WASHIGTON, May 16 (RIA Novosti), Lyudmila Chernova – Turkish protesters are enraged not only by the Soma mine tragedy but also by corruption under Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Michael Rubin, a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, told RIA Novosti Friday.
“It is one thing for Erdogan … and other close aides to embezzle millions if not billions. It is another thing for that corruption to kill people, as appears to have happened in the mining disaster,” said Rubin, who was a Pentagon adviser in the George W. Bush administration.
Erdogan came to power more than a decade ago promising to clean up Turkey's notorious corruption, the expert said, adding that even though the prime minister failed to deliver on his promises, he would not stop his defensive rhetoric.
“Erdogan isn't going to budge. He feels after his last election victory that he has a silent majority behind him and if he has to crackdown violently like last summer, that's what he'll do,” Rubin said.
“The last casualty will be the Turkish economy, which is already growing shaky. But even if the economy falters, Erdogan figures he'll just blame that on instability which in turn he blames on outsiders,” he added.
In Turkey protests are continuing, having been triggered by the Soma mining disaster which claimed 282 lives. Unsafe conditions and poor enforcement of regulations have led many in Turkey to directly blame the government for the tragedy. Police have been using tear gas and water cannons against anti-government activists.
The accident at the Soma coal mine in western Turkey took place Tuesday. According to preliminary data, the explosion, which occurred about two kilometers (1.2 miles) below the surface, was triggered by an electrical fault. A total of 787 people were inside the coal mine at the time.
Mine operator Soma Komur announced that about 450 miners had already been rescued, with up to 50 people possibly remaining trapped underground.