Opinion: Erdogan′s last chance | Europe| News and current affairs from around the continent | DW | 05.06.2013
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Opinion: Erdogan's last chance

The Turkish president and deputy prime minister have both prepared the ground for a more flexible line by Prime Minister Erdogan. DW's Baha Güngör says Erdogan should use what may be his last chance.

The latest news and pictures from Turkey are causing concern among observers both at home and abroad. What's at stake is the future of a country of great significance for Europe and the regional balance of power - as well as being a NATO country on the edge of the "old continent."

Making the headlines have been nationwide demonstrations against the Turkish prime minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, and his intransigence toward the opposition; the brutal reaction of the police against the protests, supported by Erdogan; thousands of arrests and injuries, including two people killed; and political chaos that is threatening the country's economic development and the tourist industry, which have until now been showing healthy growth.

Baha Güngör Photo DW/Per Henriksen 11.10.2012

Baha Güngör is head of DW's Turkish service

Before leaving for a tour of Morocco, Tunisia and Algeria, Erdogan once more took the opportunity to sharply criticize the opposition, ruling out any prospect of concession. He also issued the veiled threat that he was experiencing difficulty holding back the half of the population who had voted for his AK Party from taking to the streets.

It was precisely this point that President Abdullah Gül took up as he began to try to calm the situation: Democracy is not just a matter of electoral majorities, he said. Vice-Prime Minister Bülent Arinc - following talks with Gül - said it was excessive police response against the environmental activists over the weekend that had caused the escalation. Arinc apologized to the peaceful demonstrators who had been campaigning to save a small park on Istanbul's central Taksim Square from an ambitious but unnecessary luxury construction project.

That was an apology the demonstrators would have preferred to have heard from Erdogan himself - but his arrogance prevented that.

Chance for a new policy

Perhaps it will be different when Erdogan returns from North Africa. Wednesday night is a holy night for Muslims - it is when the Prophet Mohammed is believed to have traveled to God and returned with his message of peace to the world. The verses in the Quran and the duty of prayer that Mohammed brought back with him were from then on linked with God's mercy, and God's willingness as creator to forgive all sins except for rebellion against him.

Erdogan is no creator, nor a prophet, and has not been in heaven - only in North Africa here on earth. But he should take advantage of the deep faith of many Muslims and turn away from his intransigence against those who disagree with him, against awkward media and against his critics in Turkish society. Gül und Arinc have prepared the way. This is Erdogan's last chance to break from his harsh policy.

The opposition front is likely to react peacefully. There will of course be anarchists who want to provoke confrontations with the police, but such incidents should not be seen as typical of all Erdogan's peaceful opponents and critics.

The police, too, must apologize for their behaviour - which was not worthy of a state ruled by law - and make changes, either in leadership or in their structures. In this respect, it is of central significance that those responsible for the brutality against the demonstrators across the country be called to account. Erdogan should not be afraid of dismissing his own interior minister, if necessary.

If Erdogan does not soften up, he risks his credibility as a faithful Muslim. Now that the other members of the country's secular leadership, like the president and the deputy prime minister, have signaled a positive change, stubbornness on Erdogan's part would go against the peace called for by Mohammed, who preached God's mercifulness in the holy Quran.

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