Turkey: AKP may have gotten message from Gezi Park

Mustafa Akyol writes: It has now been a month from the beginning of the Gezi Park crisis and the subsequent anti-government protests that shook Turkey. Most observers, including myself, have concluded that the Justice and Development Party (AKP) government led by Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan have both misunderstood and mismanaged the crisis. However, I also think that the AKP elites have learned some lessons and are willing to take some helpful steps.

For sure, the misunderstanding still goes on, and at its heart lies the AKP propaganda, if not self-delusion, that all the protests were orchestrated by “dark powers” which wanted to sabotage Turkey’s glorious progress. A film prepared by the AKP public-relations department lays out this scheme very clearly, by explaining how Erdogan’s success provoked a long list of conspirators, ranging from the interest-rate lobby to foreign companies and their domestic “spies.” Uncritically pro-Erdogan commentators in the media take these conspiracy theories to new heights every day, blaming almost every political actor in the world except the AKP itself. According to one popular theory, for example, one of the conspirators was the German Lufthansa, which wanted to take on revenge Turkey for the success of Turkish Airlines and the construction of Istanbul’s third airport, which promises to be Europe’s largest.

There are also worrying signs of a probable witchhunt against the protesters. In fact, we should grant that some of them — especially those who come from the far left — were inexcusably violent as they tried to storm the prime minister’s office or set AKP buildings on fire. In other words, the police is justified in investigating such criminals. But other steps by the authorities, such as the government’s demand from public offices the lists of public servants who joined the protests, are concerning. Similarly worrying are Erdogan’s public threats against businessmen who supported the protests. The government has to understand that while vandalism is a crime, peaceful protests are perfectly legitimate and no one can be tried for joining them. [Continue reading…]

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