Recep Tayyip Erdoğan

Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has been Prime Minister of Turkey since 2003 and is chairman of the ruling Justice and Development Party, which holds a majority of the seats in the Grand National Assembly of Turkey.

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Recep Tayyip Erdoğan (IPA: [ɾeˈd͡ʒep tajˈjip ˈæɾ]; born 26 February 1954) has been Prime Minister of Turkey since 2003 and is chairman of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Parti), which holds a majority of the seats in the Grand National Assembly of Turkey. Erdoğan served as Mayor of Istanbul from 1994 to 1998. He graduated in 1981 from Marmara University's Faculty of Economics and Commercial Sciences. Erdoğan was also a semi-professional footballer from 1969 to 1982.

Erdoğan was elected Mayor of Istanbul in the local elections of 27 March 1994. He was banned from office and sentenced to a ten-month prison term for reciting a poem during a public address in the province of Siirt in 1997. The poem was allegedly quoted from a book published by a state enterprise and one that had been recommended to teachers by the Ministry of Education.[1] After less than four months in prison, Erdoğan established the Justice and Development Party (AK Party) in 2001. From its first year, the AK Party became the largest publicly-supported political movement in Turkey. In the general election of 2002 the AK Party won nearly two-thirds of the seats in parliament, forming the first single-party government for 9 years.[2]

As prime minister, Erdoğan implemented numerous reforms. 45 years after Turkey signed an Association Agreement with the EU, the negotiations for Turkey's accession to the EU started during Erdoğan's tenure. Parallel to this, inflation, which had for decades adversely affected the country's economy, was brought under control and the Turkish Lira was re-valued. Interest rates were reduced and per capita income grew significantly.[3] The AK party won the elections of 2007 making it the first time in 52 years that a party in power had increased its votes for a second term.[4] In the 2011 general election, the AK Party was re-elected for a third term and Erdoğan remained Prime Minister.

Personal life and education

Erdoğan was born in the Kasımpaşa neighborhood of Istanbul to a family that had moved there from Rize Province. He said I'm a Georgian too, my family is Georgian family, migrated from Batumi to Rize.[5] However, Cezmi Yurtsever, who is a retired high school teacher of history, claims Erdoğan actually descends from the family of Bagatlı Recep, a large Muslim Turkish family that was settled around Trabzon after Mehmed II's conquest of the city.[6] Bagatlı Recep died in 1916 fighting against the invading Russian and Armenian forces.[6] Lastly, Erdoğan explained his origin by referring to the archives of Ottoman Empire in a TV program on NTV in 2007, saying that Ben Müslümanım ve Türküm meaning I'm a Muslim and a Turk.[7]

Erdoğan spent his early childhood in Rize, where his father was a member of the Turkish Coast Guard.[1] The family returned to Istanbul when Erdoğan was 13 years old.[1] As a teenager, he sold lemonade and sesame buns (simit) on the streets of Istanbul's rougher districts to earn extra money.[1] Brought up in an observant Muslim family, he graduated from Kasımpaşa Piyale primary school in 1965 and from Istanbul Religious Vocational High School in 1973 (İmam Hatip school). He received his high school diploma from Eyüp High School. He studied Business Administration at Aksaray School of Economics and Commercial Sciences (now it is known as Marmara University's Faculty of Economics and Administrative Sciences).[8]

In his youth, Erdoğan played semi-professional football at a local club.[8][9][10] The stadium of the local football club of the district he grew up in, Kasımpaşa S.K. is named after him.

Erdoğan married Emine Gülbaran (b. 1955, Siirt), whom he met during a conference, on 4 July 1978.[11] The couple have two sons (Ahmet Burak, Necmeddin Bilal) and two daughters (Esra, Sümeyye).[11] His father, Ahmet Erdoğan, died in 1988. In 2011, Erdogan lost his 88-year-old mother Tenzile Erdoğan. Public figures from the worlds of politics, business, sports and media offered Erdogan their condolences for his mother’s death.[12]

Early political career

While studying business administration at what is today Marmara University's Faculty of Economics and Administrative Sciences and playing semi-professional football, Erdoğan engaged in politics by joining the National Turkish Student Union, an anti-communist action group. In 1974 he wrote, directed and played the lead role in the play Maskomya, which presented Freemasonry, Communism and Judaism as evil.[13] In 1976, he became the head of Beyoğlu youth branch of the Islamist National Salvation Party (MSP).[14] That same year, he was promoted to the position of chair for the Istanbul youth branch of the party.

After the 1980 military coup, Erdoğan followed most of Erbakan's followers into the Welfare Party. He became the party’s Beyoglu district chair in 1984, and in 1985 he became the chair of the Istanbul city branch. He was elected to parliament in 1991, but barred from taking his seat.

