Turkey’s deep state is taking politics hostage, protecting the regime, analyst says

Turkish politics has been taken hostage by the tentacles of Turkey’s deep state, which is doing everything to starve democracy of oxygen in the name of protecting the regime, said Aslı Aydıntaşbaş, a fellow at the European Council on Foreign Relations.

For the sake of Turkish democracy, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan should “clean up this scene”, Aydıntaşbaş said in the Washington Post on Thursday.

Erdoğan increasingly came to rely on former elements of the deep state after a failed military coup in 2016, so it is not clear whether he even wants to tackle the problem, she said.

In a series of tell-all videos posted on YouTube since the start of May, convicted mobster Sedat Peker has alleged close relations between the Turkish state and the mafia. The videos feature accusations against top Turkish officials of rape, drug trafficking, murder and assassinations. Among Peker’s targets was Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu and former police chief and interior minister Mehmet Ağar.

“Peker is no ordinary mobster,” Aydıntaşbaş said. He has long been a household name in the country and recently came to prominence as an ally of Turkey’s governing alliance, organising public rallies in its support and repeatedly threatening critics, she said.

Peker’s videos probably reflect a fracture among Turkey’s nationalists, according to Aydıntaşbaş.

“Tentacles of the Turkish state have long targeted communists, minorities, Islamists and Kurdish politicians, depending on who happens to be seen as a threat at the time and with the military’s influence, and they have often rendered elected governments powerless,” she said.

When his Justice and Development Party (AKP) came to power in 2002, Erdoğan vowed to “clean the gangs within the state”, Aydıntaşbaş said.

The direction of the country is saddening many Turks as they want change, as reflected in Erdoğan’s declining public support, she said.

Erdoğan’s government is also distancing Turkey from the West, adding to the degradation of public institutions and democracy, Aydıntaşbaş said.

“Turkey’s anchor to the West was one of the things that kept its democracy alive — and its deep state under control,” she said. Now, with that anchor gone, I worry that the core of the state is rotting. And we all risk drowning in a sea of gooey, disgusting mucilage.”