Thoughts On 2023 Corruption Perception Index

Transparency International released the 2023 Corruption Perception Index (“2023 CPI”) on January 30, 2024. Widely regarded as the key reference point in this field, the annual CPI aims to measure the corruption perceptions in the public sector over various sources such as the World Bank, World Economic Forum, private risk and consulting firms and think-tanks.

In the recent years, the Russian-Ukrainian war, the conflict growing violent between Israel and Hamas in Palestine, and the ongoing destruction, disorder and chaos witnessed worldwide have increased the states’ tendencies to act with political reflexes by escalating the political tension. This have caused authoritarian governance practices to gain strength in certain countries under the influence of global economic and humanitarian crisis, and the rule of law principle has been waved aside from time to time.

According to the findings of the CPI 2023, democratic countries tend to greatly outperform authoritarian regimes when controlling corruption. Indeed, the countries experiencing conflict or with highly restricted freedoms and weak democratic institutions tend to score worst. In this regard, Türkiye Office of Transparency International stressed the fact that a weak justice mechanism and rule of law decreases the accountability of public officers and leads the corruption to spread; governance practices observed in authoritarian regimes – and even in certain democratic leaders – encourages corruption by means of impunity.

Recently experiencing a critical judiciary crisis between the Constitutional Court and the Court of Cassation and a press exposure of ongoing impunity policies over mediatic figures, Türkiye has faced another decline in the CPI – ranking the 115th country out of 180, compared to last year’s 101st with a score cut from 36 to 34[1].

Türkiye Office of Transparency International points to the fact that the impunity practice along with the unwillingness in applying the current laws lead the corruption to spread and become ordinary. Indeed, the legal proceedings initiated against mediatic persons on grounds of corruption following the appointment of the new Ministry of Justice after the general elections of 2023 revealed Türkiye’s (i) long-lasting excusal of certain companies’ suspiciously rapid growth, and (ii) delay in conducting the necessary examinations and inspections in line with the applicable laws, to public.

Furthermore, the Fourth Evaluation Round 4th Interim Compliance Report of the Group States against Corruption of the Council of Europe (“GRECO”) dealing with “corruption prevention in respect of members of parliament, judges and prosecutors”, which is concluded on December 7, 2023, reached the conclusion that the level of implementation remains the same as in the previous report. The recent judicial crisis occurred between the Constitutional Court and 3rd Criminal Chamber of the Court of Cassation concerning the courts’ competence and jurisdiction has also triggered heated discussions about especially the individual application mechanism in scope of modern constitutionalism, right to legal remedies and access to court. These discussions may deepen the corruption perception – which has already become ordinary, by way of weakening confidence in the state of law.

In addition to the above, the toll of the earthquake catastrophe struck southern and central Türkiye, as well as northern and western Syria, brought the deficiencies and flaws in equal distribution of public resources, and a significant transparency and accountability concern about the budget into public agenda. With that in mind, the anxiety, panic and fear dominating the public after the disaster called attention to other regions under earthquake threat – especially Istanbul. These concerns both raised certain questions about urban resilience and the safety of buildings constructed and licensed in these areas, but also urged the lawmakers to amend the current transformation laws to take rapid action in these areas. In this regard, the Act on Transformation of Areas under Disaster Risk, which received significant criticisms for being structured as a “contractors’ law” with an approach intervening to the property rights by using public force, has been amended recently. The amendments triggered new concerns such as displacement and dispossession, on top of the current concerns about public-private partnerships especially in the construction field. As addressed in the CPI, there is a mutually reinforcing relationship between corruption and social injustice, and these new amendments – which may harm the essence of property rights in light of the said criticisms, can also facilitate the spread of corruption.

CPI 2023 once again shed light on the importance of the ruling of law principle in combatting corruption and establishing social peace. Considering the potential vote-seeking anticipations and political rents in light of the upcoming local elections, 2024 may not be an easy year for Türkiye in terms of the fight against corruption. The recent operations launched against certain municipalities on grounds of aggravated fraud, bribery and forgery of official documents regarding building infractions indicate to the solidity of this foresight. On the other hand, unless Türkiye takes the necessary steps such as strengthening balance and inspection mechanisms in governance, ensuring an independent and impartial judicial structure rapidly, revitalizing democratic principles and virtues and fulfilling the requirements arising from international conventions as recommended by Türkiye Office of Transparency, it is highly unlikely for Türkiye to prevent another decline in its CPI score and ranking in the future years.

[1] The Index ranks 180 countries/territories by their perceived level of public sector corruption on a scale from 0 (highly corrupt) to 100 (very clean).

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