As street protests in Turkey continue, and the government’s response has begun to harden, many are now talking about a coming ‘Turkish spring’. Reading International Relations lecturer Burak Kadercan warns here against such an analysis of these events, arguing that the protestors have no collective vision of change, and that Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan remains a relatively popular leader. He writes that if the ruling AKP party is able to mobilise thousands of its supporters against the protestors we may well see the onset of full-blown authoritarianism and civil strife.
“What is happening in Turkey?” is a popular question these days, but it is the wrong one, for something has been happening in Turkey for quite some time. What the world has come to see lately is not the problem, but its symptoms. The symptoms are the country-wide protests and accompanying police brutality, which itself has come to be defined in terms of tear gas (or, simply “gas” in the Turkish lexicon). The problem is the increasing autocratic tendencies of Turkey’s ruling party of over 10 years (AKP), which are epitomized in the personal style of its Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.
You may think that the protests in Turkey point towards the coming of a Turkish Spring. You would be wrong. Unless the government chooses wisely, however, we may be looking at the beginning of a long and harsh Turkish Winter. The protests unleashed an energy that cannot be undone but have yet to spread to the broader population. AKP has a long record of not backing down in the face of criticism. The demonstrators claim themselves to be an unstoppable force and the government, drawing upon its large support base (1 in every 2 votes according to 2011 elections), acts like an immovable object. These are not compatible philosophies and their clash may trigger a process that will then have dramatic consequences for Turkish democracy.
This article was originally published on the LSE’s Europp blog. For the rest of the post, please go to http://blogs.lse.ac.uk/europpblog/2013/06/13/turkish-winter/.