your brother-in-law, your father-in-law, your brother, and your former executive assistants have deposited millions of U.S. dollars into a company based in off-shore tax-havens?”, and that this company was founded with a total capital of “One pound sterling. But the money sent to it is millions of dollars.”

After Kılıçdaroğlu made these comments, Erdogan issued his first response, which although not a direct response, is one of the President’s favored tactics for dealing with the opposition: lawsuits.

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This latest lawsuit takes aim at Kılıçdaroğlu and the CHP, saying their leader has caused “spiritual damage” with his “slanderous comments.” Erdogan is seeking approximately $350,000 in damages from Kılıçdaroğlu.

Kılıçdaroğlu has faced repression from Erdogan before however, such as in 2016 when he was investigated for calling Erdogan a “tinpot dictator.” A similar investigation of another CHP politician is also currently underway for recent comments he made, in which he called Erdogan a “fascist dictator.”

Erdogan waited several more days but finally, on Sunday he made a direct response to the accusations of the CHP, asking that if “If you have any proof, please provide it. And I will give an answer.” The other option Erdogan gave, should the CHP have no proof, was for the party to “say that you have slandered me and apologize.”

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Erdogan then went on to refer to himself in the third person, saying “Let [Kylychdaroglu] prove in which foreign bank Tayyip Erdogan has an account,” and “If Tayyip Erdoğan has a single penny abroad, [Kılıçdaroğlu] should prove it. If proven, I will not stay in this presidential post for even one minute.” However, Erdogan said, that if Kylychdaroglu cannot prove these claims then he should “leave politics.”

While it may be reasonable to assume most governments would at least suffer some backlash and have to do some reshuffling following a leak like the Paradise Papers, this isn’t Erdogan’s first time dealing with charges of corruption. Let’s not forget that this is the man who dodged accusations of corruption in 2013 by just removing most of his cabinet and splitting with the followers of Fethullah Gulen to use them as scapegoats in an alleged “internal power struggle.”