A corruption scandal threatens the Turkish prime minister and the Egyptian government labeled the Muslim Brotherhood, its biggest opposition group, a terrorist organization. In other words, it was not a quiet day in the Middle East.
Despite his best efforts to blame "dark alliances" and foreign actors, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan is embroiled in an unprecedented corruption scandal, which brought about the resignations of three ministers today. The New York Times reported:
"The corruption inquiry has targeted the ministers’ sons, a major construction tycoon with links to Mr. Erdogan and municipal workers, and centers in part on allegations that officials received bribes in exchange for ignoring zoning rules and approving contentious development projects."
On his way out, Erdogan Bayraktar—one of the resigning ministers—called on the Turkish premier to resign. Instead, Prime Minister Erdogan fired seven more of his ministers, a tactic straight from the Middle East's blame defection handbook.
Corruption remains a particularly volatile offense in Turkey these days. The country is still reeling from weeks of protests this summer, which galvanized over government plans to develop Istanbul's last public park. The summer protests were a symbol of a broader disaffection among the Turkish working class over the policies of Erdogan, who has been in power for a decade now and has overseen the stripping away of many of the country's secular institutions.
In Egypt, the military-backed government's decision to designate the Muslim Brotherhood as a terrorist organization represents the firmest stand yet against the political party that ruled Egypt until early July. Since President Muhammad Morsi was ousted this summer, protests by Islamists against the new ruling government have been a steady fixture of life in Cairo. Clashes between the army and Morsi supporters in August resulted in hundreds of deaths.
Following an attack on an Egyptian police station in the Nile Delta yesterday, which killed 16 people and injured 140 more, the government immediately pointed the finger at the Muslim Brotherhood. Using the attack as a pretext, the Egyptian government vowed to cut off the Brotherhood's finances and criminalize membership in the group. (The Muslim Brotherhood denied any involvement in the attack and another Islamist group took credit.)
By outlawing all Muslim Brotherhood activity, the army-ruled government hopes to marginalize its main opposition ahead of a vote on Egypt's new constitution next month. As one expert put it, the groups that most stand to benefit from next month's referendum are a "coalition of leftist political parties and entrenched state actors that helped oust President Muhammad Morsi from power in July."