Bagis rejects accusations of "autocratic tendencies"
State Minister Chief European Union Talks Negotiator Egemen Bagis on Wednesday dismissed accusations that the ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party) government is becoming autocratic, calling the charges politically motivated. "We categorically reject any and all allegations of 'autocratic tendencies,' which are biased and politically motivated," said Bagis in a statement. "The AK Party serves all and respects all. Every Turkish citizen's freedoms and liberties are under the protection of law, which will be further aligned with the EU process." Denying claims of misconduct in large court cases against alleged coup plotters, Bagis said the cases are comparable to investigations into illegal secret groups in Italy, Spain and Greece. "For any allegations of 'mass arrests' in Turkey, remember the Gladio and Clean Hands operations in Italy, the 'Colonels' Trials' in Greece and the Campamento Trial in Spain after the 1981 coup attempt," he said. As for journalists detained in these probes, Bagis reiterated that they are in jail not for their professional activities but for allegedly planning coups. "Prosecution has evidence for the arrests, but the defendants are certainly innocent until proven guilty," he said. Turning to Sunday's general elections, Bagis said reelecting the Justice and Development Party (AK Party) to a third term "will be yet another mature vote of confidence." He added, "Over the last nine years we have faced the electorate about every two years and renewed our mandate each and every time. All changes in Turkey are towards achieving full democracy. Turkey is shifting from a custodial regime to an EU-standard democracy." Opinion polls point to a comfortable AK Party win on Sunday. Bagis said the transformation that Turkey has gone through under the AK Party government has been "relatively slow due to vested domestic interests, inertia, institutional turf wars and a web of legal/institutional tripwires inherently placed in the path of a democratically elected government." Bagis also repeated the government's pledge to draw up a new constitution after Sunday. "After the elections, a new constitution is needed to make a clean break with the current one, which is authoritarian in spirit and constructed by the 1980 military coup," he said. "EU members such as Greece, Spain and Portugal have learned that accession to the Union can only come after a country changes its military-inspired constitution to a civilian one. In that spirit, Turkey, after June 2011, is determined to adopt a civilian constitution based on consensus, and to take a notable step forward in the EU accession process."