Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has no intention of giving in: At the height of the corruption scandal rattling his government, and with thousands protesting against his rule in the streets, Erdogan announced Friday that he would not give up power.
Over the weekend, Erdogan continued to attack the police and judiciary over their secret corruption investigation against him and his government, saying that they are "working in cooperation with groups of criminals to endanger the Turkish public."
However, Erdogan still enjoys the loyalty of many pious Muslims and members of Turkey's wealthy elite. While police tried to prevent anti-Erdogan crowds from forming on Taksim Square, cheering supporters of the ruling AK Party welcomed him at Istanbul Airport, about 20 kilometers (14 miles) away, waving party and national flags when he returned from a trip to the provinces.
He accused the judicial system of working to undermine the elected government. "The sovereignty does not belong to the courts but the people," he said to the crowd.
On Friday, Erdogan also trotted out the word "persecution" in relation to members of his party running in municipal elections in March. Erdogan urged supporters to vote in a March local polls as part of a "war" on what he said is a foreign-orchestrated plot cloaked as criminal proceedings.
In a speech in Sakarya province, a heartland of his Islamist-rooted AK party, Erdogan likened ballots to bullets: "You, with your votes, will foil this evil plot," he told the cheering crowd. "Are you committed to establishing a new Turkey? Are you ready for Turkey's new independence war?"
On Friday, police overcame hundreds of demonstrators in Istanbul's Taksim Square, who called for "catching the thief Erdogan." They threw firecrackers and stones at police, and even threw fireworks.
Meanwhile, Turkey's army announced that it does not intend to intervene in the political crisis. A court blocked the government's attempt to require police investigators to reveal details of their investigations to their superiors, arguing that this violates the separation of powers.
Many observers predict that Erdogan will attempt to move forward the date of general elections currently scheduled for 2015, in an attempt to quell the current wave of demonstrations against him.
The present tension in Turkey began about two weeks ago, when police detained dozens of people on December 17, among them the sons of the interior minister and two other cabinet members, after a major graft inquiry that was kept secret from commanders who might have informed the government in advance.
With the arrests, it was revealed that the investigation had been going on for more than a year without the government's knowledge. Erdogan became furious and in response fired about 70 police officers involved in the investigation.
A week ago the government announced a new law obligating investigators to inform their superiors of the findings of their investigations, but this law was thrown out by the courts.
In the background of the current turmoil is a conflict that erupted over the summer between Erdogan and his former ally, Muhammed Fethullah Gulen, a moderate preacher of Islam who lives in the United States and has many supporters in the Turkish judicial system and secret services. When Erdogan speaks of "foreign forces" meddling in Turkey, he is referring primarily to Gulen.