Erdogan claims bankers and foreign powers behind unrest in Turkey and Brazil

Turkish premier claims bankers and foreign forces are deliberately destabilising emerging economies, as he faces growing protests

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 23 June, 2013, 11:10am
UPDATED : Monday, 24 June, 2013, 6:07am

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who has blamed a wave of anti-government protests in Turkey on a foreign-led plot to destabilise his government, suggested that protest-hit Brazil was the victim of the same alleged conspiracy.

Erdogan was addressing tens of thousands of his supporters in the Black Sea coastal city of Samsun, the latest stop in a series of rallies he has called to shore up his political support.

The protests in Turkey erupted three weeks ago after riot police brutally cracked down on peaceful environmental activists who opposed plans to develop a park next to Istanbul's Taksim Square. The demonstrations have turned into expressions of discontent with what critics say is Erdogan's increasingly authoritarian bent since taking power a decade ago.

Thousands of protesters returned to Taksim Square on Saturday for a memorial for at least four people - three demonstrators and one police officer - killed during the protests.

Brazil, meanwhile, has been hit by mass rallies set off this month by a 10-cent increase in bus and subway fares in Sao Paulo, Rio de Janeiro and elsewhere. The protests soon grew into widespread frustration in Brazil over a range of issues, including high taxes, poor public services, and huge government spending for the 2014 World Cup and 2016 Olympics.

Protests continued on Saturday despite President Dilma Rousseff, vowing to improve public services and fight harder against corruption. Rallies were held in over 100 cities.

Erdogan, who has steered Turkey toward healthy economic growth, claims unspecified foreign forces, bankers and foreign and Turkish media outlets are behind the protests because they want to harm Turkish interests. In Samsun, the Turkish leader said Brazil - another emerging market - was the target of the same destabilisation plot.

"The same game is now being played over Brazil," Erdogan said. "The symbols are the same, the posters are the same, Twitter, Facebook are the same, the international media is the same. They [the protests] are being led from the same centre.

"They are doing their best to achieve in Brazil what they could not achieve in Turkey. It's the same game, the same trap."

The blunt-talking 59-year-old said an "interest rate lobby" of speculators in financial markets had benefited from the unrest.

"Who won from these three weeks of protests? The interest rate lobby, Turkey's enemies," Erdogan said.

"Who lost from these protests? Turkey's economy, even if to a small extent, tourism lost. They overshadowed and stained Turkey's image and international power," he said.

A crowd of some 15,000 of Erdogan's AK Party faithful cheered and waved Turkish flags as he called on the public to give their answer to protests at the ballot box when Turkey holds municipal elections next March.

The rally in the party stronghold was the fourth in a series of mass meetings which Erdogan has called since demonstrations began in Istanbul at the start of June in an unprecedented challenge on the streets to his rule.

In a speech appealing to his conservative grass-roots support, Erdogan made fresh accusations that those involved in the protests in Turkey's main western cities were disrespectful towards Islam, the religion of the vast majority of Turkey.

"Let them go into mosques in their shoes, let them drink alcohol in our mosques, let them raise their hand to our headscarved girls. One prayer from our people is enough to frustrate their plans," Erdogan said.

The protests have underlined divisions in Turkish society between religious conservatives who form the bedrock of Erdogan's support, and more liberal Turks who have swelled the ranks of peaceful demonstrators.

Associated Press, Reuters, Agence France-Presse