Lessons learned from Taksim
Once the storm that broke over the Taksim protests is over, it will become clear that these protests are not original in the political sense. As such, it would be useful to draw some lessons from these events.
1. Erdoğan believes he followed a steady and consistent policy throughout the events. He knows he could have given in to the demands coming from the streets, but believes that would be politically wrong, not to mention impossible. Furthermore, he knows maximalist and inconsistent demands should not be taken seriously even if that means weakening of the opposition. That is to say, Erdoğan – in a move that would render the CHP politically irrelevant – can take the easy way out and bypass the opposition to address the crowds’ demands directly. Nevertheless, he is aware that this strategy that would prove successful in the short run, would undermine the legitimacy of the political in the long run.
2. The Justice and Development Party (AKP) does not believe that any of its implemented policies constitute a level of intervention in lifestyles that could be cause for existential concerns. Similarly, the AKP possesses the necessary experience to act pragmatically on any issue that relates to life styles. Erdoğan is very much aware that while it is capable of acting pragmatically on these issues the opposition lacks the ideological flexibility to act on the most fundamental rights (such as the Kurdish question or the ban that prevents women who wear the headscarf from working in public offices), let alone life style. The prime minister is also aware that the opposition’s objections to the alcohol regulation legislation show an inconsistency of policy, in the face of its lack of support for the right to defend oneself in one’s mother tongue. In fact, the opposition seems to be unaware that, with its discourse over alcohol regulation, it appears to give the same message of the “slogans of laicity” they naively claim to have disavowed.
3. Turkey has not yet finished its process of normalization. Turkey is still a country in which the relationship between the state and the citizen is seriously flawed. In the same way, although the economic development and social welfare are on the rise, they have not yet reached a level of high standards. The contribution of the analyses of the current political situation, borne out of the Taksim protests, from a perspective of law enforcement and administration, to Turkey’s democratization is at best limited. That is to say, it is not possible for the opposition to contribute to the consolidation of democracy in Turkey with their discourse over the recent events when they did not stand by Erdoğan on important issues such as the resolution of the Kurdish question, the drafting of a more democratic Constitution and the normalization of the state-religion dialectic.
4. It is hard to say that those who locked themselves in Taksim Square and passed the key to the prime minister constituted a positive influence for Turkey. It is a good thing that Erdoğan has opted to unlock the door and listen to those inside instead of taking the key and walking away. Had Erdoğan walked away with the key, it would only be easier for the social opposition, rendered less meaningful with CHP provocations, to surrender to “Elite Kemalism.”
5. It is neither sustainable nor meaningful to try to make an “Agora” out of Taksim when the attempts to make a Tahrir out of Taksim have failed. The lack of socio-economic dynamics that excluded the possibility of Taksim becoming a Tahrir still applies. What will shape politics and the society in Turkey from now on is not the identity of those who were in Taksim, but who they represented both qualitatively and quantitatively.