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Test of Turkish democracy 4 juin 2013

Posted by Acturca in Turkey / Turquie.
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The Jakarta Post (Indonesia) Tuesday, June 4, 2013, p. 6

Editorial

The wave of anti-government protests in Istanbul and more than 60 other cities and towns in Turkey last week will likely continue in the absence of any resolution over the weekend. How Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan resolves this challenge will test the resiliency of Turkish democracy. All eyes are on Turkey, in the same way that they looked at and scrutinized countries emerging from the Arab Spring in 2011.

The use of force to quell demonstrators would sadly mark the end of democracy there and confirm what many in Turkey fear: return to an authoritarian rule, this time with a religious rather than military cloak. A peaceful resolution, which is the preferred way for everyone concerned, would strengthen the notion of Turkey as a model for Muslim-, majority countries in the Middle East and North Africa aspiring to become a democracy.

Protesters and the police should be commended for showing restraint. There were few skirmishes when police tried to evict protesters in Istanbul using tear gas and water cannon. But on Saturday police pulled out of Taksim Square, the center of the protests in Istanbul, on President Abdullah Gul’s orders, according to a BBC report.

Turkey’s stability and prosperity matters now more than at any other time because the region is already being destabilized by the troubles in Syria and to a lesser extent Iraq. The Islamist Justice and Development Party (AKP), in power since 2002, can take much of the credit for turning Turkey into a prosperous nation and a regional power. It shows to skeptics that Islam and modernity can coexist and even reinforce one another.

The recent anti-government protests, however, indicate that a significant number, though not necessarily a majority, of its people is not content with Erdogan’s conservative policy, much less his leadership style. Critics say he is already showing some of the traits of a dictator. The protests indicate a nation still very much divided if not increasingly polarized along religious-secular lines.

This is not exclusively Turkey’s problem. Indonesia, also a Muslim-majority country struggling with democracy, has similar divisions. The difference is that in Indonesia, the Islamists are not in power, although they are junior partners in the coalition government.

Nevertheless, Indonesia could learn a thing or two from the Turkish experience with democracy, whatever transpires in the coming days or weeks. We pray for the well-being and prosperity of the Turkish people.

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