When it comes to Washington’s stance toward the increasingly authoritarian Erdogan government, Steven A. Cook and Michael Koplow point out the divide between hope and reality:
In the midst of the endless volley of teargas against protesters in Taksim, one of the prime minister’s advisors plaintively asked, “How can a government that received almost 50 percent of the vote be authoritarian?” This perfectly captures the more recent dynamic of Erdogan’s Turkey, where the government uses its growing margins of victory in elections to justify all sorts of actions that run up against large reservoirs of opposition. … Turkey’s anti-democratic turn has all taken place without much notice from the outside world. It was not just coercive measures — arrests, investigations, tax fines, and imprisonments — that Washington willfully overlooked in favor of a sunnier narrative about the “Turkish miracle.” Perhaps it is not as clear, but over the last decade the AKP has built an informal, powerful, coalition of party-affiliated businessmen and media outlets whose livelihoods depend on the political order that Erdogan is constructing. Those who resist do so at their own risk.
They argue that while the current protests will likely lead to much needed change for Turkey’s troubled democracy, the US must pursue a new approach as well:
Perhaps the Obama administration does not care about Turkey’s reversion or has deemed it better to counsel, cajole, and encourage Erdogan privately and through quiet acts of defiance like extending the term of Amb. Francis Ricciardone, who has gotten under the government’s skin over press freedom, for another year. This long game has not worked. It is time the White House realized that Erdogan’s rhetoric on democracy has far outstripped reality. Turkey has less to offer the Arab world than the Obama administration appears to think, and rather than just urging Arab governments to pay attention to the demands of their citizens, Washington might want to urge its friends in Ankara to do the same as well.
Claire Sadar distinguishes the Turkish protests from the movements that made up the Arab Spring:
Despite the fact that many are making the easy (and inaccurate) comparison between the Occupy Gezi movement and the protest movements that brought on the Arab Spring, in all likelyhood this movement will not birth a full out revolution. Unlike the Arab Spring countries, Turkey is a democracy. The importance of this cannot be overstated. … [T]he popularity of Erdogan and the AKP will certainly take a hit but when it comes down to the line, I am willing to bet that Turkey would rather go with the devil it knows (and elected) over the devil it doesn’t know. However, Erdogan’s ability to guide the creation of a new constitution, already compromised, is likely lost and with it his dream of becoming Turkey’s first American style president.
David Gardner stresses [FT] the increasing self-isolation among the AKP:
Part of this drama is the paradox that Mr Erdogan and the AKP, politically paramount but paranoid about plots against them, behave as though they were still the opposition – with the difference that the feedback loop of this normally well-oiled political machine has been short-circuited by sycophants. Before first winning power in October 2002, the AKP spent 22 months interviewing in depth 41,000 people across the country. Now, even allies admit, Mr Erdogan listens mostly to himself.
(Photo: A man walks by makeshift barricades near Turkish prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s office on June 3, 2013 in Istanbul, Turkey. By Uriel Sinai/Getty Images)