Recep Tayyip Erdogan: 5 Ways He Has Shaped Turkey

By Zirulnick, Ariel | The Christian Science Monitor, June 13, 2011 | Go to article overview

Recep Tayyip Erdogan: 5 Ways He Has Shaped Turkey


Zirulnick, Ariel, The Christian Science Monitor


Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan was swept into office for a third term Sunday when his Justice and Development Party (AKP) won 50 percent of the vote in parliamentary elections. He has been credited with presiding over an economic growth spurt and strengthening Turkey's role on the world stage. But some Turks say the AKP has become increasingly authoritarian, compromising civil liberties. Who is Erdogan, and what are his policies?

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan was swept into office for a third term Sunday when his Justice and Development Party (AKP) won 50 percent of the vote in parliamentary elections. He has been credited with presiding over an economic growth spurt and strengthening Turkey's role on the world stage. But some Turks say the AKP has become increasingly authoritarian, compromising civil liberties. Who is Erdogan, and what are his policies?

#5 Erdogan and the AKP

Erdogan became active in politics at a young age, securing youth leadership posts in his early 20s. He was elected mayor of Istanbul in 1994 but forced to quit when he was imprisoned for reading a poem in public. But he rebounded and has led Turkey since 2003. His economic, political, and diplomatic successes have given him enormous popularity. But he is also controversial for reform efforts that some see as chipping away at Turkey's secular identity.

Erdogan's party, the AKP, was formed in 2001 out of a number of existing parties and won a two-thirds victory in its first election in 2002. It bills itself as a conservative party with Islamic roots that supports Turkish membership in the EU and a liberal market economy. It has sought to remove government policies that aggressively promote secularism, such as the ban on women wearing head scarves on university campuses.

#4 Foreign policy

Erdogan's foreign policy has been largely shaped by Ahmet Davutoglu, his foreign minister who proudly touts Turkey's guiding principle: "zero problems with neighbors." Fed up with playing junior partner to the West, Turkey has carved out a niche for itself as an increasingly credible regional mediator - helping to work for peace from the Balkans to Afghanistan to the Arab-Israeli conflict.

But Turkey's role as mediator ran into trouble when Erdogan publicly condemned Israel's 2009 Gaza war and implicitly backed the 2010 Gaza flotilla - a contingent of mainly Turkish activists that sought to breach Gaza's blockade and deliver supplies to Gazans. Nine of the activists, all of them citizens of Turkey, were killed in an Israeli raid.

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