ANKARA (Reuters) – More than a million Turks piled onto social media to call time on President Tayyip Erdogan on Tuesday, making the word “Tamam” (“Enough”) a trending topic worldwide after he promised to step down if the people wanted it.
“If one day our nation says ‘enough’, then we will step aside,” he said in a speech in parliament.
The most popular – and divisive – politician in recent Turkish history, Erdogan has ruled for 15 years, overseeing a period of sharp economic growth and a widespread crackdown against his opponents. Last month he declared snap elections for June 24, bringing the polls forward by more than a year.
Soon after the speech, the #Tamam hashtag swept across Turkish-language Twitter, then became a global trending topic.
“We want democracy so we say #enough to Erdogan. Please leave your seat, you did insane things to our country and people. Enough,” said one user.
“You will not step aside quietly. You will give account for the things you did. Enough!” said another.
Erdogan’s rivals in the presidential polls also jumped in, with the “Tamam” tweets from three of his main opponents together garnering more than 10,000 retweets.
“Time is up. Enough!” tweeted Muharrem Ince, the candidate of the main opposition CHP.
Social media has become the primary platform for opposition against the government in Turkey, where traditional media is saturated with coverage of Erdogan and his ministers. Erdogan’s speeches, usually two or three a day, are all broadcast live on major channels, while opposition parties get little to no coverage.
The “Tamam” tweets also provided a rare moment of opposition unity with all major parties, including the pro-Kurdish opposition uniting behind the hashtag. Pro-Kurdish politicians and Turkish nationalists rarely find common ground.
“Enough: It’s very strange that Erdogan has offered the opposition a uniting slogan,” tweeted journalist Rusen Cakir.
The government, however, dismissed the social media wave, which had accumulated close to 1.5 million posts by Tuesday night, saying the posts were sent by online bots associated with Kurdish PKK militants and Fethullah Gulen, the U.S.-based Muslim cleric blamed by Ankara for a 2016 failed coup attempt.
“Most are being sent from countries where the FETO and PKK are active. Most are bot accounts. We can also understand Greece, but what about those inside (Turkey),” said Mahir Unal, spokesman for Erdogan’s ruling AK Party.
FETO is an acronym for Gulen’s network of supporters.
“The keyboard heroes who don’t know what the ballot boxes mean, we will see each other on the night of June 24,” Unal wrote on Twitter.
Several people also took to the streets across Istanbul, some spelling out “TAMAM” with candles on pavements and roads. In the Kadikoy district, 10 demonstrators were detained, but later released after questioning, local media said.
Rights groups and Turkey’s Western allies have criticized Ankara for its deteriorating record on civil rights and have voiced concerns that the NATO member is sliding further into authoritarianism under Erdogan.
The government rejects such criticism and says its security measures are necessary due to the threats it faces.
After the June election, Turkey will switch to a powerful, executive presidential system that was narrowly approved in a referendum last year.