Bedroom Politics

Politics is a dirty business. In most countries, politicians dig up dirt on their rivals in order to come out top. I know there is nothing new in that. The political game is a tough struggle in which predators hungry for power try to destroy the rest.

But Turkey is experiencing unprecedented levels of dirt all the same. At a time when the country is counting down the days until what may be the most important elections in the country's recent history -- the June 12 race will decide the ruling AKP party's hold on power -- all we are doing is talking about politicians' sex lives.

Already out of the picture is Deniz Baykal, previously the leader of the main opposition party, the CHP, who quit after a scandal over a videotape some people said was proof he was having an affair.

Now the second biggest opposition party, the nationalist MHP, has had a dirty video moment of its own. Compromising sex videotapes have forced ten senior members of the party to resign.

MHP leaders accuse the AKP government of leaking the tapes -- although they have yet to come up with any proof. If the MHP is pushed below the 10 percent threshold in the elections, that would boost the ruling party's representation, giving it enough power to change the constitution and pave the way for Tayyip Erdogan, the prime minister, to boost the powers of the country's presidency and assume the post himself.

Amid the outcry over the tapes, Erdogan is labeling the opposition as amoral and corrupt and himself as a clean, honest Muslim.

But there's also another interesting dynamic at play.

Just recently an adviser to some AKP municipalities in Istanbul suggested polygamy should be legal. Immediately after the sex tape scandals, Sibel Uresin, who is responsible for families and marriage, told an interviewer that since 85 percent of Turkish men cheat on their wives anyway, it would be best to legitimize their affairs. That way, she argued, mistresses and the children they bear would have more protection.

"If I were a man I would be a polygamist," she said. "A man looks for friendship, sex, motherhood and housekeeping in a woman. If you do not have these then you should be ready to be cheated on... I congratulate men who confess they are polygamists." According to her, beating and cheating should not be a reason for divorce.

Her outrageous assertions are much more than an individual idiocy. These kinds of degrading statements about women have become something of a trend. While the governing elite in Turkey portrays the opposition as dirty and corrupt, it is also pushing its Islamist value system as an alternative, with all that implies for the subjugation of women. And that's a real sex scandal.