I found this interesting Op/Ed piece in Hurriyet Daily, one of the most well-read English-language papers in the Turkish press.
It addresses the issue of whether the latest rounds of protests, demonstrations and, yes, violence, in Taksim Square in Istanbul has anything to do with the Arab Spring which swept through the Middle East two years ago.
Let me know what you think, I found his perspective interesting. The English may not be that great, but it’s certainly worth thinking about.
Why is it not a ‘Turkish spring’?
The five day wave of protests which started to claim for the last green spot in the Taksim square of Istanbul and spread across Turkey marked a few points:
– For the first time in 11 years of Justice and Development Party (AK Parti) rule in Turkey, Prime Minister Tayyip Erdoğan had to retire a project that he was very keen on due to a national scale wave of protests resulted on June 1. Erdoğan is no more keen on building a big shopping mall as a part of the historical artillery barracks (which he did not paddled back), but raised the bar on another sensitive issue as to build a mosque there. That could be an indication that he will never forget Taksim example and will ‘not remain silent’ as he said on a TV show on June 2.
– The Taksim move by government has been perceived by the public opinion as Erdoğan’s personal will, perhaps as a matter of accumulated reaction, despite the fact that it was a collective decision by Istanbul’s municipal assembly. Erdoğan doesn’t hide his anger that he was called to resign by demonstrators for days and denounced as a ‘dictator’ by both protestors and the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu. He made this a point three times on June 2 on three different occasions of addressing people.
– The fears that the protestations could escalate and blood could be shed because of though police stance and growing reaction of the crowds on June 1, faded out in a few hours whan police withdrew from the Taksim square with its pepper gas and water cannon squads, following President Abdullah Gül’s telephone call to Erdoğan and then his official statement mainly calling the police to tone down and to protestors to hear what the government was saying. In the same framework, Kılıçdaroğlu who had cancelled a CHP demonstration planned for the same day and asked his supporters to join Taksim protestors, did not show up in Taksim, as a gesture of not trying to hijack it.
– That will have consequences in politics as Turkey is getting prepared for the Presidential elections in 2014 and Erdoğan has been eyeing to get elected, but with more powers and less checks and balances over the executive powers of presidency. Gül and Constitutional Court (which composed of judges appointed by Gül) as being the two bodies who have the capacity to turn down legislations made clear that they were against weakening of checks-and-balances to give superior powers to president.
– That is why the ‘Turkish Spring’ analogy of the Taksim protests in reference to the Arab Spring was too quick and over-stretching of reality in Turkey; democratic actors have still power in power here to intervene in and contribute for a settlement which can be effective in a short period of time. It is true that the Taksim protests demonstrated the ‘other 50 percent’s’ worriers regarding not only about a secular way of life but also about a less pluralistic society and politics.
Those points will definitely have an effect the local and presidential elections in 2014 and perhaps on the Parliamentary elections in 2015.