What’s Erdogan’s Next Move?

Mustafa Akyol and HA Hellyer ponder the way forward for the Turkish government, noting a few encouraging signs:

The events of the past few days do not mean Erdogan has to resign – but it does suggest he ought to try to be a force for reconciliation. A good step was taken on Tuesday, when Bulent Arinc, Erdogan’s deputy, gave a press conference in which he promised police restraint, dialogue with the opposition, and “self-criticism” within the cabinet. Erdogan will do a great service, to himself and his country, if he uses similarly calming language on return from north Africa. His visit to that region ought to remind him that the best governments listen seriously to the demands of all citizens, not just those who voted them in. Erdogan’s accomplishments are so significant that the alternative route – of further confrontation and crisis – would be a great pity.

Claire Berlinski feels more pessimistic:

Erdogan may believe that he can outlast the protesters, and he may be right, particularly if the protesters succumb to the temptations of violence and vandalism. So far, they have been reasonably constrained. But the Robocops are exhausted—photos are circulating of them falling asleep on the street—and if there is one thing a prime minister best known for “taming the military” can’t do, it is to call in the army to settle things down. If the protests keep escalating and the crackdown intensifies, it’s hard to see how this can end well. Best case: the protests will spook the prime minister and give him a much-needed dose of humility. Worst case: The protests will spook the prime minister and leave him even more paranoid and vengeful.

Jenny White looks at how Erdogan has treated the protestors thus far:

[L]ike a rubber band after several years of liberal opening, the [ruling] AKP [party] has snapped back to what has long been the status quo of strongman autocracy, authoritarianism, patriarchy, and intolerance. These are characteristics that polls show are reflected by the population and characterize the still highly valued traditional family structure. But even an authoritarian father is expected to keep the welfare of his children foremost in mind. And that is where Erdogan has crossed the line. He dismissed the tens of thousands of citizens in the streets initially as purveyors of terror instigated by outsiders, then as “marginals,” as alcoholics, and finally, in perhaps the most revealing statement, as people who have an ideological gripe and who don’t like him personally.

It is the grandiosity of power and the increasingly punitive state that has pushed people onto the streets and keeps them hanging from the windows of their homes every day, banging pots into the night. Even the revered father of the traditional family is expected to care about all this. But Prime Minister Erdogan, after insulting the protesters and refusing to acknowledge that there was any problem whatsoever, instead left for Morocco to attend a trade meeting.