The Spell is Broken… says a large “Turkish research firm, Burgan Securities. Regardless of the correction in global markets — whether the Fed will scale down stimulus measures — TR market has now become a special case. With thousands marching to Taksim square in Istanbul protesting the incumbent government’s policies and excessive use of force by the police, anti-government demonstrations have spread across the nation. Investors might question whether this could engender political instability, at least in the short term. The Spell is Broken.”
Environmental protests to save Taksim Square’s Gezi Park located in Istanbul turn into wide-spread demonstrations across the country, as police uses excessive force to squash protests — The protests were sparked by plans to demolish the Gezi Park to make way for the rebuilding of Ottoman era barracks, but evolved into anti-government demonstrations across the country. After the police used tear gas and water cannon to break up the protests, triggering accusations of use of excessive force, thousands of people took to the streets in towns and cities — protesting the government — of which many have been injured. Interior Minister Guler stated than 1,700 people had been arrested during protests in 67 cities.
Burgan believes that as unrest continues in Istanbul and elsewhere, raises uncertainty in terms of political stability in Turkey. The protests which started in Istanbul and have spread to other cities in Turkey. Depending on duration and extent, the unrest may have important ramifications for economic activity and tourism revenues, as well as financial stability.
Summary of what happened in Istanbul, Turkey
What started as a local dispute over plans to build on Gezi Park near Taksim Square in Istanbul has quickly turned into a major anti-government outburst, spreading to other big cities in Turkey. The speed at which these demonstrations became so widespread was a surprise to many, which, reflects the degree of public discontent over and beyond the park in Taksim Square.
The current protests seem to differ from the previous anti-government marches and rallies that took place in the run up to the 2007 elections in one important aspect. Unlike the previous demonstrations, which were associated with a certain political view or ideology, the current protests appear to be organic in the sense that there is no clear leader of the demonstrators, who seem to be coming from different groups reacting to what many see as an increasingly non-consensual style of the government.
Although several major international newspapers seemed to draw certain parallels between the Arab Spring and the protests, we think that the Turkish context is different. Nonetheless, we believe that the presence of such perceptions don’t bode well for Turkey’s image as a bastion of political stability. In reaction to the developments, senior US and EU officials expressed concerns, while underscoring the importance of upholding the fundamental freedoms of expressions and refraining from excessive and disproportionate use of force (Hurriyet Daily News, June 2, 2013). Also see Syria Nears Tipping Point As West Echos Mistakes Of Iraq War
It is worth highlighting that the protests are taking place at a politically critical juncture, as Turkey faces an election heavy calendar (local elections in March 2014, Presidential elections in August 2014 and general elections in June 2015). In this respect, if the protests intensify, the AKP may opt for early elections to get a fresh mandate and buttress its position. Given the fluid environment, it is difficult to foresee the full impact of the protests on the country’s political landscape.
Istanbul protests could impact constitutional reform
With this caveat in mind, the recent events are likely to have implications for a number of politically important yardsticks, such the constitutional reform process, which was already facing uncertainty, and the prospects for the introduction of an executive presidency. The recent events reduce the likelihood of meaningful progress in these critical areas. It is, however, too early to gauge the effect of the recent events on the popularity of PM Erdogan and the AKP, which, according to published polls, was still quite strong before the demonstrations.
Michael Koplow author of Ottomans and Zionists, a blog which has made superb predictions regarding Turkey notes in a piece for the FP today that the protests could be a rude wake up call for America and Europe:
The ferocity of the protests and police response in Istanbul’s Gezi Park is no doubt a surprise to many in Washington. Turkey, that “excellent model” or “model partner,” is also, as many put it, “more democratic than it was a decade ago.”