Turkey’s ruling party seeks to increase pressure on businesses with new bill, claims opposition

By bne IntelliNews June 16, 2016

Turkey's ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) is drafting a bill that will regulate the way the government appoints trustees to companies, in a move that will increase pressure on businesses, the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) claimed on June 16.

Over the past year, the government has raided and seized a number of companies, including Islamic lender Bank Asya, critical newspaper Zaman, as well as Koza and Kaynak group companies, in a crackdown on supporters of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s ally-turned-foe, Fethullah Gulen.

Erdogan accuses the US-based cleric Gulen and his followers of infiltrating the country’s police force, media and judiciary, and of establishing what he calls “a parallel state” to overthrow him. Gulen denies the charges.

The draft bill broadens the government’s authority to appoint boards of trustees to companies’ management, the Hurriyet Daily News reports. “The appointment of trustees is a legal precaution that should be aimed at protecting the public, companies, shareholders and citizens via preventing the bankruptcy of companies and allowing them to continue their commercial activities. But the AKP has been using trustees as a political weapon,” CHP Deputy Group Chair Ozgur Ozel said. “The AKP threatens the business world with trustees in order to make them the party’s allies,” according to Ozel.

The bills seems to contradict with government's recent pledges to introduce measures aimed at improving the investment environment and luring more foreign investments into the country. It is difficult to see how Turkey can attract more foreign companies if investors feel the rule of law is undermined and decisions are taken arbitrarily by the government.

In another move that would allow Erdogan to tighten his grip on the judiciary, the ruling party has drafted a bill that will enable the president to choose 24 members of the 96-seat Council of State all on his own.

In April, the European Parliament adopted a report on Turkey, sending a warning that the country is backsliding on democracy and fundamental rights. The overall pace of reforms in Turkey has not only slowed down but in some key areas, such as freedom of expression and the independence of the judiciary, there has been a regression, which is particularly worrying, the report notes.

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