June 3, 2013 / 9:01 AM / 6 years ago

Turkish PM Erdogan calls for calm after days of protests

Turkey's Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan addresses the media before his flight to Denmark for an official visit at Esenboga Airport in Ankara March 19, 2013. REUTERS/Umit Bektas

ISTANBUL (Reuters) - Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan called for calm on Monday, after a weekend of fierce anti-government protests, urging people not to be provoked by demonstrations he said had been organized by “extremist elements”.

The main Turkish share index fell by 6.67 percent when markets reopened. The lira was also lower and bond yields rose.

“Be calm, relax, all this will be overcome,” Erdogan told a news conference at Istanbul airport before his planned departure on an official visit to Morocco.

Tens of thousands of people took to the streets in Turkey’s biggest cities over the weekend and clashed with riot police firing tear gas, leaving hundreds of people injured.

Streets were calmer on Monday morning after another night of noisy protests and violence in Istanbul, Ankara and other cities.

The unrest was sparked by protests against government plans to redevelop Istanbul’s Taksim Square, long a rallying point for mass demonstrations, but widened into a broad show of defiance against the Islamist-rooted Justice and Development Party (AKP).

“This is a protest organized by extremist elements,” Erdogan said. “The fact the AK Party has increased its votes at three elections in a row and has successfully won two referendums, shows how the people of this nation have embraced the AK Party.”

In power for more than a decade, Erdogan’s AKP has increased its share of the vote in each of the last three elections. Turkey has boomed economically and its influence has increased dramatically in the Middle East and on the global scale.

But many Turks, including some former supporters, accuse Erdogan of growing increasingly authoritarian, muzzling the media, tightening the AKP’s grip on the state and putting religion at the center of politics in violation of Turkey’s secular constitution.

Writing by Ece Toksabay; Editing by Nick Tattersall and Peter Graff

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