News Tip -- Experts on Turkey: 'This Is Not an Arab Spring Moment'

Demonstrators in Turkey accuse the government of becoming increasingly authoritarian

Demonstrators in Turkey accuse the government of becoming increasingly authoritarian. A small demonstration against bulldozing a park has escalated into nationwide political unrest. Erdag Goknar Assistant professor of Turkish & Middle Eastern Studies, Duke University goknar@duke.edu http://slaviceurasian.duke.edu/people?Gurl=%2Faas%2FSlavics&Uil=goknar&s... Goknar's primary focus is on late Ottoman and modern Turkish literature, history and culture. His secondary focus is on representational politics and cultural translation in the Middle East. He is co-leading the Duke in Turkey undergraduate program this summer. His latest book is "Orhan Pamuk, Secularism and Blasphemy: The Politics of the Turkish Novel" (Routledge, 2013).  Quote:"The protests are having their intended effect by hitting the Turkish economy hard, an economy that has climbed to 16th in the world over 10 years. There has been a 30 percent cancellation in planned tourism, a 10 percent drop in the stock market -- the largest in 10 years, and union workers' strikes will continue through Wednesday. "President Gul and Deputy Prime Minister Arinc, tripping over themselves in a fit of damage control, acknowledged mistakes, apologized for the excessive use of force, and agreed to negotiate with protestors. Oddly, they were trying to turn the protest into something of a celebration. The police were even handing out roses to some protestors in some locations of Turkey."Many of the protestors want more, including the resignation of the governors of Istanbul, Ankara and Antakya, as well as the chiefs of police of those cities.  "On Thursday, the prime minister returns to a country forever transformed, one that is demanding profound political changes from the ruling -- and reeling-- Justice and Development Party (the AKP). "However, this is not an Arab Spring moment. The government and the protestors are trying to work out their differences through the democratic process." Bahar Leventoglu Assistant professor of political science, Duke University bl38@duke.edu http://polisci.duke.edu/people?Gurl=&Uil=5158&subpage=profile   Leventoglu, a native of Turkey, specializes in international relations and conflict. Her work has appeared in leading political science journals including American Political Science Review, American Journal of Political Science, International Studies Quarterly, and the Journal of Conflict Resolution.  Quote: "Thanks to social media, the protests have spread across the country and turned into a general protest against government policies and in particular against the Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Erdogan called the protesters 'a few looters.' The most widely chanted slogan of the protest is now 'Tayyip, resign!' Why did this happen? Erdogan has been the most popular prime minister in the history of modern Turkey.  "His understanding of democracy is about ballot power. As his ballot power increased, he started to get more and more authoritarian thinking that more and more people gave him the mandate to do anything he wanted. Over time, the Erdogan that was quite a reformer prime minister in his first term disappeared, and we got this angry, know-it-all, almost Putinesque prime minister that we did not know as much before. "A lot of people now see Erdogan's policies as a 'cultural war' against their lifestyles, and see the government's so-called 'Taksim project' as an extension of this cultural war. Taksim is a neighborhood whose lifestyle Erdogan dislikes, with nightlife and drinking, and is not good for the 'religious generations' Erdogan wants to raise.  "Erdogan also has no tolerance for criticism. He believes that he knows what is good and what is bad for citizens of Turkey, and so we have to obey him as if we are the teenagers being disciplined by their dad. I’m sure he was taken by surprise by the protests against the government, as Turkey does not have a long history of this. But times are changing, and Erdogan is behind the times in this one.  "I do not see him recovering from this as easily as he expects."