Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu has claimed that people taking bribes are becoming ambassadors, while also slamming the government for “nepotism” in envoy appointments.
“We are appointing men who take bribes in shoeboxes, and previous parliamentarians as ambassadors. Can a state rise to its feet in this manner? Who is going to respect this state?” Kılıçdaroğlu told Halk TV, referring to a 2013 corruption probe.
The December 2013 corruption cases targeted figures close to the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) government, including four ministers.
One of the ministers was then-EU Affairs Minister Egemen Bağış, who was forced to resign amid a cabinet shakeup following the scandal and was recently appointed as Turkey’s ambassador to the Czech Republic.
Millions of dollars were found in shoeboxes in former Halkbank General Manager Süleyman Aslan’s house during the graft investigations.
The probe focused on a gold-for-gas scheme between Turkey and Iran intended to skirt international sanctions on the latter country, which allegedly involved the exchange of briberies.
The government brands the cases as a coup attempt by the followers of the U.S.-based Islamic preacher Fethullah Gülen.
During the interview, Kılıçdaroğlu described how the appointments were conducted in the past.
“Is it easy to be an ambassador in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs? You are going and taking an exam, you speak a foreign language well, you go to different countries throughout the world, you receive education alongside ambassadors, you climb through the ranks, and after a certain age you become an ambassador,” he said.
The main opposition leader was also critical of the country’s floundering economic policies and inflation figures.
“You can’t get up and tell the world that the Central Bank is independent, it’s finished at this point. The trust is finished there,” said Kılıçdaroğlu of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s insistence on the independence of the country’s Central Bank, in spite of his numerous interventions over the years regarding the bank’s leadership and its interest rate policies.
“They’ve engaged in $60 billion in privatization. They sold plots of lands, hotels, the state telecommunications company, etc,” Kılıçdaroğlu added.
Kılıçdaroğlu said unemployment among younger people had reached 27 percent, and that people who had finished university or even receive doctorates were having trouble finding work in Turkey.
Referencing the 3-year imprisonment of Selahattin Demirtaş, the former co-leader of the pro-Kurdish People’s Democratic Party (HDP), Kılıçdaroğlu called for Demirtaş’ release.
“Why is Selahattin Demirtaş in jail? Why would you throw a politician in jail? Because they are thinking differently. Can someone be imprisoned in the 21st century due to their thoughts? If you are tossing someone in prison because they think differently, this is wrong, this is not correct. He must be released,” Kılıçdaroğlu said.