‘Teach protesters a lesson’ in local Turkey polls, Erdogan urges

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Supporters of Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s Justice and Development Party (AKP) were urged by the premier to use next year’s local elections to “teach a lesson” to the anti-government demonstrators.

“There are just seven months left until the local elections. I want you to teach them a first lesson through democratic means at the ballot box,” Erdogan told a crowd of cheering loyalists after landing at the airport in the southern city of Adana, AFP reported.

Clashes between Turkish police anti-government protesters took an increasingly violent turn on Sunday as the demonstrations raised pressure on Erdogan’s government.

Protesters burned tires and hurled fireworks at police who fired back tear gas in Istanbul, as tens of thousands poured into the streets of the city, AFP news agency reported.

Local media said numerous people were injured in Ankara when police dispersed a crowd of about 10,000, sending them scrambling and tripping over each other with jets of water and gas.

Fresh clashes also erupted in Ankara as well as the major western city of Izmir and the city of Adana in the south.

In Istanbul’s western Gazi neighborhood, a working class district largely peopled by Alevis, a Muslim minority opposed to Erdogan, where rioters hurled incendiary devices and taunted police, AFP reported.

Early elections in Turkey were ruled out on Saturday, Erdogan’s AK Party said as tens of thousands of anti-government demonstrators persistently continued their protest.

Huseyin Celik, deputy chairman of the AKP founded by Erdogan just over a decade ago, said local and presidential elections would be held next year as planned, and a general election in 2015.

“The government is running like clockwork. There is nothing that necessitates early elections,” he told reporters after a meeting of the party’s executive committee in Istanbul, Reuters reported

“The world is dealing with an economic crisis and things are going well in Turkey. Elections are not held because people are marching on the streets.”

Senior AK officials said they had discussed calling a rally of their supporters in Istanbul or Ankara next week but no decision had yet been taken, with some party figures urging restraint for fear of provoking the situation on the streets.

What began as a campaign against government plans to build over the park spiraled into an unprecedented display of public anger over the perceived authoritarianism of Erdogan and his Islamist-rooted AK Party, leading to the worst riots in decades.

Police fired teargas and water cannon in the Kizilaydistrict of central Ankara late on Saturday to try to disperse protesters blocking roads and burning bonfires in the streets.

There were similar scenes overnight in Istanbul’s working-class Gazi neighborhood, which saw heavy clashes with police in the 1990s. Three people have been killed and close to 5,000 injured around the country since the violence began a week ago.

Thousands protested in Berlin, home to a large Turkish population, waving red Turkish flags and chanting “Occupy Gezi,” Reuters reported.

(With Reuters)

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