ANKARA, Turkey — A Turkish court on Friday blocked a government attempt to force police to disclose investigations to their superiors, setting back Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s efforts to contain the fallout from a high-level corruption scandal.
On Dec. 17, police detained dozens of people, among them the sons of the interior minister and two other cabinet members, after a major graft probe that was kept secret from commanders who might have informed the government in advance.
The regulation that would have forced police officers to tell their superiors about investigations was announced overnight by the government, apparently angered at having been kept in the dark about the year-long corruption probe.
The crisis is unprecedented in Erdogan’s three terms of office, triggering the three ministers’ resignations and then a reshuffle, as well as destabilizing the Turkish economy, whose rapid growth has been a showpiece of Erdogan’s 11-year rule.
The lira hit a record low, stocks were at their weakest in 17 months, and the cost of insuring the country’s debt against default jumped to an 18-month high Friday.
The affair turned more personal this week when Turkish media published what appeared to be a preliminary summons for Bilal Erdogan, one of the prime minister’s two sons, to testify, although its authenticity could not immediately be verified.
Denying wrongdoing, the Erdogan government purged about 70 of the police officers involved, including the head of the force in Istanbul, and on Dec. 21 issued a new rule requiring police investigators to share their findings with their superiors.
The Council of State, an Ankara court that adjudicates on administrative issues, blocked implementation of the regulation, ruling that it “contradicts the principle of the separation of powers.”
With his party aswirl in speculation he might call early general elections next year, Erdogan urged supporters to vote in a March local ballot as part of a “war” on what he deems a foreign-orchestrated plot cloaked as criminal proceedings.
In a speech in Zakaria province, a heartland of his Islamist-rooted Justice and Development Party, Erdogan likened ballots to bullets.
“You, with your votes, will foil this evil plot,” he told the cheering crowd. “Are you committed to establishing a new Turkey? Are you ready for Turkey’s new independence war?”
The government’s attempts to impose new regulations on the police anger many Turks, who see an authoritarian streak in Erdogan and flooded the streets in mass protests earlier this year.