In a recent article, Marko Klasnja and Joshua A. Tucker provide evidence from the experiments in Moldova and Sweden to show there is a relationship between the economic perceptions of the voters and their reactions to corruption in their respective countries [gated version, ungated version]. They argue that in low corruption countries such as Sweden, voters punish the corrupt politicians in the elections regardless of the state of the economy. However, in high-corruption countries such as Moldova, voters tend to be less concerned about corruption when they are satisfied with the government’s economic policy performance. I wouldn’t hesitate to add Turkey to the group of high corruption countries, especially after the corruption investigations started in December 2013, revealing illicit money transfers to Iran and bribery for construction projects. Some have called the charges the biggest corruption scandal of Turkish Republican history. Very briefly, Turkish police seized shoeboxes stashed with $4.5 million in cash at the home of a state-owned bank’s chief executive and arrested sons of four cabinet ministers and several high-profile businessmen. Continue reading Corruption, Elections and Political Turmoil: Is more ahead for Turkey?
These days, we are witnessing an interesting number of social upheavals around the world. There is the Arab Spring which has re-awakened the interest in the North African region. We have seen student protests in the streets of London. People went on the streets of Moscow to express their allegations of electoral fraud in 2011. And, to keep in mind, there is the still ongoing civil war in Syria. Very recently, two countries, often referred to as the power houses of their regions, have witnessed the discontent of their populations: Turkey and Brazil.
At a first glance, both cases seem to be different stories. Whereas the Taksim Gezi Park protests seem to be rather spontaneous, the Brazilian protests have deeper and long-lasting roots. So what happened? Are there also similarities? And how can we make sense of these contemporaneous events?1
The Turkish case
The biggest news over the last week of course has been the events in Turkey, and speculation about the movement – “Occupy Gezi” or the “Turkish Spring” – is everywhere. So, are we witnessing the beginning of a revolution, or will these protests go the way of Occupy and fizzle out over the coming months?
According to some at Foreign Affairs, the protestors are primarily “peevish elitists” and “anti-capitalist Muslims” and, with 50% of voters behind him, Erdogan doesn’t need to worry (especially given Turkey’s recent economic success).
Or, it could be that Erdogran’s conservative cultural agenda, which places restrictions on alcohol consumption and access to abortion; tensions over urban development; and his proposed move from a parliamentary to a presidential system with extensive new powers for the president, has sufficiently worried the other 50% of the population that didn’t vote for him.
Either way, it’s important to know that, while the Arab Spring was tweeted, whatever’s going on in Turkey is going to be “Vined” (is that something we’re going to have to say now?)
Meanwhile, Egypt is passing legislation that strengthens government control over NGOs, potentially denying them domestic and international funding says Human Rights Watch.
It’s not all bad news though – while the Chinese government likes to censor any mention of the June 4th Tiananmen Square massacre, some clever people have found an ingenious way around that.