Coup in Egypt, deposing the Muslim Brotherhood President Morsi, who had been elected by 51% of the Egyptian vote. Thousands of people jammed Tahrir Square overcome with joy as the army head announced that they were toppling the government. In a split screen, in another square thousands of Morsi supporters stood quietly, looking stunned. The Muslim Brotherhood TV station was closed and its employees taken into custody. Morsi’s supporters vowed to fight the coup, to the death if need be. A coup is always practiced on the skin of the people.
I was riveted to aljazeera’s live feed, wondering what PM Erdogan was thinking as he watched on his wide-screen TV. See, he might say to his followers, this is just like those coup-loving Gezi protesters I told you are agitating to get their old power back. This is what will happen if I let the Gezi protests get out of hand.
But the Gezi protesters aren’t Kemalists, and Morsi was incompetent and unsuited to the job of president. He spent so much time consolidating power and alienating people outside of his Muslim Brotherhood constituency that he had no time to plug the economic drain and rein in the security forces who were as busy manhandling and arresting people on trumped up charges as under Morsi’s autocratic predecessor. Morsi was divisive and arrogant and “the other half” of the Egyptians no longer felt safe or even heard.
PM Erdogan, by contrast, was a pro and handled most economic and infrastructure issues with aplomb, fixing, improving, giving a lot of people some of what they wanted and needed. The army is probably no longer a threat, even if Erdogan hadn’t met expectations. But the rest of the paragraph above applies. Erdogan is playing the divisive card, perhaps to rally his base in advance of upcoming local elections, but it’s a foolish and dangerous game to diss half your population.
It seems in Turkey as in Egypt, the pious Muslim party insists on the ballot box because it knows it can fill it. In Egypt politically weak liberals who are unable to win the election applaud the coup reset button. In Turkey, in the recent past, some Kemalists called for the army to do its “duty” and topple the AKP, but so far the new protesters in the Gezi public square just want to be heard, want to be part of the democratic process. Go get yourself the votes, then, PM Erdogan replies, otherwise don’t bother me. And in his gruff way, he’s right — the protesters need to get inside the system if they wish to change it.
The Turkish public’s new expectations are in part a result of AKP’s success — a new, global economy, an expanding middle class, better educated youth. Instead of applauding them, it appears the the government doesn’t understand them and is afraid of them. But Gezi protesters are not coup-loving Tahrir Square denizens. Yet. Maybe never.