Turkish police fight protesters, clear square
Updated: 2013-06-12 15:20
Demonstrators chat next to a damaged car at Gezi park in central Istanbul June 12, 2013. [Agencies]
Gezi Park has been turned into a ramshackle settlement of tents by leftists, environmentalists, liberals, students and professionals who see a plan to develop one of the few green spaces in Istanbul as symptomatic of an overbearing government.
Erdogan swept to power in 2002 after forging his AK Party from an alliance of centrist reformers and nationalists as well as remnants of Islamist parties banned in the past by secular authorities. Denying any plans to subvert Turkey's secular order, he set about deep-reaching social reforms.
He broke the political power of an army that had toppled four governments over four decades, including Turkey's first Islamist-led government with which he was associated. He also opened talks with the European Union, introduced some social reforms and sought to negotiate and end to a long-running Kurdish rebellion.
What is notably absent during this crisis is the speculation of a military coup that has in the past accompanied social unrest - some tribute to Erdogan's reforms. Army power is broken. Nor though does there seem to be any political alternative to Erdogan who faces a weak opposition in parliament and fragmented groups on the streets.
"They say the prime minister is rough. So what was going to happen here? Were we going to kneel down in front of these (people)?" Erdogan said after the action to clear the square began on Tuesday morning.
"If you call this roughness, I'm sorry, but this Tayyip Erdogan won't change," he told a meeting of his AK party's parliamentary group.
The unrest has knocked investor confidence in a country that has boomed under Erdogan. The lira, already suffering from wider market turmoil, fell on Tuesday to its weakest level against its dollar/euro basket since October 2011.
The cost of insuring Turkish debt against default rose to its highest in 10 months, although it remained far from crisis levels.
Turkey's Medical Association said that as of late Monday, 4,947 people had sought treatment in hospitals and voluntary infirmaries for injuries, ranging from cuts and burns to breathing difficulties from tear gas inhalation, since the unrest began more than 10 days ago. Three people have died.