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Turkey

Opinion: Erdogan is beyond the pale

In his public appearances, Prime Minister Erdogan is losing the self-control that his office demands. The protests against him are getting louder - and yet he will still be elected president, says DW's Baha Güngör.

The impressions that Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan's public appearances have left behind are barely believable: bodyguards and advisers kicking critics and demonstrators, while he himself, according to eye-witnesses, lashed out at young girls in a supermarket. Instead of comforting the families of victims of the terrible mining disaster in the western town of Soma, trying to show that he empathizes with their suffering, promising to find and bring to justice those responsible, the Turkish leader's behavior is beyond the pale. The self-control demanded of those in his position has long since disappeared.

These events don't bode well for the impending anniversary of the start of the Gezi protests on May 28. The main concern of the handful of environmentalists, students and academics who took to the streets a year ago was the protection of Gezi Park from an ambitious construction project on Taksim Square in the center of Istanbul, but now the very peace of Turkish society seems to be at stake.

The families of the victims of the mining disaster, and the rural masses that sympathize so deeply with them, are threatening to join forces with the urban populations that already oppose Erdogan to form a united front. Though obviously, whether things actually go that far remains to be seen. And it's also an open question as to how long the protesters are willing to withstand the police's merciless brutality.

Erdogan, whose candidacy for the presidency is thought to be a certainty, is unlikely to change his mind if he does indeed rise to the position of head of state. His immediate election in the first polls on August 10 may yet be in doubt, but he will almost certainly claim the post in the run-off two weeks later. Though his core voters in the coal-mining province of Manisa will now likely turn their backs on him, it's highly unlikely that Erdogan and his conservative-Islamic governing party the AKP will lose much of the 50 percent of votes it usually takes.

If the Turkish presidency, currently held by Abdullah Gül, were a vacant position in a major corporation, it would be very unlikely for Erdogan to be recruited. His policies on Egypt and Syria have misfired. His much-praised economic policy is wobbling, and Turkey is losing its grip on the ongoing negotiations for accession to the European Union.

But Turkey is not a corporation and the electorate is not a personnel department with strong decision-making powers. So Erdogan is likely to become the president of a country that is increasingly mired in quicksand. The future of Turkey - both on the domestic and the foreign front - is not looking as rosy as it did a year ago. But considering the lack of a credible, charismatic opposition figure, things are unlikely to change any time soon. The only hope is that a fairy godmother will come along, wave her magic wand and turn Erdogan back into a government leader who both Eastern and Western leaders are happy to be seen with.

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