Turkey's Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan delivers a speech during the opening ceremony of a new metro line in Ankara March 13, 2014
Turkey's Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan delivers a speech during the opening ceremony of a new metro line in Ankara March 13, 2014 © Adem Altan - AFP
Turkey's Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan delivers a speech during the opening ceremony of a new metro line in Ankara March 13, 2014
AFP
Last updated: March 13, 2014

Turkey PM accuses opposition of terrorising the streets

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Thursday accused his opponents of trying to stir up chaos ahead of key local elections later this month, a day after clashes in which two people died.

Erdogan said demonstrators had destroyed the offices of his ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) in Istanbul during mass protests over the killing of a teenage boy by riot police.

Speaking at the inauguration of a new metro station in the capital Ankara, the premier lashed out at what he called "ugly attempts" to manipulate local elections due on March 30.

"They are trying to get results by provoking and terrorising the streets," he said.

"They are charlatans. They are not honest. They have nothing to do with democracy. They do not believe in the ballot box," he said.

His comments came after tens of thousands turned out on Wednesday to mourn a 15-year-old boy who died from injuries suffered in anti-government protests last year.

Angry crowds had shouted slogans including "Killer Tayyip" during the funeral of Berkin Elvan, who died nine months after he was hit by a tear gas canister while going to buy bread during the protests.

Elvan's story -- he spent 269 days in a coma -- gripped the nation and became a symbol of the heavy-handed tactics used by police who Erdogan at the time hailed as "heroic".

One of those killed late on Wednesday was a 22-year-old man who was shot during clashes between protesters and government supporters in Istanbul, according to local media.

A 30-year-old policeman also died of a heart attack as officers confronted protesters in the eastern town of Tunceli, a stronghold of the Alevi religious minority.

The March elections will be a key test of popularity for Erdogan, who is also grappling with a huge corruption scandal.

"You were supposed to be democrats, you were supposed to be pro-freedoms," Erdogan said, referring to those who destroyed the party offices.

Erdogan has so far refused to mention the death of the teenage boy, sparking criticism that he is deepening the divide between loyalists and secular segments of society.

"Everyone was expecting Erdogan to express a gesture of sympathy and his condolences, but he did not," said Fuat Keyman, director of Istanbul Policy Center at Sabanci University.

"This is beyond all moral and ethical limits," he told AFP.

Instead the rhetoric has been largely confrontational, with Interior Minister Efkan Ala writing on his Twitter account that the police would crack down on "vandals" and "troublemakers" that disturb the peace.

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