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Editorial

What Is the Reason for the Incompetence of the Turkish State?

Turkey’s failure to cope, even on a rudimentary basis, with the consequences of the catastrophic earthquake is a surprise.

It runs counter to the image that has been cultivated of Erdogan as an effective leader and of Turkey as a rising power claiming control of its region and on the path to restoring the Ottoman Empire.

The earthquake revealed that the truth is far from that. That it is a country in a sorry state, incapable and unable to provide a minimum degree of protection for its population.

How can this phenomenon be explained? Where is the boasting, the cultivation of the image of a leader-father of a country that is rapidly becoming one of the leading countries in the world?

The most convincing answer I found is in an interview that The New Yorker magazine conducted with Jenny White, professor emeritus of the Institute of Turkish Studies at Stockholm University.

The central point of the interview is that corruption in Turkey is so great that it has rotted the state apparatus.

And after the 2016 coup, Erdogan became paranoid. To protect himself from his enemies, he appointed loyal followers to state positions – very often without experience related to the responsibilities of the position.

In his time, one sector that benefited greatly from Erdogan’s initiatives was the construction industry.

Erdogan builds everywhere, from his 1000-room palace to airports, tunnels, and other buildings.

“Government contracts,” White tells The New Yorker, “were given to people who were not necessarily the most competent, but the ones you owed favors to, to allow them some graft.”

“The government which had put out regulations about how buildings should be safely built after the 1999 earthquake,” White continued, “basically kept issuing amnesties. If a new building wasn’t up to code, instead of making them fix it, they would grant amnesty, or there was just a small punishment fee of some kind. These were favors that were given to people in the construction industry who were friends of the A.K.P. – they were saved from having to spend extra money. Many of those buildings collapsed. People are absolutely furious and talking about it in Turkey.”

Many of us expected that in the face of the scale of the disaster Turkey would use its Armed Forces to help the stranded.

But this did not happen and the question is, why did it not happen? More so since there is a huge military base near the stricken area – but only a few thousand troops were used to help.

The answer to this question is that Erdogan is afraid of the military and has set up a time-consuming system of checks before an order reaches its destination.

The following incident is revealing of the mentality that Erdogan has developed:

A Turkish man managed to approach him and, crying, begged him to help him because his family was starving.

“Calm down,” Erdogan replied. “Go to the cafe and have a cup of tea to calm down.”

It seems that Erdogan, confined to the palace, surrounded by sycophants, has lost touch with reality. Perhaps this explains his behavior towards Greece.

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