The Justice and Development Party (AK Party) is preparing to hold massive rallies over the weekend and Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has said these rallies will be the first events in his party's campaigning for the municipal elections next year.
It was believed that the AK Party hoped the two rallies would be a massive show of power following anti-government protests that have been going on for more than two weeks. However, Erdoğan said on Friday: “These are no longer rallies that serve as alternatives to Taksim events. These are part of a campaign for the March 2014 [municipal] elections. We are not interested in matching the numbers of the protesters.”
The prime minister was speaking at his party's Extended Meeting for the AK Party's Provincial Chairmen. The prime minister also said that the protests were exploited by illegal organizations. “They have hidden the background of the protests. You have sincere young people in the front, but illegal organizations behind the curtain,” he said.
The AK Party will be holding a rally on Saturday, June 15, in Ankara's Sincan district. The party headquarters have been working hard to prepare the rally grounds, Kent Square in Sincan, according to reports. The work around the rally zone has included asphalting and landscaping, reports said, although no additional details were available. The rally is scheduled to start at 5 p.m.
Both the Ankara rally and one scheduled for Sunday at Kazlıçeşme Square in İstanbul have been presented as “Respect for National Will Rallies” by AK Party Deputy Chairman Hüseyin Çelik. The AK Party says they were planned months ago, but they are widely seen as a response to the recent anti-government protests. The AK Party's İstanbul and Ankara branches have been working hard to attract participants, trying to secure the presence of at least 1 million people, particularly at the İstanbul rally. AK Party branches have been tweeting and texting messages that attending the rally will mean “spoiling a game being played against Turkey, and writing history.”
Workers have been making strenuous efforts to make sure everything is in order at Kazlıçeşme in İstanbul. Just two days ahead of the rally, they were seen making sure the ground was level and filling in potholes.
AK Party İstanbul Chairman Aziz Babuşçu also referred to the rally as a meeting for “respecting the national will.” The main parts of the platform, from where speeches will be given, have already been prepared and the platform will be raised before Sunday. Sound checks and other arrangements are also being carried out at the square. Security will be tight on the day of the rally, which will begin at 6 p.m. on Sunday.
Prime Minister Erdoğan previously said of the rallies: “As I have said before, these rallies do not aim to set off one segment against another. If we were after the same thing, we would have done it at the same place [as the Gezi Park demonstrations]. These rallies aim to take the voice of the silent masses in Turkey to the entire world.” He also accused the domestic and international press of being deceptive and unethical over their extensive broadcasting of the Gezi demonstrations.
Erdoğan said the media, some domestic institutions and most international media have created the false impression that Turkey is going up in flames. “There were such acts [demonstrations] locally in some places,” he said. He also accused the demonstrators of being violent and vandal-like, of breaking tiles in underpasses, setting city buses on fire and destroying police vehicles.