Turkey | Anti-Government Protests Call for Erdogan's Resignation
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Anti-Government Protests Call for Erdogan's Resignation
In late May 2013, a sit-in protesting government plans to raze Istanbul's Gezi Park in Taksim Square to build a shopping mall grew into enormous anti-government demonstrations after police began spraying protesters with tear gas and water cannons. The demonstrations spread to dozens of cities throughout the country. On June 1, police withdrew from the park and let the occupation continue. Protesters criticized Prime Minister Erdogan for being authoritarian and called for his resignation. Erdogan initially dismissed the protesters as "thugs," but agreed to meet with representatives of the many groups of demonstrators. However, a day later—on June 11, police stormed the park, again spraying protesters with tear gas and water, and forced protesters out of the area. Two demonstrators died in the violence. The protests were compared to the Occupy movement that took hold in the U.S. in September 2011. Erdogan has been popular since taking office in 2003, leading an economic recovery, expanding the middle class, and weakening the influence of the military. At the same time, his critics have accused him of being heavy-handed and allowing his religious views to influence his leadership. In July, it was reported that a judge had ruled in June against the development of Taksim Square.
In early August 2013, protests again broke out—this time in response to the sentencing of dozens involved in the so-called Ergenekon plot of 2002, which was an attempt to overthrow the new Erdogan government. General and former army leader Ilker Basbug received a life sentence.
An investigation into government corruption began in Dec. 2013, resulting in the dismissal of 350 police officers in Turkey's capital, Ankara, in early January. Later that month, almost 500 police officers were either moved or fired in a ongoing effort on behalf of Erdogan's government to gain control of the judiciary and stem the tide of opposition.
Recep Tayyip Erdogan shut down YouTube and Twitter after taped conversations were leaked in which he was allegedly heard discussing with his son to how to get rid of millions of euros during a corruption investigation.
As scandal continued to plague the prime minister, Turkish voters went to the polls in March 2014 to weigh in on a referendum testing Erdogan's rule. His ruling party, Justice and Development (AK), won 45% of the vote.