ANKARA: Turkey’s defiant Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan told supporters his patience “has a limit” as police fired tear gas and jets of water at demonstrators in unrelenting protests against his government’s decade-long rule.
As tens of thousands held noisy demos on Sunday (Monday in Manila) in Istanbul, the capital Ankara and the western city of Izmir, Erdogan went on the offensive, firing up loyalists of his ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) with rallies of his own across three cities.
“We remained patient, we are still patient but there’s a limit to our patience,” Erdogan told thousands of cheering AKP supporters in Ankara on a 10th day of unrest.
“Those who do not respect this nation’s party in power will pay a price,” he added, before ending his final rally with a fireworks display.
His fans relished the show of strength, frequently interrupting his outdoor speeches with bursts of applause and chanting: “Turkey is proud of you.”
While Erdogan was speaking, police used tear gas and water cannon to disperse thousands of anti-government protesters in the city’s downtown Kizilay square, the second clashes there in two days. At least two people were injured, an Agence France-Presse photographer saw.
The nationwide unrest first erupted on May 31 with a tough police crackdown on a campaign to save Istanbul’s Gezi Park from demolition. The trouble spiralled into a mass outpouring of anger against Erdogan and his party, seen as increasingly authoritarian.
More than 4,000 demonstrators, many of whom are young and middle-class, have been injured and three people have died in the nationwide unrest so far, tarnishing Turkey’s image as a model of Islamic democracy.