|Istanbul June 2013|
Another way of looking at the AKP is as a party of building contractors, who have never seen anything they did not want to build and have grown accustomed to bulldozing anything in their path. In Istanbul alone, there are plans for a new airport, a new bridge across the Bosphorus and a ship canal to run alongside it, as well as a vast, hilltop mosque to cast a shadow over the city’s jewels of Islamic architecture. Mr Erdogan’s critics insistently accuse him of aspiring to become a neo-Ottoman sultan, but Pharaoh would be just as near the mark. As Turkish Islamists have bitingly remarked, the mujahids or aspiring warriors of decades back have become the müteahhids or construction tycoons of today.But these protests are just as much about the AKP’s encroachment on public, social and cultural space as the elimination of green space. The new establishment headed by Mr Erdogan has politically sidelined the secular elites that had ruled the republic created by Mustafa Kemal Ataturk as of right. In particular, he has elbowed aside the army. That removed an undemocratic check on executive power, but nothing convincing has yet emerged to fill this political space.
If Erdogan does not tread warily during the next few weeks, anything could happen.