The argument by the opposition regarding corruption is well-known, and its frequent use in the run-up to the elections would not be surprising. This is because the opposition does not have a positive image of itself and there is a common belief among those who are anti-government that the issue of corruption is a weak spot for the government. However, general opinion suggests that votes for the Justice and Development Party (AK Party) will not decrease, one of the reasons being the government's ability to present great advantages to society which tend to trivialize any claims of corruption. However, there is another assessment of the AK Party that is ignored by reviewers, but which means a lot to the general public.
AK Party authorities have never rejected the possibility of corruption being present in the government. However, they have claimed that actual corruption is a systemic and structural phenomenon that lies beyond individual exploitation. The crux of their argument is that while Turkey has been ruled by a system of corruption for decades, the AK Party has put an end to this system by transferring the resources acquired via corruption back into society.
When the AK Party came to power for the first time in 2002, 84 percent of the state budget was allocated to interest payments. Within only a few years, this rate dramatically decreased and now it is about 16 percent. Parallel to this, inflation, which seemed to never decrease, lowered from about 70 percent to ten percent. The government achieved this easily. So naturally, we asked ourselves why the previous 20 years had been riven by such a vicious cycle. The answer was that this vicious cycle was intentional. In brief, Turkey had been kept in a systemic structure of corruption for years. Perhaps the number of those gaining profits unlawfully in tender bids, or accepting bribes was not higher than it is today. However, the function and operational method of the economic sphere was based on the exploitation of social added-value by a specific clique.
The AK Party subverted and reversed this system via an easy and smooth process. Before 2002, no income remained for investments once interest and current expenditures were paid, thus we had to resort to foreign sources for investment. Consequently, the proportion of the investments to the overall budget remained around five to ten percent, and this limited investments even more by creating an ever-growing interest burden. Today, we have a potential investment opportunity that could be financed with our own resources, which is at least half of the budget when we add current expenditures. This is probably ten times higher than the former figures. Moreover, we are not at the same level of gross national product. Income per capita has increased more than three times, which means the current potential investment sources are roughly 30 times more than the period prior to 2002. And finally, add to the picture the AK Party's redistributive social policies, which support society and particularly the less-developed regions. Today, eastern Turkey is growing with investments that are maybe 40 times greater than anything we have seen the past.
All these developments were achieved as a result of ending and reversing the structure of systemic corruption in Turkey. Individuals who prioritize their personal interests will always exist everywhere, in every government. What is needed is to fight such people, to introduce transparency on the matter, and to show no toleration toward any incident that upsets the public conscience. However, if we want this criticism to be conveyed clearly to its addressees, then it is necessary to have the courage to explain how the degenerated structure of the past was formed, and to protect the AK Party's accomplishments in this field. The opposition at least needs the courage and sincerity to say: "We would act like the AK Party if we were in their shoes." It is not certain if this would be enough to produce credibility, but it could at least make the current criticism credible to some extent.