Resignation of MP deals fresh blow to Turkey's Recep Erdogan

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 31 December, 2013, 9:00pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 01 January, 2014, 12:32am


Another lawmaker from Turkey's ruling party resigned yesterday over a high-level corruption scandal, further shaking Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan's grip on power.

Hasan Hami Yildirim had criticised the government for exerting pressure on the judiciary over the graft investigation, which has plunged Turkey into political turmoil just three months ahead of key elections.

"I saw that if I stayed in the party I would have been subject to more criticism and I could not take that," Yildirim was quoted as saying by the
Hurriyet newspaper.

The resignation comes a day after government spokesman Bulent Arinc claimed the political crisis has cost the economy US$100 billion.

A string of public figures including high-profile businessmen and the sons of three ministers were detained on December 17 over allegations of bribery for construction projects as well as illicit money transfers to sanctions-hit Iran.

Five MPs including a former culture minister have resigned from the AK party since the raids, which the government has suggested were instigated by supporters of influential US-based Turkish cleric Fethullah Gulen.

The corruption scandal has exposed a seething feud between the AK party and former ally Gulen, whose supporters hold key positions in the police and the judiciary.

The latest resignation has reduced the number of AK seats in parliament to 320 out of 550.

The government is set for a key test in March local elections, which will be followed by an August presidential vote and parliamentary elections in 2015.

The government said yesterday it was fending off a "mini coup attempt" by elements in the police and judiciary who served the interests of foreign and domestic forces bent on humbling the country. Deputy Prime Minister Ali Babacan said the AK party had in the past survived military coup plots and attempts in the courts to outlaw it and it would not now yield to a corruption investigation that he said targeted the government but was damaging the economy.

"These latest formations in the judiciary and the police, we can't call it a coup, but a mini coup attempt. This is what interests foreign investors," he told broadcaster CNBC-e, echoing suggestions by Erdogan of a foreign interest in the crisis.

"Maybe the clearest indicator of this was the fall in share prices," added Babacan, who is in charge of the economy.

The market value of Turkish listed companies had fallen US$49 billion by Monday's market close, he said. The main share index was down 1 per cent yesterday.

Arinc said on Monday that the economy had been badly hurt by the crisis.

"We are talking about damage of over US$100 billion," he added.

Reuters, Agence France-Presse