Saturday, June 8, 2013

Erdogan's 'divisive & polarizing rhetoric' setting the stage for a confrontation

"...He may say he embraces not only his voters but the whole nation, yet Turkey is today in the grip of a very dangerous social polarization and tensions.Just before flying to North Africa, Erdogan sought to intimidate the Gezi Park demonstrators as he hinted that his supporters could also take to the streets, saying he was “hardly keeping the 50 percent [of voters] at home.”
Amid this tense polarization, it is apparent that a significant part of the AKP electorate sees the demonstrations as a prelude to a fresh coup and believes that an attempt is under way to unseat the prime minister through illegitimate means. It seems that the artificial tensions that Erdogan has used to create with his hallmark “us against them” policy to consolidate his party’s vote have this time become a serious threat to social peace.
On June 6, a small group which attempted to stage a demonstration in support of the Gezi activists in Erdogan’s hometown of Rize narrowly escaped being lynched by an enraged mob, thanks to police intervention.
The crowd that greeted Erdogan at the airport was clearly furious, too. The dangerous scale the tensions have reached was reflected in their chants: “Let us go and we’ll crush Taksim.” The prime minister did nothing to stop those chants. He peppered his speech with messages such as “we have nothing to do with fighting” and “now we go home, in the spirit of the dignity, common-sense and prudence that you have maintained in the past 10 days.” Those words might have stopped his supporters from taking to Taksim last night, but it is doubtful whether they did anything to reduce the huge tensions across the country.
The prime minister’s attitudes and policies will mostly determine what happens in Turkey from now on. On one side of the rift there are masses whose anger has overflown to the streets as they perceive fiats on their lifestyles and interventions in each and every realm of life and feel they are despised by the prime minister. On the other side, there are people who believe that the prime minister is being insulted, that he is the target of a fresh coup attempt and that the minority is unfairly restricting the will of the majority.
The artificial tensions created by the prime minister’s divisive and polarizing rhetoric are growing into concrete, palpable areas of confrontation. The risk that these tensions could spiral out of control and devolve into clashes between different social groups evokes a nightmare scenario that no one dares speak about...."

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