To a Turkish spring?


Protestors marching in the streets of Istanbul

Since this Friday, Turkey has been experiencing popular protestations without precedent.

Hundreds of thousands Istanbul inhabitants gathered to express their opposition to the destruction of Gezi Park, near Taksim Square. Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Prime minister and AKP leader remained inflexible in spite of calls for calm made by Abduallah Gül, former Foreign Affairs minister and current Turkish President.

Protesting against a real estate project at the beginning, the demonstration gradually shifted to an unsaid kind of revolution, giving a real occasion for a dozen, hundreds of thousands people, throughout the country, to denounce Erdogan’s policy, pointing out an attack to fundamental liberties and corruption, expression of a deep unease within the Turkish society.

Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Turkish Prime minister

Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Turkish Prime minister

Despites a competitive economy and a good financial and economic growth, Turkey is still experiencing important political and societal movements, exacerbated with the Erdogan’s arrival to power in 2002. Arousing fear then hope, the AKP party led a free-market policy which was successful politically speaking, the Muslim-democrat party getting the absolute majority in 2007 and 2011 elections, thanks to a very weak Left opposition. This unseen position favoured a certain taste and abuse of power for AKP and his leader Erdogan, the former mayor of Istanbul, who targets the Turkish Presidency for 2014 now.

Gathering very different political and/or religious movements and parties (liberal Muslims, Kemalists, far-left, Kurdish people…), the current civic movement is looking for backing off Erdogan and his more and less conservative vision of Turkey. Since the AKP party has ruled the country, a kind of match has opposed moderate Islamists and secular people, fearing to see individual and public liberties questioned, although the EU adhesion issue is used as a safeguard. By the way, it is quite surprising (and even worrying) the European Union remains silent. Indeed, Brussels seems to be very discreet, officials as Herman Van Rompuy, José Manuel Barroso or Catherine Asthon – the EU foreign affairs high representative – having not expressed their concerns so far. This heavy silence is very typical of the EU strategy which might use the current adhesion negotiations to extent pressure on the Turkish government and Recep Erdogan.

Because if Erdogan seems to be firm to submit the protestation, it is certain the political and diplomatic cost will be important. Candidate to the EU, Turkey can’t let its image be tarnished by the current events, especially if it goes bad. Moreover, and in other domain, the current uprisings have a disastrous consequence for Istanbul, considered as the favourite for the 2020 Summer Olympic Games (the International Olympic Committee has to make its decision official on the next September)


So, it is highly probable Recep Tayyip Erdogan makes some concession, in order to get more time. But, the protestation will have a durable consequence, a kind of “before-after”. While the AKP party and its leader appeared as the new Turkey’s engines, thanks to its economic and diplomatic success and influences, the strong opposition it meets reminds it some Turkish people are still attached to modern vision of society, based on the respect of individual liberties and secularism. In this in-progress turmoil, the EU may have a major role, at the condition it is clearly concerned by the current political situation.

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