1. Terrible acts of violence by the government against the protestors.
2. Erdogan and other AKP officials making inflammatory speeches, continuing to denounce the protestors in ways suggestive of their "other-ness".
3. Increasingly paranoid rhetoric by government officials, blaming outside forces for the protests (most incredibly, in this official statement).
4. Continued claims by the Erdogan government that it is fully democratic, and it is the protestors who seek to destroy.
In short, the Erdogan government is turning the protests into an "us vs. them" battle in which force (including, apparently, calling out the military and treating all present in Taksim Square as "terrorists") is justified to maintain order against a threat posed by extremists and outsiders. The events of the past few days are very consistent with my claim in previous posts (here and here) of a worldview gap between AKP supporters and protestors.
What is important to understand is this: Erdogan's behavior and rhetoric reflect his actual worldview, not a calculated strategy!
Research on the authoritarian personality suggests Erdogan (and many AKP supporters) believes:
1. That he and his supporters embody the true national will of the dominant national community. Only outsiders, deviants, and troublemakers don't share this view, and they seek to undermine the national community. Note Erdogan's comments from his Sunday speech in Istanbul: the crowds supporting him are "the real Turkey" and the protestors just "a minority."
2. These outsiders and troublemakers pose a genuine threat to the continued vitality of the national community, making it a necessary fight to protect the community. Indeed, overnight, Turkish police indefinitely detained dozens of suspected protestors.
Seen through this lens, the violent crackdown becomes logical, even as the protestors themselves are predominantly non-violent. In addition, Erdogan's heavy-handed governing style, which has included restrictive laws on the sale of alcohol, public displays of affection, and family planning, make more sense. After all, as the leader of a community with shared values, it is his job to govern in the best interests of all. More broadly, his view of democracy is shared by his supporters: as one man in Kayseri said, "everything the government does is for the good of our country." As noted before, this sort of binary thinking (good vs. evil, us vs. them) is characteristic of the authoritarian personality.
In short, expect the Erdogan government to continue its harsh repression of the protests and to lash out against both the protestors and international critics.
And expect core AKP supporters to back him in these measures.
(Note: If you don't believe my claim that the authoritarian personality tells us a lot about what's happening in Turkey, compare Erdogan's response with that of Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff, who said in response to anti-government protests in Brazil: "Peaceful demonstrations are legitimate and part of democracy. It is right for the youth to protest." Similar situation; utterly different responses by leaders!)
So what happens next?
Political scientist Burak Kadercan raises the ominous possibility of a Turkish Winter, in which repressive measures by the Erdogan government result in either the creation of a fully dictatorial regime or in a civil war between government supporters and protestors. As distressing as his argument is, I find it very compelling. In the short term, Turkish democracy is in real danger of collapse.
But it may be based on a flawed assessment of just how much public support Erdogan has. Kadercan, along with many others, seems to assume that the 45-50% of the vote that the AKP received in the past 2 national elections is a constant or a baseline (Turkey expert Soner Cagaptay makes the same claim here).
I don't think this is quite right. We know that electorates reward governments for good times. The Erdogan cabinet, for its flaws, has governed during a period of political stability and sustained economic growth. That is why its share of the vote increased from about 35% in 2002 to just under 50% in 2011. But that fact should also remind us that many AKP voters are unattached or "swing" voters who do not share the authoritarian outlook of Erdogan.
These swing voters are less likely to support Erdogan's repressive methods, particularly if they believe he is the cause of the protests. And, indeed, a recent survey suggests this may be the case. Pluralities or majorities of Turkish respondents express concern about the authoritarian nature of the Erdogan government on a range of dimensions. Importantly, only 35% indicate that they would vote AKP at the next election. In short, public opinion can turn against the government, and this would be reinforced by further images of police brutality or especially if continuing protests were to harm the Turkish economy. A Gallup Poll shows that support for AKP, even before the protests, was at only 30% in Istanbul (and under 50% elsewhere). It is quite possible that the AKP will lose control of municipal governments in Istanbul and other major cities. Moreover, the protests have had a powerful galvanizing effect among those unhappy with Erdogan's rule and may well lead to a more compelling opposition party in the next election.
What happens in the long run hinges on many factors: the success of opposition parties in organizing and contesting future elections, whether moderates within the AKP will continue to support Erdogan, the response of international markets, just how far Erdogan's government can and will go to suppress protest, whether the AKP can manipulate future elections to stay in power, the role of the military, and the ongoing public relations "battle" between the government and protestors.
In short, there are many reasons to be pessimistic about Turkey's short-term future. But the experience of the civil rights protests in 1960s America, of Latin America in the 1970s/80s, and Eastern Europe in 1989 tells us that mass democracy movements are hard to resist in the long run even with overpowering force.