As it gets harder to predict Erdoğan

As it gets harder to predict Erdoğan

Not more than 12 hours after Deputy Prime Minister Bülent Arınç announced following a long Cabinet meeting that Prime Minister Tayyip Erdoğan would talk to a delegation from the Gezi Park protestors today, riot police entered Istanbul’s Taksim Square at around 7 a.m.

Istanbul Gov. Hüseyin Avni Mutlu tried to assure the protestors with statements and tweets that the aim was not to attack Gezi Park, in which around a thousand activists are staying overnight in tents in order to prevent the government from building a replica of the Ottoman-era Artillery Barracks. He said the police were there to remove banners from leftist organizations that had been hung from almost every building around, as well as the Republic Monument, the main landmark in historic Taksim Square. In the meantime, municipal loaders and lorries began clearing Taksim Square of the barricades of pavement bricks and other debris that first appeared around two weeks ago.

But nothing was as smooth as the governor said it would be. First of all, as soon as the police entered Taksim, announcing from their loudspeakers that they were not there to harm any “genuine” Taksim protesters, some small groups started to throw stones and Molotov cocktails at armored police vehicles. The protestors did not fall into the trap and isolated themselves from those attacking the police, but when the police reply came, the gas and water jets hit those staying in the park as well, causing serious injuries.

You can read the rest of the details on our news pages. But as Erdoğan started his address to the ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Parti) group in the Parliament in Ankara, the police had taken control of the square and sort of isolated the protestors in the park area only. Erdoğan once again warned the protesters to stop their action at once and said he was not going to take any step back. All the opposition parties, Republican People’s Party (CHP), the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) and the Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) slammed Erdoğan and denounced him as a “provocateur” because of the coming AK Parti demonstrations against the Taksim protesters on June 15 in Ankara and June 16 in Istanbul.

Then came the protesters’ call for everyone to gather in Taksim Square by 7 p.m. the same evening, 12 hours after the police move had started. Some 20 MPs from the CHP declared that they’d spend the night together with protestors in Gezi Park.

The optimism that appeared following the Cabinet meeting a day ago regarding an immediate and peaceful end to the wave of protests a day ago had given way to further pessimism. If there is a pattern in terms of expecting Erdoğan to do the opposite of what he says, that could help us predict the future steps of the government, but even that might not be possible.

This is the same government that will decide on other critical matters that are not being debated properly these days because of the Taksim protests, such as the Kurdish process, the Syrian situation and the possible effects of the wave of protests on the Turkish economy.