Having lost autonomy, regulatory bodies are under political influence

With the autonomy of regulatory bodies in Turkey seriously crippled by a law passed two years ago, these bodies have come under serious political influence, analysts warned.
“Institutions like the Savings Deposit Insurance Fund [TMSF] have now taken on the character of an institution acting under directions [from the government],” Cengiz Aktar, head of Bahçeşehir University’s European Union Affairs program, said.

The recent sale of the Çukurova Group’s media outlets to businesspeople close to the government is a valuable example of political influence on the dealings of regulatory bodies. The TMSF, after confiscating the Show TV and Skytürk television stations along with the group’s Akşam daily after the Çukurova Group failed to make payments on its debts, has recently sold Show TV to the Ciner Media Group, a leading conglomerate with media outlets known to have a broadcasting policy in favor of the government, for $402 million.

But it later emerged, according to a report appearing in the Taraf daily last week, that the amount the Ciner Group had to pay for Show TV was no more than $262 million, as the remaining $140 million was only required for the Ciner Group to broadcast commercials on its media outlets.

Oğuz Oyan, a professor of finance from the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP), maintained that the government has been making use of the TMSF to transfer wealth to businesses close to the ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party). “The case of Show TV [its transfer to the Ciner Group] is a move entirely politically motivated,” he told Sunday’s Zaman.

The remaining media outlets of the Çukurova Group, namely the Akşam daily and the SkyTurk360 TV channel, were sold to the Limak-Cengiz-Kolin consortium, which had soon before been awarded the contract for the construction of İstanbul’s third airport. After the TMSF took over the Çukurova Media Group, a noticeable number of journalists who were believed not to have pro-government stances were dismissed, and their posts were filled by pro-government journalists.

The government’s grip on regulatory boards raises concerns for democracy in Turkey, as the government has been much criticized in recent years for trying to eliminate all opposition. In a case that was largely perceived as a deliberate move, the Turkish Petroleum Refineries Corporation (TÜPRAŞ), part of Koç Holding, Turkey’s biggest business group, was recently raided by the police and Finance Ministry officials over suspected private consumption tax (ÖTV) evasion.

Noting that in Turkey nearly all checks and balances of parliamentary democracy have been eliminated by the government in recent years, Bahçeşehir’s Aktar told Sunday’s Zaman that “everything is now being decided by the prime minister. The elimination of the autonomous character of public institutions has just paved the way for an administration without any monitoring.”

For the complete article: http://www.todayszaman.com/news-324302-.html

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