Erdogan says stir no ‘Turkish Spring’
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Monday rejected talk of a “Turkish Spring”, accusing anti-government protesters on Monday of walking “arm-in-arm with terrorism” -- remarks that could further inflame public anger after three days of violent riots.Updated: Jun 03, 2013, 22:52 IST
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Monday rejected talk of a “Turkish Spring”, accusing anti-government protesters on Monday of walking “arm-in-arm with terrorism” -- remarks that could further inflame public anger after three days of violent riots.
“Was there a multi-party system in the Arab Spring countries?” Erdogan said in a televised statement.
He also defied protesters who accuse him of seeking to impose conservative Islamic reforms on secular Turkey, stressing that he was democratically elected.
AFP photographers in Ankara later saw police fire tear gas and use water cannon to disperse stone-throwing demonstrators on the fourth day of violent protests that have swept scores of Turkish cities.
Hundreds of police and protesters have been injured since Friday in the riots, which began with a demonstration to halt construction in a park in an Istanbul square and grew into mass protests against what opponents call Erdogan’s authoritarianism.
“This is a protest organised by extremist elements,” Erdogan said at a news conference before departing on a trip to North Africa. “We will not give away anything to those who live arm in arm with terrorism.”
“Many things have happened in this country, they’ve hanged, they’ve poisoned, but we will walk towards the future with determination and through holding onto our values,” he added, an allusion to Turkey’s murky past of military coups and covert action by militant secularist forces.
In contrast, President Abdullah Gul took a more conciliatory line, celebrating peaceful protest as a democratic right.
“When we speak of democracy, of course the will of the people is above all,” Gul said. “But democracy does not mean elections alone. There can be nothing more natural for the expression of various views, various situations and objections through a variety of ways, besides elections.”
The two are expected to compete against each other next year in Turkey’s presidential election.
The unrest has delivered a blow to Turkish financial markets that have thrived under Erdogan. Shares fell more than six percent and the lira fell to 16-month lows.