Turkey: ‘sultan’ Erdogan trips over 600 trees


‘People of Ataturk’ against Islamic premier’s absolute power

03 June, 19:46


(by Francesco Cerri) (ANSAmed) – ANKARA, JUNE 3 – ‘Erdogan is not all-powerful’ observes, almost with surprise, Hurriyet’s analyst Murat Yetkin.

A protest which began as a demonstration against the destruction of 600 trees in Gezi Park in Taksim, in the heart of European Istanbul, which was unilaterally decided by the local government controlled by the Islamic AKP party of Premier Recep Tayyip Erdogan, has become a mass movement which has brought to the streets hundreds of thousands of Turkish citizens.

They are the ‘secular people’ of the founding father of the modern republic in 1923 , Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, over the ruins of the Islamic empire. They are now unexpectedly shaking the authoritarian government of ‘sultan’ Erdogan, who has been ruling without rivals since 2002. For the first time in 11 years, he was forced in just a few hours to recant his position. At midday he challenged tens of thousands of demonstrators in Taksim announcing that ‘police will remain today, tomorrow and the day after tomorrow’. Two days later, confronted with rage on the streets, the spreading uprising across Turkey, protests from abroad over police brutality, and the intervention of head of state Abdullah Gul, the ‘sultan’ changed stance. He recalled police and admitted ‘excesses’, promising an investigation. Ever since then, in spite of statements that remain muscular, he has been looking for a way out. He sent Istanbul’s mayor to talk to the demonstrators. But the country is now aware that the power of the most powerful premier since Ataturk is not unlimited. After many humiliations, secular Turkey, which was ousted from power 11 years ago, appears to have decided to take matters into its hands and take to the streets. According to polls, Erdogan would still win from 40 to 50% of the vote. The year 2014 will be one of local, national and presidential elections.

Erdogan wants to become head of state with a constitutional reform giving him sweeping powers. But his electorate is not monolithic. There are religious voters, the great masses of Anatolia who are proud of an Islamic government which has given them a voice. But there is also a part of the electorate who voted for him because he has given stability to the country since 2002, tripling pro-capita income and turned Turkey into the 17th world economy. However, these voters are not ready to give up on a secular state in favour of an Islamic republic. The disastrous management of the protests has acted as a detonator.

Erdogan ‘shot himself on the foot’, said analyst Sule Kulu. The premier ‘did what the opposition was unable to do in years’, he said, ‘he created a new opposition, formed by different groups of the population, including those who fully supported him in the past’.

In the third legislature in power since June 2011, the premier has adopted an increasingly authoritarian stance, promoting an Islamic society. Bans dating back to the Ataturk era on, among other things, the Islamic veil, fell one after the other, mosques are being built everywhere, the Ottoman past is being reevaluated and progress is being made towards the approval of Islamic-inspired laws changing people’s lifestyles.

The latest restrictions on alcohol were the last drop. There is also the Syrian crisis with Erdogan firmly siding with Sunni rebels against his former Alawite friend Bashar al-Assad while the country was asking him to remain neutral. The war is now threatening Turkey. As in the case of the Arab Springs, what sparked the revolt against Erdogan, according to political analyst Emre Uslu, is that secularists lost hope of ousting him from power through the vote. And they fear this will lead to a ‘re-Islamization’ of the country. The opposition now recalls how Erdogan used to say 20 years ago that democracy is like a bus, you get out of it when you want. (ANSAmed)

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Categories: Escalation / Destabilization Conflict

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