By Burak Bekdil
Winston Churchill once described Russia as “a riddle wrapped in mystery inside an enigma.” Today, that description is perfectly applicable to 21st century Turkey. One of Europe’s poorest economies — with the Old Continent’s youngest and second-largest population — Turkey has a unique combination of demographics, politics and economics. Annual population growth is 1.5 percent; crime rates are around 40 percent and rising; 80 percent evade their taxes; a quarter of households use stolen electricity; half of the economy is “underground” and corruption is endemic. Yet, few Turks complain.
When Recep Tayyip Erdogan launched his Justice and Development Party (AKP) in 2002, parliamentary elections were only a few months away, and he based his election campaign on solid pledges to fight corruption. In November 2002, the AKP won a landslide election victory, earning an unusual two-thirds majority in Turkey’s 550-seat Parliament, despite getting only one-third of the national vote. The discrepancy is a quirk of Turkey’s peculiar election laws, which include a 10 percent national threshold for parliamentary representation.
But even from the AKP’s early days in power, there were hints that the party’s pre-election commitment to fight corruption came with no genuine desire to fulfill it…