Though embattled PM Erdogan denies any such incident, fresh clashes indicate that his bid to impose Islamic reforms has no takers.
Istanbul : Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Monday rejected talk of a ‘Turkish Spring’, facing down the worst protests in his decade-long rule as fresh clashes erupted between police and demonstrators in Ankara.
Erdogan defied protesters who accuse him of seeking to impose conservative Islamic reforms on secular Turkey, stressing that he was democratically elected. “Was there a multi-party system in the Arab Spring countries?” he said in televised comments.
Rights groups say hundreds have been wounded in clashes nationwide that have pitted stone-throwing protesters against riot police firing tear gas and water cannons since Friday.
Erdogan’s ally President Abdullah Gul today urged calm and promised protesters that their voice had been heard. “The messages delivered with good intentions have been received,” he was quoted as saying quoted by the Anatolia news agency.
Erdogan struck a harder tone, vowing: “We will stand firm” against the protests and promising his supporters: “We’ll overcome this.”
With Turkey’s allies calling for restraint and international human rights groups denouncing the police crackdown, Gul acknowledged the demonstrators’ right to protest but called for an end to the clashes.
“Democracy does not only mean elections,” he said, adding: “I am calling on all my citizens to abide by the rules and state their objections and views in a peaceful way, as they have already done.”
Erdogan had earlier denounced demonstrators as “vandals”. He also lashed out at the social messaging service Twitter, used by many of the protesters.
“There is a troublemaker called Twitter, the worst of lies are in there,” he told the Haberturk television channel on Sunday, citing false tweets about attacks against protesters and fatalities.