By Taha Oudeh
ISTANBUL, Dec 28 (KUNA) -- Despite a major cabinet reshuffle recently conducted by Prime Minister Recep Tayip Erdogan against backdrop of a major corruption scandal, the political crisis persists and is feared to turn into serious threat to his political future.
Although Erdogan, currently, has retained some popularity, the graft has seriously tarnished image of his political party, the Justice and Development Party (AKP), and is feared to scuttle his future bids to be elected president, Mustafa Oscan, a political analyst, told Kuwait News Agency (KUNA) in an interview.
Continuing investigations into the corruption case constitutes an unprecedented challenge to Erdogan, particularly amid reports that one of his sons, Bilal, is on the list of the figures implicated in the wide-scale graft case.
Erdogan has recently replaced nearly half of his cabinet in a dramatic reshuffle, after the spreading scandal led to resignation of three top ministers and threatened the premier's own hold on power.
Erdogan announced he had replaced the three resigning ministers -- for the interior, economy and the environment -- as well as his EU affairs minister, and reshuffled the justice, transport, family, sports and industry portfolios, and one of his four deputy prime ministers' posts.
So far, charges of corruption have been addressed to 24 personalities, including sons of the ministers of interior and economy, the general manager of state-owned Halk Bank and businessmen close to the premier.
Erdogan is involved in wide-scale purging targeting scores of police officers, involved in revelation of the case without an advance government permission.
Opposition parties have condemned the government bids to "tighten the noose" on the security and judicial authorities, charging that Erdogan is to trying cover up the scandal and obstruct legal proceedings.
Analysts believe that Erdogan's reputation has become at stake ahead of the upcoming elections.
His image was already badly bruised in June when he ordered a heavy-handed crackdown on anti-government protests sparked by plans to raze an Istanbul park.
The probe into the alleged corruption, which has seen recent police raids, focus on numerous offences including accepting and facilitating bribes for construction projects and illegal and smuggling.
Erdogan himself has sought to define the corruption scandal as "a conspiracy" plotted by "international powers". He insists his ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) party has a clean record and has responded to the investigation by sacking dozens of police chiefs.
The tensions from the overall scandal have clearly hurt the already slowing Turkish economy, pushing the national currency to record lows against the US dollar. The lira weakened to 2.0907 against the dollar. (end) to.rk KUNA 280954 Dec 13NNNN