ANKARA: Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Bulent Arinc and the mayor of Ankara were placed under judicial investigation on Tuesday, officials said, over a public row including accusations of corruption that exposed fractures in the ruling AK Party.
The row burst into the open late Monday when Ankara Mayor Melih Gokcek upbraided Arinc over unusually direct criticism of President Tayyip Erdogan - a man not known for his tolerance of dissent. Arinc responded by accusing Gokcek of corruption.
The standoff highlights tensions in the AKP in the run-up to a June general election between those staunchly loyal to Erdogan and a more conservative faction, including Arinc, frustrated by his meddling in government affairs.
Erdogan founded the AK Party along with Arinc, serving as its leader and Turkey's prime minister for more than a decade. But under the terms of the constitution, he is supposed to be above party politics since assuming the presidency last August.
The Ankara prosecutor launched an inquiry into alleged misconduct after an independent lawyer demanded investigation of Arinc's claim that Gokcek had "sold Ankara bit by bit" during his 20 years in office, a court official told Reuters.
The petition also accused Arinc of turning a blind eye to Gokcek's alleged misdeeds despite being a senior minister.
A second official with knowledge of the matter said that the prosecutor had been obliged to open an investigation after receiving the lawyer's complaint, but that ultimately neither Arinc nor Gokcek would want to press the matter.
The prosecutor could not be reached for comment and Arinc and Gokcek were also not available.
Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu expressed discontent over the spat Tuesday, saying the AK Party would take disciplinary action if further public disagreements tarnished its reputation ahead of the June 7 parliamentary election.
"Both statements made yesterday are wrong, in terms of the rules, institutions and discipline of our party and also our political culture," he said, adding that he had already spoken with Arinc and would meet Gokcek later Tuesday.
The vote is important as Erdogan wants the AK Party to win at least the two-thirds majority needed to change the constitution and create a full presidential system in Turkey.