Turkey PM warns protesters `will pay` as demos go on
Turkish protesters refused to back down Monday after Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan warned they would "pay a price" for their unrelenting demonstrations against his Islamic-rooted government`s decade-long rule.
Erdogan urged loyalists to respond to the demonstrators by voting for the AKP in local polls next year.
"I want you to teach them a first lesson through democratic means at the ballot box."
Turkey will see both local and presidential elections in 2014. The AKP plans to launch its first campaign rallies in Ankara and Istanbul next weekend, expected to bring tens of thousands into the streets.
A general election is scheduled for 2015 and officials have ruled out any suggestion of calling early polls because of the crisis.
`Like a lion in a corner`
Erdogan was to meet with government ministers in Ankara later Monday, with the crisis expected to top the agenda.
"I honestly don`t know where this is going," said Akif Burak Atlar, secretary of Taksim Solidarity, a group representing the original Gezi Park campaigners.
"It was his speeches and the police brutality that led the protests this far in the first place. He needs to take a step back."
"He looks worried. He`s like a lion in a corner," added 25-year-old student Onur Alptekin.
The national doctors` union says the unrest has left two protesters and a policeman dead so far while almost 4,800 people have been injured.
Erdogan said Sunday that over 600 police officers have been hurt.
He has faced international condemnation for his handling of the unrest in Turkey, a NATO member and key strategic partner in the region for the United States and other Western allies.
Critics accuse Erdogan, in power since 2002, of forcing conservative Islamic values on Turkey, a mainly Muslim but staunchly secular nation, and of pushing big urban development projects at the expense of local residents.
Opposition to Erdogan is intense, but the AKP has won three elections in a row, having presided over strong economic growth.