‘Turkish govt not used to dealing with such large-scale civil unrest’

‘Turkish govt not used to dealing with such large-scale civil unrest’
Turkish police should be blamed for provoking violence in Istanbul, where peaceful actions grew into bloody protests. But despite the escalation, Turkey is still a democracy and PM Erdogan will not quit, journalist and author Andrew Finkel told RT.

RT:We've seen the first deaths in Turkey, how far do you think this could go?

Andrew Finkel: It’s difficult to say, but it’s clear there’s an opposition movement forming against the government really outside the confines of the traditional political parties. Whether they will continue to show their opposition in the streets, or whether they will simply become a political force within Turkey, it’s really not quite clear. However, I think the notion that Turkey will go back to normal by Thursday – by the time the Prime Minister gets back from North Africa – is a little bit of wishful thinking.

RT:The Prime Minister said these protests are nothing like the Arab Spring and events on Tahrir square in Egypt - do you agree?

AF: It is perhaps a misleading comparison. People have also compared it with the Velvet Revolution in Prague [while the] Turks say, ‘We resemble ourselves.’  There is something intrinsic to Turkey about what has happened. Why it’s different from the Arab Spring is that Erdogan is a Prime Minister who was elected […] in three consecutive elections. Each time he got a little more of the vote. If there were an election tomorrow, many people think he would still be elected. He said the other day, ‘You have a hundred thousand people on the streets; I could get one million.’ This may be a little bit of a threat, but possibly not an exaggeration.

[Erdogan] won’t quit, he will go to a general election if that’s necessary. It’s not a question of him being ousted from power by tanks and bullets. Turkey, for all its faults, is still a democracy.

RT:Protesters accuse the police for their excessive use of force.  What has made the security forces go in so hard?

AF: Certainly no one would defend the way the police have handled these riots, and indeed, much of the outrage that we are seeing on the streets is a result of the way the police have handled a sit-down, tree-hugging protest in the center of an Istanbul square. Had they not gone in with tear gas and set tents on fire and batons blazing then a lot of the outrage that we are seeing would not have happened. Some of the outrage would have happened. A lot of it is frustration at the way the government has been ruling.

Yet, what is the solution to the problem? The solution is not people standing on tanks and storming the presidential palace. The solution would be for the government to go to a poll. That’s what happens in democratic societies.

RT:How well do you think the government's handling the crisis?

AF: They are confounded by the crisis. They don’t know how to react. They’re not used to dealing with such large-scale civil unrest, and indeed they helped provoke the civil unrest by the initial use of force….They have to come to some sort of negotiation with the demonstrators. It’s not clear to me that what we’re going to see in Turkey is an escalation of street violence met by an escalation of government violence. I think at some point people will realize that to go in that direction is madness. But clearly the government understands it’s going to have to listen to voices on the streets and not just its own supporters.

RT:Activists are calling on Erdogan to quit. Will Western leaders join the chorus and tell him to go too like they did with Assad in Syria and Gaddafi in Libya?

AF: There is irony here in that [Syrian President Bashir] Assad has issued travel warnings against people going to Turkey. It’s him laughing up his sleeve at the situation. As I’ve said, Turkey, for all its faults, is still a parliamentary democracy. So it’s not a question of Erdogan quitting. It’s a question of him resigning and going into a general election if he felt he had lost the confidence of his electorate. I don’t see that happening in the immediate future. I don’t think he’s going to step down and resign. But clearly his popularity will take a knock.

The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.