Erdogan plans cabinet reshuffle amid graft outcry
ANKARA // The Turkish prime minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, is planning a major cabinet reshuffle amid mounting tensions over an anti-graft probe that has touched the heart of the government, local media reported.
Mr Erdogan, who was already expected to reshuffle his cabinet ahead of local elections on March 30, is expected to replace 10 ministers by the end of the month, the Hurriyet newspaper reported.
Rattled by the worst scandal of his 11-year rule, Mr Erdogan has described the probe as a “smear campaign” against his Islamic-rooted Justice and Development Party (AKP).
Twenty-four people including the sons of the interior minister, Muammer Guler, and the economy minister, Zafer Caglayan, as well as the chief executive of state-owned Halkbank, have so far been charged as part of three separate investigations into the bribery allegations.
The interior and economy ministers denied the accusations on Sunday.
Mr Guler said he offered his resignation to Mr Erdogan last Tuesday when the police conducted the raids, in a statement to the state-run Anatolia news agency.
Several media reports claimed the ministers caught up in the probe were due to be replaced.
Observers have interpreted the raids as a result of tensions between Mr Erdogan’s government and Fethullah Gulen, a hugely influential religious leader who lives in the United States.
Mr Erdogan swiftly responded to the raids by sacking dozens of police chiefs.
The Gulen movement wields considerable influence in the state apparatus including the police and the judiciary.
Thousands of protesters in Istanbul took to the streets on Sunday, demanding the resignation of the AKP government. Police fired tear gas and water cannon to disperse the crowd who gathered in the Kadikoy square on the Asian side of the country’s largest city.
Yesterday, state-run lender Halkbank, whose chief executive, Suleyman Aslan, has been charged with taking bribes from a criminal ring smuggling sold to Iran, said its dealings with sanctions-hit country are entirely lawful.
Halkbank’s Iranian business ties had drawn Western disapproval amid US-led efforts to curb Tehran’s disputed nuclear programme.
Turkey has bought natural gas and oil from Iran through an indirect system whereby Iranian exporters received payment in Halkbank lira accounts and used that money to buy gold.
In a filing with the Istanbul stock exchange, Halkbank said it had complied with the law in its business with Iran.
* Agence France-Presse & Reuters
Updated: December 23, 2013 04:00 AM