Rambo of Kasimpasa: Erdogan’s Risky Response to the Revolt

Published on Spiegel Online Internagtional, by Daniel Steinvorth, June 18, 2013 (Photo GalleryTranslated from the German by Christopher Sultan).

Prime Minister Erdogan used police violence to fight the youth protests, then he softened his tone before cracking down once more. But does he truly comprehend what is currently happening in his country? His own future hangs in the balance. The giant mosque would be the largest in Istanbul, big enough to accommodate 30,000 believers. It would be positioned on Çamlica Hill, the highest point in the city — a striking, incomparable and everlasting structure.  

The Turkish prime minister has been dreaming of this mosque for a long time. It’s one of his favorite projects. It doesn’t have a name yet, but it’s quite possible that it will be named after Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Like his favorite sultan, Suleiman the Magnificent, Erdogan likes to describe himself as a “builder.”

Until three weeks ago, no one seemed able to hold him back, not from his construction mania, not from his egocentric approach to politics and not from his conservative ideas about educating the people.

But then something happened that struck at the core of the prime minister’s high-handedness: a youth uprising triggered by plans to demolish a deeply symbolic park. It led to comparisons between Istanbul in 2013 and Paris in 1968 … //

… A Legitimate Revolt? … //

… Lessons of Childhood: … //

… Dissent in the Inner Circle:

But it remains in question how many members of his party truly value his Rambo-like approach. Cracks are beginning to appear in the conservative camp.

Abdullah Gül, the seemingly mild-mannered president, has said some astonishing things behind the premier’s back: that the government has understood the “message” of the street and that democracy isn’t just something that exists on election day. Nevertheless, Gül has had the chance to intervene in the escalating conflict and, so far, has done nothing.

The influential Gülen movement, which is led by Islamic scholar Fethullah Gülen and partly backed by President Gül himself, expressed its criticism more clearly. Through its mouthpiece, the daily newspaper Zaman, it accused the prime minister of having done “enormous damage” to the “national psyche.” And Fehmi Koru, a pro-government journalist, pondered the establishment of an independent Gülen party in case the differences between the “Fethullahçi” and Erdogan intensified.

For this reason, it could be owing to the Gülen movement that the prime minister jumped over his shadow and offered the protesters a referendum over the future of Gezi Park.

Erdogan doesn’t want to spoil things with the “Fethullahçi,” fearing that they could work against him and prevent the man from Kasimpasa from fulfilling his lifelong dream of becoming president next year.

Under the AKP statutes, Erdogan, after serving three terms as prime minister, can no longer run as his party’s top candidate. This is precisely why he has strengthened a presidential system and introduced direct presidential elections, so that in 2014 the people will decide who becomes head of state. Erdogan wants to replace Gül.
But Gül has expressed his interest in serving another term as president. This leaves Erdogan with no option but to rewrite his own party statutes and run for prime minister a fourth time.

Erdogan has shown that he isn’t about to relinquish power anytime soon. He wants to see the day when he, as the leader of his people, dedicates the Çamlica Mosque of Istanbul.
(full text with many hyper-links).


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