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Demonstrators protest to demand the government’s resignation after the graft scandal in this Dec 27 file photo. Turkey’s top business organizations have also voiced divergent stances regarding the political tension sparked by the probe.
It is like this in every country. The semi-official civil organizations of the business world are known to be the most important pressure groups steering economic, social and political developments of each country. The composition, organizational level, short and long term targets of these groups may differ in each era.
In Turkey, besides the organizations of the business world under the umbrella of the Turkish Union of Chambers and Commodity Exchanges (TOBB) which has a semi-official status, other civil organizations of businessmen gathering entrepreneurs of various characteristics also effect economic and political courses. The biggest and the most influential among them is the Turkish Industry and Business Association (TÜSİAD) which represents major holdings and capital groups. Major employers are also organized in the social politics field under The Confederation of Turkish Employers Unions (TİSK).
Outside of these structures, there are also organizations of the segment that is called the Islamic capital. The business world organizations that are close to Prime Minister Erdoğan are organized under the umbrella of the Independent Industrialists and Businessmen’s Association, abbreviated as MÜSİAD. Those segments that are close to the Fethullah Gülen community are organized under the Turkish Confederation of Businessmen and Industrialists (TUSKON). Besides these, there are several businessmen’s associations at the regional and sectorial levels.
After 2003, while MÜSİAD and TUSKON that were close to the Justice and Development Party (AKP) government were in a rising trend, TÜSİAD fell into a more defensive position. The TOBB on the other hand, even though it has a more heterogeneous structure, holds a closer position to the AKP government, in a balancing mission to the TÜSİAD. (*)
In political crisis
Dec. 17, 2013, is already considered as a milestone in Turkish political history. The corruption operations launched on this date have already caused the resignation of three ministers, the arrests of their sons and a reshuffle in the Cabinet. Each day, a huge zone dispute among the executive, legislative and judicial powers is happening. While it is being watched with curiosity where this political crisis is going to evolve, the position of the organizations of the business world is also a matter of curiosity. From their statements, it is becoming clear which organization stands where.
The business world, as expected, is concerned with the reflections of the political tension in the economy. Chairman of MÜSİAD Nail Olpak had a “principled” approach on the subject:
“It is our mutual wish that no matter where it came from and who brought them up, regardless of their content and interlocutors, corruption and bribery claims are investigated to the end. It is a must that this period is processed without making concessions from the independence of the judiciary and the rule of law.” After this, he expressed concerns on the negative effect of the political crisis on the economy. “We are able to see closely those matters that affect the economy negatively since the Gezi incidents. Recently, we are following with concern the atmosphere that was created by the investigation launched on Dec. 17 based on corruption and bribery claims, from the angle of damages it has and it will inflict on the country’s economy and the environment of confidence.”
The third leg was the covert implication of a “conspiracy” in harmony with Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan; however, Olpak preferred the word “effort” instead. “In an era when we will have the presidential and general elections after local elections, possible effects, including economy, of what is happening because of this investigation are perceived in the public as an effort toward the political field; this should not be permitted.”
What do they say?
The umbrella organization of the capital owners known for their closeness to the community, TUSKON, again, as expected, expressed in a clearer way than MÜSİAD the existence of corruption and bribery. Chairman of TUSKON Rıza Nur Meral said, “Bribery is like cancer in the state, unless it is stopped at the right time, it would spread to the whole body and collapse the whole system.” He added, “It is extremely grave that the current claims include four Cabinet ministers and their sons, bureaucrats at various levels and citizens of some other countries.” The Chairman also had things to say about possible obstructions and barricades during the proceedings: “Each and every step taken during the investigation and trial period not only should comply with the democratic state and rule of law but also with universal rules of law we are bound by with international pacts we have signed.”
It has not gone without notice that the chairman of TUSKON did not join the Pakistan trip of the prime minister even though he was invited.
Before the elephant fight that erupted, the top organization of big capital TÜSİAD sufficed by issuing a short statement: “The corruption and bribery claims that have been on the agenda since Dec. 17, 2013 present a grave picture.” The statement also said, “While these claims are handled in the judicial process, any action or discourse to shadow this process should be avoided; independence of the judiciary and rule of law should be abided by. Our expectation is that nobody’s personal rights are violated, such mistakes that caused the victimization of individuals in some major cases should not be repeated and that the entire process is conducted supporting rule of law.” TÜSİAD, just like the community’s TUSKON, has voiced the concern of possible fouls likely to be committed against the judiciary. As a matter of fact, these concerns have proved right for now with the executive seizing the judiciary.
When we come to TOBB, this organization in which the AKP played a significant role in its foundation and which has been led by Rifat Hisarcıklıoğlu since 2001, has not yet issued a statement regarding the storm.
Zafer Çağlayan, one of the four ministers who were excluded from the government, was at the management of TOBB previously. The TOBB is expecting to adopt a stance similar to the one of President Abdullah Gül.
Especially from the point of capital, a fragile economy cannot tolerate instability and nobody has the luxury of long term strife… We will wait and see whether it would be possible for them to soon gather around a long term route…
(*) The research I did for the Friedrich Ebert Foundation can be found at: http://www.festuerkei.org/media/pdf/Publikationen.