Opposition politicians urged Erdogan to listen to people instead of trying to silence them.
Hasip Kaplan, an MP from the pro-Kurdish Peace and Democracy party, said: “After 1 June, the policy of ‘for the people despite the people’ is bankrupt. [The government] will have to listen to the people’s opinions on mega-projects. Now is the time of participatory decision-making.”
Despite opposition from urban planners and environmentalists, the AKP government is pushing ahead with several huge construction projects in Istanbul, including a third bridge over the Bosphorus, a third airport and a giant mosque.
Caliskan suggested that these plans might have to be buried or at least altered after the protests at the weekend, along with the AKP’s recent plans to restrict alcohol consumption, ban abortion and install an Erdogan-led presidency in Turkey.
The prime minister’s key political project is to enact a new constitution, making the government system presidential rather than parliamentary. After 10 years as prime minister, his aim is to become Turkey’s first directly elected president with strong executive powers.
He may have hurt his chances of seeing that happen this weekend.
“Erdogan’s dream of a presidency is over,” said Caliskan, “as is the myth of his invincibility. The last five days have shown that he cannot simply ignore the people who criticise him.”
Other analysts stressed that the PM is still one of Turkey’s most popular politicians, and that while his image of being all-powerful may have been tarnished by this weekend’s events, the AKP still benefits from the lack of a coherent and strong opposition to challenge him at the ballot box.
The battle appears far from over. Erdogan refused to back down on the development project that triggered the protests – the demolition of the city centre park to make way for a shopping centre, mosque and a replica of an old military barracks.
“I am not going to seek the permission of [the opposition] or a handful of plunderers,” he said. “If they call someone who has served the people a ‘dictator’, I have nothing to say. My only concern has been to serve my country … I am not the master of the people. Dictatorship does not run in my blood or in my character. I am the servant of the people.”