Turkey Purges Over 18,600 Civil Servants in 11th-Hour Decree

(Bloomberg) -- Turkey purged more than 18,500 people from government jobs for allegedly posing a security risk to the state, a day before Recep Tayyip Erdogan takes office as an executive president with vastly expanded powers.

About 9,000 police personnel and more than 6,000 officers from the country’s armed services were among the 18,632 public sector workers dismissed Sunday, along with almost 200 academics and about 650 teachers, according to the latest decree the government published under its state of emergency. Three newspapers, one TV channel and 12 associations were also shut down.

The sweeping dismissals bring to about 130,000 the number of people purged from Turkey’s civil service since a July 2016 coup attempt, and come just days before the state of emergency expires.

“The recent purge is a further consolidation of the grip on power that Erdogan has been working on particularly since the attempted coup,” Ghanem Nuseibeh, founder of London based political risk consultants Cornerstone Global Associates, said by email. “The purge is surprising in its magnitude and many will accuse Erdogan of going after anyone who opposes him.”

The government says it has purged followers of U.S.-based Turkish preacher Fethullah Gulen, whom it accuses of masterminding the coup. He denies the charge.

Erdogan, who is to unveil his new cabinet after he’s sworn in on Monday, pledged to lift the state of emergency before winning June 24 elections, and last week, Prime Minister Binali Yildirim said it wouldn’t be extended after July 18.

But that may be a technicality. The president will have the power to issue decrees with the force of law and can still declare a similar state of emergency giving authorities powers to restrict basic rights and freedoms when deemed necessary. Erdogan will directly appoint members of his cabinet, which is expected to be reduced to about 16 from the current 27, and has the power to appoint other high-level officials including some top judges.

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