What Does Gezi Park Resistance Mean in Turkish Democracy?

Tuesday, July 15, 2014: 8:30 AM
Room: 315
Oral Presentation
Meral S. OZTOPRAK , Yeditepe University, İstanbul, Turkey
Justice and Development Party, which has been in power for eleven years in Turkey, has its roots in Islamism. From the beginning, it has been a source of suspicion about secularism for most of the modernists in the society. The party managed to increase its votes in three consecutive elections, and it had the support of half of the voters in the 2011 elections. The rising popular support for the party also triggered the short falls and threats of majoritarian democracy. The belief that democracy was under threat, and the fear of authoritarianism gained preeminence. Consequently, wide-spread popular dissent erupted in the summer of 2013, after protestors in Gezi Park were brutally suppressed by the police force. Gezi Park protests were an expression of the “pluralist” anxieties and democratic hopes of the people.

Gezi Park Resistance revealed at least two important things. First, they showed that the opposition in Turkey is not weak, but fragmented. Second, and more importantly, they showed that the popular opposition cannot adequately express itself through conventional political channels. The disconnectedness between the protests and the institutional/traditional politics makes the democratic role of the opposition more critical. There is need for discussing (new) methods and instruments to make fragmented popular opposition politically more effective on a pluralist democratic basis. The outcomes of these discussions may be helpful in analyzing the social movements of the 21st century.

In this presentation, a qualitative analysis of the texts which appeared during the Gezi Park events on pro-government and non pro-government press will be used to discuss the structure and the aims of the popular opposition in Turkey, and to investigate the similarities and the differences of Gezi Park protests with other social movements of the 21st century, such as the Arab Spring, and Occupy Wall Street.