Opinion: A dangerous claim to total power | Europe| News and current affairs from around the continent | DW | 17.06.2013
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Opinion: A dangerous claim to total power

The brutal clearance of Istanbul's Gezi Park is the high point so far of a policy that reflects Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan's dangerous claim to total power, says DW's Baha Güngör.

Recep Tayyip Erdogan has missed the point where he could have turned to reason and de-escalation. The Turkish prime minister has decided on confrontation with his political opponents and against the kind of honest dialogue which might calm the situation and bring peace to Turkey.

Saturday evening's (15.06.2013) brutal police operation against the tent city in Gezi Park, Istanbul, populated by environmentalists and civil rights groups, was the initial highpoint of a policy that reflects Erdogan's dangerous claim to absolute power. The reckless action, which did not hesitate to attack women, children, and old people, is without parallel in the recent history of the nearly 90-year-old Turkish republic.

Güngör, Bahaeddin Multimediadirektion REGIONEN, MSOE - Türkisch DW2_8172. Foto DW/Per Henriksen 11.10.2012

Baha Güngör is head of DW's Turkish service

Erdogan has no understanding of the basic rules of democracy. He proved that at the weekend during two major rallies of his religious-conservative AK Party in Ankara and Istanbul. While his supporters were transported to the venues with all the resources available to local authorities, police in both cities prevented anti-government demonstrations with tear gas and, in some cases, with water mixed with chemicals fired from water cannon.

Doubts over regime's commitment to law

The fact that more and more people are joining the protest movement, and are prepared to endanger their lives for it, shows that the anti-Erdogan front has lost neither its courage or its will to resist the AKP's dictatorship in what is now a hopelessly divided society. The actions of the security forces, who even took to spraying tear gas into the hospitals and hotels in which the injured were being given first aid, is also strengthening doubts that the regime is committed to abiding by international law.

Erdogan has been blinded by his rage against dissenting parties and groups. To mention the opposition leader in the Turkish parliament in the same breath as terrorists shows his lack of respect for democratic dialogue with his political opponents. He has banned or severely punished newspapers and broadcasting stations which he can't control, and, as he can't control reports from the international media, he accuses them of working for those who oppose a prosperous Turkey.

Peaceful co-existence under threat

Erdogan has no reason to overshoot himself in this way. The Turkish economy is booming, tourism is flourishing, and Turkey's vital role in the region promises much support from abroad. But now the peaceful co-existence of Islam and democracy, based on a separation of religion and state, is under threat.

Erdogan has failed to become an internationally respected, democratically legitimate government leader. Over the past two years, the prime minister has lost his nerve and his patience as he hoped to improve on his dream result of 2011, when he won nearly 50 percent of the vote, in the election in two years time. The criticism at home and abroad has gotten more and more on his nerves.

Europemust conserve its influence

But despite all this, the last thing that should happen now is for the talks on Turkey's European Union membership to be broken off. The EU, and above all Germany, must not risk stabbing Turkey's democracy movement in the back. Europe must preserve its chance of influencing developments in Turkey, for there is no sign of a quick de-escalation inside the country. The main person to blame for that is Erdogan and his rejection of any form of honest dialogue with his political opponents and critics.

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