I try to interpret current political affairs over photographs or video footage from time to time. It provides a better angle to analyze developments with a more objective perspective than written statements or statistics. It is also the case for the photograph taken at the handover ceremony at Turkey’s Ministry of Justice on January 29. I believe when we look at the image closely, we will see that it reinforces the recent remark in Ankara that “who can flee breaks free” from the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP). Not every perception has its tangible basis, but in politics, perceptions are more relevant than reality.
Maybe after this article, AKP communication and media officers will instruct new ministers or chairs to smile at the handover ceremonies, but whoever looks at this photo will immediately sense who looks happy and who does not. In here, Abdulhamit Gül, who was taken away from his post as the Minister of Justice by Presidential Decree just a few hours prior, looks quite content, whereas Bekir Bozdağ, who served as the Minister of Justice twice in President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s cabinets, seems very worried.
It is possible to summarize the reason for Abdulhamit Gül’s departure as he contradicts the security outlook of Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu, which can be translated as “court decision comes after.” It seems that the last stroke that paves the way for Gül’s departure was his criticism of the publication of the CCTV footage of Istanbul Metropolitan Mayor Ekrem İmamoğlu’s widely criticized dinner on the day of the snowstorm. While İmamoğlu alleged that the government put illegal surveillance on the mayor, the former Minister labelled the publication as “FETÖ methods,” adding that the usage of personal information against people was a method of Fethullahist Terrorist Organization, led by US-based Islamist preacher Fethullah Gülen, who was indicted for leading the July 15 coup attempt. The criticism was interpreted as a criticism to the Interior Minister Soylu.
The third Bekir Bozdağ term
After Bozdağ was appointed to the Ministry of Justice for the third time, the archives came to light once more. For example, his words “consent of the minor” when he was giving a statement about the legal regulation over sexual misconduct against minors went viral again on social media. Likewise, his previous praises to Gülen as a response to opposition Republican People’s Party’s (CHP) criticism of the organization infiltrating the state structure also reminded.
Türkan Elçi, the wife of former Diyarbakır Bar Association Chairperson Tahir Elçi, who was killed on November 28, 2015, made one of the most painful reminders with her article on T24. It was four days after Bozdağ took the office of the Ministry of Justice, and he went to Diyarbakır to express his condolences. He promised that the incident would be clarified; however, the murder is still in the dark seven years after.
Bozdağ’s took the Justice Minister office on December 25, 2013, at the peak of the corruption investigations of December 17-25, which caused AKP and the Fethullah Gülen organization to fall apart. Previously he had been Deputy Prime Minister since 2011. The National Intelligence Organization (MIT) Trucks to Syria incident, Abdullah Öcalan, the initiation and end of the indirect dialogue with the outlawed Kurdistan Worker’s Party (PKK) through the MIT and People’s Democratic Party (HDP) were the significant political developments of this period.
Erdoğan is preparing for a new move
The most important events of the second Ministry of Justice period were the July 15, 2016, coup attempt and the transition to the Presidential Government System, including the April 16, 2017 referendum. Later, Bozdağ became the Deputy Prime Minister again during the judicial reforms and regulations concerning the Supreme Election Board on the way to the December 24 2018, elections.
In summary, whenever Erdogan is going to make significant moves that also concern the judiciary, he has given Bozdag a critical task. This time, there is no reason for the situation to change; Erdoğan is preparing for a new move that also concerns the judiciary.
This explains the “who can flee breaks free” expression on Abdulhamit Gul’s posture and face, who has recently been at odds with Soylu on the grounds of the “security-freedom balance” and has started to feel uncomfortable following this line.
But it is not enough to explain Bekir Bozdağ’s posture and face anxiety. He has a function for Erdoğan like the phrase “break the glass in case of danger” written on fire escapes.
Will there be new regulations and changes limiting the law to the extent that would put Bozdağ into a difficult position?
What about the “who can flee breaks free”
Gul’s “breaking free” look on the photograph is not unique to him. Lütfü Elvan, who spent months trying to be “excused” from the Ministry of Treasury and Finance; and Ziya Selçuk, who for months tried to convince Erdoğan to leave the Ministry of National Education, both take a deep breath, didn’t they? So is this how the “whoever can flee breaks free” image is settled?
Some of you might think that “resignation is one-sided. You give it, and you leave.” You are right, but it is not so easy in the current Presidential System of Government as Erdogan has all the executive power. It is necessary to avoid being branded as a traitor with an attrition campaign and prove that you are not the enemy. Those who have already been “excused” from the Ministry are immediately taken to a committee, thus ensuring that they are at hand, do not speak, and do not join the opposition. Of course, there is a full salary and additional income.
This doesn’t just apply to the Ministers. For example, former Central Bank Governors Murat Uysal and Naci Ağbal, are still holding public offices. Even former Trade Minister Ruhsar Pekcan, who was dismissed by Erdoğan after corruption allegations came to light, is still in a public office, avoiding the investigation. Let’s see if Erdogan will give another public duty to Sait Erdal Dinçer, who was “pardoned” from the Presidency of Turkish Statistical Institute (TÜİK).
Why did the President of TÜİK go?
On January 29, Erdoğan dismissed TÜİK Chairman Erdal Dinçer and replaced him with the Deputy Chairman of the Banking Regulation and Supervision Association (BRSA) Erhan Çetinkaya. Last week, we wrote that Dinçer could be the senior officer who was resigned but their resignation was kept on hold. That’s what happened.
Political backstages in Ankara have been discussing that Dinçer, who gained the appreciation of Erdoğan for not letting the CHP leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu into the TÜİK, angered Erdoğan with his statement that December 2021 inflation was 13 percent and annual inflation was 36 percent. On top of this, he gave a quote Dünya Newspaper saying that TÜİK measures inflation, not the cost of living was almost like a message of “Take me out of my job, so I can relax”. Because what he said meant that the inflation figure did not reflect the increase in the cost of living, and knowingly or unknowingly, he was justifying the opposition.
Just like the Governors of the Central Bank, Erdoğan changed the President of TÜİK for the fourth time in 20 months. As we said, we change the lamb from time to time.
By the way, in the backstages of the AKP, they try to spread the argument that the departure of the head of TÜIK has nothing to do with Erdogan’s anger at inflation figures and that Erdoğan was angry because Dinçer has applied for some university rectorships. He gets angry with high-level officials to go to provincial universities, engage in local politics there and come back with the demand for the parliamentary position. It is up to you whether to believe this reasoning or not.