Turkey PM Not Exactly Trembling Over Protests

Recep Tayyip Erdogan responds by leaving for 4-day foreign tour

By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff

Posted Jun 4, 2013 4:46 AM CDT

(Newser) – One of Turkey's biggest labor groups has thrown its weight behind the huge anti-government protests shaking the country. The Kesk trade union confederation has declared a two-day strike, accusing the government of committing "state terror" in trying to crush the protests, which are now in their sixth day, the BBC reports. Hundreds have been injured or arrested and the deaths of at least two protesters have been confirmed. The US has urged its ally to show more restraint, with John Kerry saying the White House is "concerned by the reports of excessive use of force by police," Reuters reports.

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, despite what is seen as the worst political crisis of his decade in power, departed for a four-day tour of North Africa yesterday after dismissing suggestions of a "Turkish Spring" and accusing the protesters of being "arm-in-arm with terrorists." His critics are calling his handling of what started out as a peaceful protest over plans to demolish a park more evidence of his slide into authoritarianism, the New York Times reports. Erdogan has a "highly majoritarian understanding of democracy," a political scientist at Istanbul's Bilgi University says. "He believes that with 51% of the vote he can rule in an unrestrained fashion. He doesn’t want checks and balances."

A protester sits on the ground as the Bosphorus Bridge is seen behind a barricade in Istanbul early this morning.
A protester sits on the ground as the Bosphorus Bridge is seen behind a barricade in Istanbul early this morning.   (AP Photo/Thanassis Stavrakis)
A protester holds a Turkish flag decorated with the image of Turkey's founder Mustafa Kemal Ataturk during clashes near Taksim Square in Istanbul last night.
A protester holds a Turkish flag decorated with the image of Turkey's founder Mustafa Kemal Ataturk during clashes near Taksim Square in Istanbul last night.   (AP Photo/Kostas Tsironis)
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