Under the current circumstances, it would have been impossible to think that the deputies of the ruling Justice and Democracy Party (AK Party) would vote to send the four former ministers to the supreme court of justice for a trial on corruption charges.
The Constitutional Court, led by Chief Justice Haşim Kılıç, has been acting like an adversary of the AK Party, the government and the administration of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan for more than a year. Chief Justice Kılıç has given the impression that he is out to get the AK Party and President Erdoğan. Only last week he gave an interview to opposition newspaper Sözcü and showed his opposition to the president and the AK Party that borders on enmity.
So it was hardly a surprise that the nine AK Party deputies in the 14-person parliamentary investigation commission charged with looking into the corruption charges brought against former ministers Egemen Bağış, Zafer Çağlayan, Muammer Güler and Erdoğan Bayraktar, voted against sending the four to the supreme court of justice late on Monday.
It is clear from the general attitude of the Constitutional Court and the enmity displayed by Chief Justice Kılıç toward the government and Erdoğan that the four ministers would not face a fair trial. Kılıç was so open and so intense in his views in Sözcü against the government that one had the impression that he was giving a message to the AK Party deputies that they should not send their four ex-ministers to him for a trial. It was extremely odd that the leading judge of the country would be so open in his enmity to those who he would be trying in the near future. This is the sad state that our justice system has been reduced to.
In May, the inquiry committee began a probe into corruption allegations against former Economy Minister Zafer Çağlayan, former Interior Minister Muammer Güler and former Environment and Urban Planning Minister Erdoğan Bayraktar. The three officials resigned from their posts after an anti-graft probe was launched on Dec.17, 2013, while EU Minister Egemen Bağış was later replaced in a Cabinet reshuffle.
Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu addressing the AK Party parliamentary group on Tuesday categorically denied outside pressures on the AK Party deputies to vote against sending the ministers to the Supreme Court of Appeals. This may well be true in view of the fact that AK Party deputies in general are aware of the negative attitude of the Constitutional Court in general and Kılıç in particular regarding the AK Party and its government, and that sending the former ministers to court for a criminal trial would be like letting the fox guard the henhouse.
However, those running the AK Party have to remember that the Turkish public does not consider the four former ministers as being as innocent. There is a general belief that the four ministers were involved in corruption and wrongdoings while a great majority of AK Party voters also understand that there is a serious plot to topple the Davutoğlu cabinet and harm Erdoğan through these four former ministers. So we have to find a balance between foiling a plot against the government and the president while also putting the public mind at ease.
Can any of these four former ministers go into the public with their head held high?
The AK Party has won this round of the game but to win the whole game, the AK Party has to appease the public, especially as we head for parliamentary elections in June.