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Erdoğan calls on supporters to teach protesters "a lesson” in elections - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan (R) waves to supporters upon his arrival to Ankara Esenboga Airport, in Ankara, Turkey, 09 June 2013. Source: EPA Kayhan Ozer/Anadolu

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan (R) waves to supporters upon his arrival to Ankara Esenboga Airport, in Ankara, Turkey, 09 June 2013. Source: EPA Kayhan Ozer/Anadolu

Istanbul, Asharq Al-Awsat—The war of words continues between Turkish Prime Minister, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, and the demonstrators that oppose him, with neither side seemingly willing to concede to the other.

Protesters have confirmed that they will remain in the streets until Erdoğan resigns. In turn, the Prime Minister has eliminated the possibility of early elections, or of dropping the redevelopment projects at Taksim Square that sparked the demonstrations some 10 days ago.

During a speech in front of thousands of supporters, who greeted him at Adana airport in southern Turkey, Erdoğan said, “there are just seven months until the local elections. I want you to teach them a lesson by democratic means at the ballot box.”

He said the demonstrators “are low enough to insult the prime minister of this country,” repeatedly using the terms “terrorist” and “anarchist” to describe the protesters. He stressed that the Turkish government represents everyone, without discrimination, and that his party has “always been the servant of the 76 million [Turks].”

Tens of thousands of protesters gathered in Istanbul, Ankara, Adana and Izmir until late on the night before last. Taksim square experienced the largest gathering so far after a large number of football fans from Fenerbahce, Beskitas and Galatasaray joined the crowds in the square. Violent clashes took place in Ankara Thursday evening, and the police used water cannons and tear gas to prevent ten thousand protesters gathered in central Ankara from reaching parliament.

According to Turkish news agencies, clashes also occurred in the southern city of Adana after a demonstration between opponents and supporters of the Prime Minister. The Justice and Development Party (AKP) is organizing large rallies to launch its campaign for the municipal elections next year. The rallies are set to take place next Saturday in Ankara, and Sunday in Istanbul.

The Turkish writer Orhan Pamuk, recipient of the Nobel Prize in Literature, expressed great concern after more than a week of protests, which are unprecedented since AKP came to power in 2002. During a press conference in Rome, he said: “I am concerned for my country and I am following the events with sorrow. There is no sign of a peaceful solution [will be reached in] the future between the government and demonstrators. I understand the anger of the people.”

Speaking after an AKP leadership meeting in Istanbul on Saturday, the Turkish Deputy Prime Minister, Hüseyin Çelik, told reporters that “the process is under government control, there is no need for concern.”

He added that the government is “ready to meet all reasonable and democratic demands that respect the law … we are open to all those who want to engage in dialogue.”

The Deputy Prime Minister reiterated that his government respects the lifestyles of all Turkish citizens. In response to critics and demonstrators who accuse the AKP of seeking to ‘Islamize’ society, Çelik said that “how people live; their personal choices, beliefs and religions are all respectable, in our view.”

He added that, “If there are defects, we are ready to correct them.” However, Çelik ruled out early elections to resolve the crisis. “The government is running like clockwork. There is nothing that necessitates early elections,” he said.

The mayor of Istanbul, Kadir Topbaş, expressed that he was willing to abandon some parts of the development project at Taksim Square, which was behind the protest movement. “We are definitely not thinking of building a shopping mall there, no hotel or residence either. It can be … a city museum or an exhibition centre,” Topbas told reporters.