Turkey's Erdogan gambles on Mubarak departure   2011-02-05 02:47:23 FeedbackPrintRSS

by Cinar Kiper

ISTANBUL, Feb. 4 (Xinhua) -- While the world cautiously waits for the outcome of the chaos in Egypt, Turkey has abandoned its traditionally neutral stance with the country to gamble on the side of the protestors.

Hundreds of thousands of protesters throughout Egypt have taken to the streets for nearly two weeks, calling for President Hosni Mubarak to resign, and clashes between pro- and anti-government supporters have left at least over one hundred dead.

The largest anti-Mubarak protests in Cairo's downtown Tahrir square got strong support from Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

"Listen to the voice of the people. Meet the demand for change from your people without hesitation," Erdogan urged Mubarak at his weekly party assembly on Tuesday.

Local analysts consider that Erdogan's call on Mubarak to step down is serious and a change of stance for Turkey which has usually avoided involvement with Egyptian affairs.

"The prime minister learned that the administration is out its way," Muharrem Hilmi Ozev, an expert from the Turkish Asian Center for Strategic Studies (TASAM) told Xinhua, adding that remaining silence here might cause credibility issues for Turkey when a new administration comes to power.

In fact, the shifting position as regional leader of Ankara and Cairo's decline as a regional leader in recent years is one of the main reasons behind Erdogan's involvement and Mubarak's troubles.

The Turkish Economic and Social Studies Foundation (TESEV) released a report titled "Perception of Turkey in the Middle-East 2010" on Wednesday. Over 2000 people in eight Mideast countries were asked about their views on Turkey, with 73 percent saying Turkey has more relevance in regional politics in recent years and 78 percent saying Turkey should play a greater role.

"Mubarak was a concern for Turkey even one month ago, but from a practical point it is difficult to make such disparaging statements while Mubarak remains in power," Ozev said.

"Right now we can hope for," he said, "the chaos is to end, stability to return and a slow transition towards democracy."

But even if Mubarak stays, Turkey's gamble for influence as a matter of fact is not gaining nothing, according to Nigar Hacizade, Projects Officer of Kultur University's Global Political Trends Center.

"Turkey won't have to wait too long to find someone it can talk if the opposition gains power," she told Xinhua.

Erdogan's speech met with sympathy in Tahrir square, Hacizade added, saying that by providing a message of support stronger than Barack Obama and even Iran, Turkey was in a unique position.

"Unlike Iran, Turkey has support from the West, which means its message is much more important in reintegrating Egypt into the world," she said.

And Erdogan also has more domestic consideration to gain from supporting to protestors. By announcing his support of the Egyptian protestors at his weekly party meeting, said Hacizade, Erdogan is trying to win support for Turkey's upcoming general elections to be held this summer.

"By standing on the side of the oppressed, he shows Turks that he is a man of the people," she added.

Editor: Mu Xuequan
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