Ruling AKP deputy report criticizes government handling of Gezi crisis

Ruling AKP deputy report criticizes government handling of Gezi crisis

ISTANBUL - Hürriyet Daily News
Ruling AKP deputy report criticizes government handling of Gezi crisis

A police vehicle sprays pressurized water over protesters in Istanbul’s Beşiktaş district during an anti-government rally fueled after a Gezi Park protest. DAILY NEWS photo/ Emrah GÜREL

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan was misinformed during the Gezi Park protests and the redevelopment project was not handled in a democratic way, said a report prepared by the Eurasia Global Research Center (AGAM), chaired by İdris Bal, a Justice and Development Party (AKP) deputy.

The report, called “Taksim Incidents Analysis,” said a small-scale local issue turned into a big crisis and chaos since the prime minister was misguided and became the principal side of the dispute. Bal’s report defined the unrest’s beginning as a “strategic mistake.”

The Gezi Park protests started May 31 when the Metropolitan Municipality bulldozers attempted to demolish central Istanbul’s unique green area, Gezi Park. The Turkish police’s heavy-handed intervention caused the protests to spread to 79 of 81 provinces.

Four protesters were killed by police and some “anti-protest civilians,” and a police officer fell off a bridge during an intervention and died. More than 10 protesters have lost their sight, and nearly 7,000 protesters were injured in almost 40 days of unrest, according to the Turkish Medical Association’s toll.

This could have been avoided by early interventions by the local Beyoğlu Municipality or Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality, and Erdoğan would be the actor to resolve the conflict.

The report said the Taksim incidents started with the environmentalist sensitivity of a small group, but the police’s intervention and the lack of dialogue caused the protests to transform to anger at first the prime minister and second at the government.

Dialogue required

The project should have consulted the community, the report also said, adding that democracy-valuing societies require polls and dialogue between people and the local authorities.

A chain of serious problems is seen in the process of the Gezi Park redevelopment project, the report said.

Failing to place the prime minister in the crisis properly caused Erdoğan to become the principal side of the crisis, the report said.

This was a strategic mistake that gave the opportunity to illegal groups waiting in ambush to benefit from chaos, it said.

The report also criticized “ballot box democracy,” saying that winning elections did not mean that governments assumed omnipotent powers and claimed “the luxury to act as they desired until the next election.”

Erdoğan reacted as if he had been the conductor of the project and the Beyoğlu local municipality and the Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality were not considered sides in the project by society.

Erdoğan was seen as the first responsible actor, the AKP second, the government third and the state fourth, the report said.

If democratic methods had been implemented by the municipality from the beginning, the problems would not have even surfaced, it added.

Bal, speaking to daily Radikal, said the question of where the mistake was made should be asked by every side, so that similar mistakes could be avoided.