Anti-government protests in Turkey are sabotage, says Erdogan
“There are those who cannot stomach Turkey becoming greater and stronger,” claims PM
Protesters shout anti-government slogans as they gather for a demonstration at Taksim Square in Istanbul, Turkey, yesterday. Photograph: Osman Orsal
Turkish prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan yesterday blamed continuing anti-government protests on forces he claimed were attempting to sabotage the country’s rise as an economic and geopolitical power.
“There are those who cannot stomach Turkey becoming greater and stronger,” Mr Erdogan said during a series of fiery speeches aimed at rallying his supporters. “They don’t want any investments in Turkey.”
Sparked by anger over police use of force against protesters trying to prevent the razing of Gezi Park in Istanbul, the nationwide demonstrations have since ballooned into a wider expression of discontent towards Mr Erdogan and his Islamist-rooted AK Party (AKP). Three people have died, including a police officer, and thousands have been injured.
The protests show little sign of abating more than 10 days after the first demonstrations took place on Istanbul’s landmark Taksim Square. A defiant Mr Erdogan has vowed to press ahead with controversial plans to redevelop Taksim, replacing the disputed Gezi Park nearby with a replica Ottoman barracks.
After police withdrew last week, Taksim started to take on the appearance of a miniature protest city, with hundreds camped out in Gezi.
The square witnessed record crowds over the weekend, bolstered by thousands of supporters of Istanbul’s three main football clubs, who put rivalries aside to join the protesters, many of whom chanted for Mr Erdogan to resign.
Speaking in the southern Mediterranean coastal city of Adana yesterday, Mr Erdogan dismissed the protesters as “those who burn and destroy” and told cheering crowds to “teach them a lesson” at the ballot box next year, when Turkey holds local and presidential elections.
The AKP has won successive elections since it first took office in 2002. Mr Erdogan frequently boasts of the 50 per cent majority the AKP garnered in the last poll in 2011 to dismiss the protests of the past 10 days as attempts by an ideologically driven minority to dominate over a majority of his supporters.
The AKP is reportedly organising mass counter-rallies in Istanbul and Ankara next weekend.