JUL 8, 2018: Turkey dismissed more than 18,000 state employees citing alleged ties to terror organizations Sunday as part of a purge related to a failed coup in 2016.
The latest firings come a day before Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is set to be sworn in for a new five-year term during a ceremony in Ankara.
The inauguration ceremony on Monday in capital Ankara will be attended by dozens of foreign leaders and dignitaries, including Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro and Qatari Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani.
Turkey has fired more than 130,000 people since the failed coup, while also introducing emergency rule and placing restrictions on the media.
A list of individuals including nearly 9,000 police officers, more than 6,000 military personnel, and about 1,000 employees from the justice ministry was published in Turkey’s Official Gazette, stating they were dismissed for their alleged links to organizations which “act against national security.” Three newspapers and a television channel were shuttered, and 148 people who had previously been dismissed were reinstated, reported The Washington Post.
No organizations were named in the emergency decree, but government authorities have targeted supporters of Fetullah Gulen, a Turkish cleric residing in the United States who is accused of fomenting the coup, as well as sympathizers of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK.
Erdogan has pledged to lift the state of emergency, with some corresponding speculating Sunday’s purge may be the last before he does so.
Erdogan was re-elected with 52.6 percent of the vote in June, while his ruling Justice and Development Party also retained power amid claims of voter fraud by the opposition.
He will enter this term with increased executive power as a result of changes to the constitution proposed in a referendum.
The referendum, which was approved by 51.34 percent of Turkish voters in April 2017, granted Erdogan the power to appoint Cabinet ministers, issue decrees, choose senior judges and dissolve parliament.
It also abolished the prime minister post effective after the 2019 elections and increased presidential term limits, allowing Erdogan to remain in power until 2029.
Erdogan, who has been in power for more than 15 years as prime minister and president, has repeatedly stressed that a powerful executive presidency with a cabinet will create a stable environment that will allow the country to take “steps for the future in a stronger manner”. He previously said that there will not be any members or parliamentarians of his Justice and Development Party (AK Party) in the new cabinet, hinting that it will be made up of ex-politicians and bureaucrats.
Opposition parties, Turkey’s Western allies and other critics, however, say that the system grants the president major new powers without the necessary checks and balances, calling it a “one-man rule”.
In arguing for the changes, Erdogan’s supporters had invoked Turkey’s history of tempestuous politics, current security threats and need to streamline an unwieldy bureaucracy.
“The most consequential impact is on the judiciary, because of changes in the way members of a senior judicial council are appointed,”said Ergun Ozbudun, a Turkish constitutional law expert to WP. Erdogan will, directly or indirectly, be able to appoint six of the council’s 13 members. The other seven will be appointed by a parliament expected to vote in Erdogan’s favor.
“If you control that body, it means you control the entire judiciary,” Ozbudun said.
“All 13 members are people the government has confidence in. We can no longer talk about an impartial judiciary,” he said.
Erdogan will also command a majority in parliament because of an alliance between his ruling Justice and Development Party and another nationalist political party.