Turkish Violence Rises in the Streets
by Elizabeth Gillis
Protests continued for a fourth day in Turkey with rising tensions as the Prime Minister and President take opposing positions. Prime Minister Tayyib Erdogan rejects protestor’s criticism of his rule, while President Abdullah Gul sees democracy in the chants for a less authoritarian government.
The first protest occurred on Friday in Istanbul and specifically targeted the preservation of the city’s last green space. Government opposition escalated over the weekend to include hundreds more in the country’s capital of Ankara. Violence is also on the rise, with one person reported dead and riot police using tear gas on protestors.
Prime Minister Erdogan has responded to Arab Spring comparisons saying this is not a Turkish Spring, but simply the act of extremist groups. Those who oppose Erdogan’s rule, including protestors, say the prime minister has worked toward secular government rule by eliminating opposition, rather than allowing for democracy. His response right before he left for a tour of North Africa beginning in Morocco.
President Gul has taken a different approach to the protests saying the protests are an act of democracy which he believes “does not involve elections alone.”
Erdogan and Gul could potentially run against each other in Turkey’s Presidential election next year. The prime minister heads the multi-party government and parliament in Turkey, while the President is head of state and claims select reserve powers over the government in national matters.