As protesters in Istanbul yesterday marked the one-year anniversary of Turkey’s biggest anti-government demonstrations in decades, the country continues to make headlines on many fronts. An official of the ruling AK Party said that Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan will be the country’s next president until 2023 and parliament will change the constitution to bestow more powers on the office. The announcement is certain to create anger among anti-Erdogan activists and the opposition, who have been campaigning for less of Erdogan in the coming years, while the prime minister has been vigorously trying to impose more of himself on his people.
The growing anti-Erdogan protests and the growing divide between the government and the opposition have created huge tensions in Turkey, with both sides hardening their positions and taking their differences to the streets. Though protestors enjoy huge support in Istanbul, the fact remains that Erdogan remains Turkey’s most popular politician despite a huge corruption scandal and last year’s virulent anti-government protests. AK Party officials said they expected the party to take more seats in the 2015 general election, enough to change the constitution and allow Erdogan to remain the head of his party, rather than being a supposedly neutral head of state. The three-time prime minister is widely expected to become Turkey’s first directly elected president after constitutional changes made in 2007. Under current rules, the president must cut ties with political parties and has powers that are largely ceremonial.
The continuing tension has hit both the economy and peace of the state. There is a dire need for reconciliation between the two sides. The prime minister must refrain from amassing more powers and there are enough leaders in his party who can take over from him and lead the country to more progress and prosperity. There is no doubt that a leader continuing in power for such a long period will have only adverse impact in many respects. At the same time, protesters and the opposition must shed their animosity to the prime minister and adopt peaceful means to express their opinions.
Yesterday’s protests in Istanbul suggest that future will be as acrimonious as the present. The authorities had closed roads and stopped public transport to deny access to Taksim Square and the adjoining Gezi Park where government plans to raze the green space and build a shopping mall sparked last year’s unrest. And Erdogan warned people to stay out of
Taksim, but protesters gathered and the police teargas and water cannon to disperse them.
Turkey was touted as a model to the Islamic world under Erdogan where modernity, democracy and Islam existed in harmony. But that image has taken some beating•