MURAT YETKİN > Analysis: Erdoğan no longer almighty

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The police’s dawn raid on May 31 triggered huge clashes that continue for over 24 hours in Taksim and other areas. DAILY NEWS photo, EMRAH GÜREL

The police’s dawn raid on May 31 triggered huge clashes that continue for over 24 hours in Taksim and other areas. DAILY NEWS photo, EMRAH GÜREL

Murat Yetkin Murat Yetkin murat.yetkin@hdn.com.tr

To cut the story short, the Taksim wave of protests has turned into the first public defeat of the almighty image of Prime Minister Tayyip Erdoğan, and by Turkish people themselves.

It was around lunch time June 1 when Erdoğan reiterated his hard-line position regarding the demonstrators protesting his decision to turn the only remaining green spot in Istanbul's iconic Taksim Square into a reconstructed historical building with a shopping mall.

He asked the demonstrators to abandon their efforts to try to get into Taksim Square, which was encircled by police squads, with the faint promise of an investigation into the excessive use of tear gas, stressing that there was no way the demonstrators could succeed. The crowds have grown to literally hundreds of thousands from a lonely 50 four days ago, thanks to the brutal methods that the Turkish police used in order to disperse them, particularly the serial use of tear gas and water cannons. The protests have not only spread to the European and Asian sides of Istanbul (Taksim being on the European side), but also to different cities across Turkey: the capital Ankara, İzmir, Eskişehir, and a dozen others.

Then, two unusually smart political moves took place. The first was the cancellation of a major demonstration by the main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP), which had been planned for June 1 in their Istanbul stronghold Kadıköy on the Asian side against the government policies. The CHP leader, Kemel Kılıçdaroğlu, asked all his supporters to cross the Bosphorus and rally to Taksim in support of protesters there. Many thought that this move might be counterproductive, as Erdoğan had preemptively accused Kılıçdaroğlu of trying to use the protests politically. So, tens and thousands of CHP members started to pour towards Taksim, despite the police barricades reinforced by gas and water squads.

The second move came from President Abdullah Gül, who on his return from Turkmenistan made at least three phone calls, to the Istanbul governor, the interior minister, and Erdoğan himself, asking them to try not to further antagonize the demonstrators. Right after those calls, at around 4 p.m, the police started to withdraw from Taksim. Around five hours after Erdoğan's address, hundreds and thousands of protesters started to march to Taksim Square in a mood of victory, chanting slogans calling on him to resign.

In return, Kılıçdaroğlu did not show up in Taksim, and no CHP flags and banners were there either. A CHP spokesman said he did not want to come in order to avoid being accused of political opportunism - that was a smart move indeed.

To call this a "Turkish Spring" would be over-dramatizing it. It could be, if there were opposition forces in Turkey that could move in to stop the one man show of a mighty power holder. But it can easily be said that the Taksim brinkmanship marked a turning point in the almighty image of Erdoğan.


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Notice on comments

Çılgın Kanarya

6/3/2013 4:12:25 AM

DUTCH TURK, this whole thing got so out of control because the police gassed SLEEPING activists at 5am on Friday morning. Do you think they were throwing rocks while asleep? They were in dreamworld, just like yourself.

Blue Dotterel

6/3/2013 12:02:07 AM

An interesting article by Cem Ertur implicating the AKP in the Reyhanli bombing: "The Role of Turkey in the US-NATO-Israeli War on Syria" by Cem Ertür. Was Erdogan responsible for killing his own people? What really happened in Reyhanli? Why the cover-up?


6/2/2013 9:54:13 PM

He has never been and will never be

Çılgın Kanarya

6/2/2013 8:32:52 PM

SAM, sorry for the late reply, but I was in Taksim for 10 hours on Saturday, until 4am, & I don't have one of these modern phones from which I can access the internet :) I'll be back there again later on Sunday evening, & will keep going back until dicktator Erdoǧan wakes up & accepts the public's wishes for Gezi Park & Atatürk Cultural Centre to remain exactly what they are. I just hope the tekels don't run out of beer as quickly tonight! Yes, people really were drinking AFTER 10pm! Pure evil!

constantinos kio

6/2/2013 7:07:02 PM

@shahpur unfortunatelly the truth is that there in not even one democratic state in muslim world . maybe is something that dosnt work there .

Blue Dotterel

6/2/2013 6:35:06 PM

It is not over, yet. Gezi park is still under threat, and no one has apologized for the Syria and Reyhanli foreign policy debacle. The PM has also said that the AKM will be torn down, upping the provocation. Mubarek also withdrew his police before sending in his civilian thugs. No, this is just the beginning.


6/2/2013 6:25:29 PM

Erdogan has never been almighty, but he will still get 50% or higher if the elections are to be held tomorrow. The protest doesn't even get support from the Anti-Erdogan right wing MHP (they will never attack police officers), so it is only the CHP and some ultra-left. Well politics is not that easy, you need to work harder than rioting against the police and ask the government to resign because the local police used tear gas and water. If you throw rocks, you can expect gas + water, law of riot

David Bensoussan

6/2/2013 6:22:48 PM

I was wondering all these years: where is the voice of the Turkish freedom lovers? Where is the outcry as so many Turkish journalists are jailed? Through the years, Erdogan and his party have gradually shown their ultimate authoritarian agenda which is rooted on anything but Turkey's geopolitical interests

alexandros daLezios

6/2/2013 6:03:10 PM

well done folks! it was time for the young people to stand up against some decisions which don't ft the younger generations of turkey. the path is long, but I feel that people have started walking down this road.

Volkan Vurla

6/2/2013 4:44:24 PM

Not only did Abdullah Gül countermand Erdogan's orders but the government spokesman Cemil Çiçek said that he would personally lie down in front of the shopping mall if it were to be built and Istanbul mayor (AKP) Kadir Topbas apologized for the events and conceded that any construction on Taksim should be submitted to the approval of the public first. The AKP top leadership seems to be fed up with Erdogan's incendiary and autocratic style.
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