The government at the edge of its power
The slogan “Government, resign” chanted during the “Gezi Park Rising” should not mislead anybody. Those slogans in Turkey that end with “resign” contain unhappiness and protest more than a wish in the true meaning of the word. As a matter of fact, the aim of the social movement in Taksim is not at all to topple the government, which has 50 percent of the vote.
The message to the powerful is that it should now tidy itself up. The message given to the powerful is that one cannot rule this country by insulting the other 50 percent, by ignoring them and by making life unbearable for them.
Whether or not the message has been taken, we do not know yet. We will see in the coming days.
Those who mingled freely with hundreds of thousands of people filling the streets on Sunday evening at Taksim Square, on Sıraselviler and on İstiklal Avenue, on side and back streets, heard the message first-hand.
The slogans chanted by these people, the graffiti written on the walls and their behavior on the streets demonstrated that their rage was directed at two parties: First, it was against Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP). Second, it was directed at the police, who have exerted violence against them beyond the limits of reason and conscience.
What needs to be seen clearly is this: “The May 31 social explosion” is the incident marking the end of the expiration date of the polarizing policies adopted by Prime Minister Erdoğan that brought him easily to these days with zero cost.
Polarizing society between conservatives and secularists, segmenting them with culturalist, discriminatory, exclusionist policies and discourses have served to consolidate the majority of voters in the AKP.
However, this ill-fated policy which was easy up until yesterday now has a huge cost as of May 31, 2013.
Now, despite the majority that the government gained through all these polarizations, the country has reached a stage where it is impossible to be ruled, jeopardizing stability.
Just as how the Syrian policy became a source of instability and at the end the government had to change it, its polarizing domestic policy now has to change as well.
Insisting on polarization will produce bigger problems. The country needs moderation.
Again, a person wandering on Sunday evening in Taksim and Beyoğlu could have understood, by seeing thousands of demonstrators drinking beer on the streets and blatantly overexposing it, that one of the reasons for them joining this movement was out of reaction to the alcohol ban.
Unfortunately, it is now a protest stance to drink beer in the public domain; it has become an expression of a demand for freedom.
Instead of trying to understand this social movement, some accusing it of “favoring coups.” I don’t think those whose first course of action was to accuse this societal movement of “favoring coups,” in an effort to degrade them in the eyes of third parties instead of trying to understand them, stand much chance of succeeding.
I am not saying those who still want the military to politically intervene against the AKP government were not seen in Taksim; however, they were just a drop in the ocean, and they never had the power to have any control over this movement because this spontaneous movement was too large for them and was impossible to be seized.
The mind confusion Prime Minister Erdoğan revealed the other day when he was intuitively accusing the Republican People’s Party (CHP) stemmed from the fact that he was looking in vain for an interlocutor in this rebellion against his own authoritarianism. As a matter of fact, a situation similar to Tahrir was at play – something that was outside settled politics, that was uncoordinated, unorganized and without a leader…
Prime Minister Erdoğan has tasted the first defeat of his political career in front of this population. We can say he has come to the edge of his power.
Kadri Gürsel is a columnist for daily Milliyet in which this piece was published on June 3. It was translated into English by the Daily News staff.