Erdoğan’s way of handling crisis
Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdoğan has not been handling the crisis flawlessly from day one. And this is not only limited to excessive use of force (and gas) by the police against the Taksim protestors, something that is admitted by the government as the reason for “everything going crazy.”
At first he thought that the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) was behind it, which was wrong. The CHP wanted to make use of the opportunity and take the lead in the first two days, but understanding that they could not succeed, they simply released their grassroots to let go in the wake of the protests.
At the second phase the traces of the “deeper state,” meaning conspiratorial groupings in the military and government, were probed, by especially media groups close to government, but most of the demonstrators were allergic to the alleged “Ergenekon” type initiatives as they were allergic to initiatives they see as the government targeting their lifestyles.
Then Erdoğan thought the nationwide protests were a product of what he calls “marginal, illegal groups,” which was not reflective of the truth either. It is true that there were and are some fringe groups vandalizing around and trying to manipulate the crowds, but the bulk of the crowd was simply the educated middle class and they did not take the bait in general.
In the fourth phase, Erdoğan shifted to “foreign forces” trying to sabotage the well-going Turkish economy and the successes of his government thesis; that included the media, which could be manipulated by the “interest rates lobby” in his view. But realizing that it was not possible to hide what is going on by only relying on the media under its full influence, the ruling AK Parti shifted to a counter social media campaign; the AK Parti grassroots on the other hand fall short of competing with the poisonous humor of the “others” and mainly accused them of spying and selling the country to foreigners.
In the fifth phase, Erdoğan convened his AK Parti decisive body in Istanbul – for the first time – and ruled out the possibility of early elections and announced two counterdemonstrations on June 15 and 16 in Ankara and Istanbul, to boost his party’s and supporters’ morale. Plus, in the form of an early start for the March 2014 municipal elections, he had a public demonstration in Adana yesterday in which the main issue was Taksim. It can be estimated that the Ankara and Istanbul gatherings could be countered by more demos by the protestors the same day, but this is the point we are right now.
The Taksim demonstrations and counter-demos by the government are not likely to end up with a radical shift in government policy, let alone a fall of the government as exaggerated by those observers trying to liken Taksim with Tahrir with their orientalist outlook. What most of the people want is simply to let their voices be heard and taken into account, not ignored because they did not vote for Erdoğan and respect for their modernist-secular way of life. The Gezi Park crisis was exactly the straw that broke the camel’s back. It was a small matter and could have been handled very easily, smoothly. But with an overdone “I have the right to do it because I have the vote support” attitude, the protests escalated into a major crisis; Erdoğan has lost his almighty image in Turkish politics and abroad.
Yet, all these developments might affect Erdoğan’s performance in the presidential elections in August 2014. In order to make his way up to Çankaya Palace in Ankara, he has to ask for support from his political counterparts, even rivals. So, it may not be the presidency that he desired in the first place with more powers and less control over it. He may have to sit and talk with President Abdullah Gül at least in order to settle a ‘no-one-man-show’ solution.