Turkey Rounds Up Police as Erdogan Vows to Strike at `Traitors'

Turkey rounded up a group of police on suspicion they illegally eavesdropped on the government as Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, buoyed by a strong show of support in local elections, vowed to retaliate against “traitors” probing allegations of state corruption.

Eight police officers were detained in the southern city of Adana today, CNN-Turk television said. Some were among the thousands of officers who were dismissed from their jobs and reassigned for allegedly driving an anti-government graft probe at the behest of Erdogan’s U.S.-based rival, preacher Fethullah Gulen, Hurriyet newspaper said.

The Turkish leader, alluding to his AK Party’s victory in March 30 elections, told lawmakers in parliament today that the nation ordered the government to “struggle against the parallel structure” within the state.

“We will never forget traitors and what they’ve done,” Erdogan said.

The nation’s financial markets have plunged since news of corruption investigations emerged in December, though they rallied after the balloting. The lira extended gains today, strengthening 0.7 percent to 2.0972 per dollar at 2:08 p.m. in Istanbul. Gulen denies involvement in the probe.

Erdogan’s tough talk comes as he and his party gird for the next test of their popularity, in presidential elections scheduled for August. With his third term ending in 2015 and a party rule barring him from seeking a fourth, Erdogan and his close circle have been hinting he may seek the presidency.

Such a development would not be good for political stability or business sentiment, according to Anthony Skinner, head of analysis at Maplecroft, a U.K.-based global risk forecasting company.

Support Bolstered

“The municipal election results have been interpreted by Erdogan as a sign that polarization, confrontation, deflection and finger-pointing have the effect of shoring up support among AKP constituents,” Skinner said.

“There is little to suggest that Erdogan will moderate such behavior as president,” he added. “This means that witch-hunts against members of the business community who are critical of Erdogan or in some way connected with the Gulenists or broader opposition movement will likely persist.”

According to the Sabah newspaper today, Erdogan said on April 6 that Turkey’s next president will be a “a sweating, running president who gives orders, not a ceremonial president.”

Parliament Speaker Cemil Cicek, a member of Erdogan’s party, said yesterday that new legislation is needed to define the power and responsibilities of the president, who will be elected in a direct, popular vote for the first time.

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