Mayor of Istanbul, 1994–1998

In the local elections of 27 March 1994 Erdoğan was elected Mayor of Istanbul, the social and economic capital of Turkey and one of the biggest metropolitan areas of the world. He won a plurality (25.19%) of the popular vote. Many feared that he would impose Islamic law; however, he was pragmatic in office, tackling such chronic problems in Istanbul as water shortage, pollution and traffic chaos. The water shortage problem was solved with the laying of hundreds of kilometers of new pipelines. The garbage problem was solved with the establishment of state-of-the-art recycling facilities. While Erdoğan was in office, air pollution was reduced through a plan developed to switch to natural gas. He changed the public buses with environmentally friendly buses. The city's traffic and transportation jams were ameliorated with more than fifty bridges, viaducts, and highways. Erdoğan prohibited the sale of alcohol in city-owned facilities, but later this measure was reversed. While taking precautions to prevent corruption, he took measures to ensure that municipal funds were used prudently. He paid back a major portion of Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality's two billion dollar debt when he took office and meanwhile invested four billion dollars in the city.[15]

Erdoğan initiated the first roundtable of mayors during the Istanbul conference, which led to a global, organized movement of mayors. A seven member international jury from the United Nations unanimously found Erdoğan deserving the UN-HABITAT award.[16]

Imprisonment in 1998

Before his conviction, the Welfare Party was declared unconstitutional and was shut down by the Turkish constitutional court on the grounds of threatening the laicistic order in Turkey. Erdoğan became a constant speaker at the demonstrations held by his party colleagues.[17]

He was given a ten month prison sentence (of which he served less than four months, from 24 March 1999 to 27 July 1999)[18] for reciting a poem in Siirt in December 1997, which, under article 312/2 of the Turkish penal code was regarded as an incitement to commit an offense and incitement to religious or racial hatred.[19] It included verses translated as "The mosques are our barracks, the domes our helmets, the minarets our bayonets and the faithful our soldiers...."[1] The aforementioned verses, however, are not in the original version of the poem. The poem was from a work written by Ziya Gökalp, a pan-Turkish activist of the early 20th century.[20] Erdoğan claimed the poem had been approved by the education ministry to be published in textbooks.[21] With the conviction, Erdoğan was forced to give up his mayoral position. The conviction also stipulated a political ban, which prevented him from participating in parliamentary elections. He completed his sentence on 24 July 1999.

Prime Ministership, 2003–present

In 2001, Erdoğan established the Justice and Development Party.[22] The AK Party won a landslide victory in the 2002 election, taking nearly two-thirds of the seats. However, Erdoğan could not became prime minister right away, as he was still banned from politics by the judiciary for his speech in Siirt; Gül thus became the prime minister instead. In December 2002 the Supreme Election Board canceled the general election results from Siirt due to voting irregularities and scheduled a new election for 9 February 2003. By this time, party leader Erdoğan was able to run for Parliament thanks to a legal change made possible by the opposition Republican People’s Party. The AK Party duly listed Erdoğan as a candidate for the rescheduled Siirt election, and he won, becoming prime minister after Gül subsequently handed over the post.[23]

Domestic policy


Erdoğan's government instituted several democratic reforms.[24] He gave the European Court of Human Rights supremacy over Turkish courts, reduced the powers of the 1991 Anti-Terror Law which had constrained Turkey’s democratization, and abolished many restrictions on freedom of speech and the press.[25] The government planned several times to replace the Turkish Constitution of 1982 with a more democratic "civil constitution", but the main opposition party CHP did not wanted to participate until CHP lost the referendum in 2010. Eventually, CHP agreed and the AK Party formed the Constitutional Commission consisting of all political parties represented in the Turkish parliament. The Constitutional Commission's effort to create a new constitution is still a work in progress and is expected to be ready in 2013.[26]

During a visit to Bishkek he stated that "We currently already have a semi-presidential system. There is a strong presidency."[27]

In 2009, the Turkish government under Prime Minister Erdoğan announced a plan to help end the quarter-century-long Turkey – Kurdistan Workers' Party conflict that has cost more than 40,000 lives. The government's plan, supported by the European Union, allowed the Kurdish language to be used in all broadcast media and political campaigns, and restore Kurdish names to cities and towns that have been given Turkish ones.[28] “We took a courageous step to resolve chronic issues that constitute an obstacle along Turkey's development, progression and empowerment”, Erdoğan said regarding the matter.[28] Erdogan passed a partial amnesty to reduce penalties faced by many members of the Kurdish guerrilla movement PKK who had surrendered to the government.[29] On 23 November 2011, he apologised on behalf of the state for the Dersim Massacre, where Alevis and Zazas was killed, during a televised meeting of his party in Ankara.[30]

On his second and third terms in office, despite the improvements brought about as a result of the first term, the government mostly gave up on the European Union backed democratization process[31] and got increasingly authoritarian[32] on press freedom,[33][34] on Kurdish minority rights[35][36][37] and on formerly dominant political powers in Ankara. Democratic initiative on Kurdish minority rights, led by Erdoğan, stalled.[38] More than a hundred journalists were imprisoned.[39][40][41] During Erdoğan's terms in office, Turkey has been through ups and downs on the Press Freedom Index[42]now ranking 148 out of 178 countries listed by the end of 2011.[43][44] University students in the hundreds were accused of being members of illicit, extralegal organizations and arrested for demanding free education on the charge of undermining the state.[45]During trial, eggs and stones were considered deadly weapons.[46][47] Turkey, as the result of a nation-wide filter implemented on the internet[48], was classified as one of the enemies of the Internet and a country under surveillance, not just due to Censorship of the Internet[49] but also due to other transgressions of privacy and free speech. Demands by activists for the recognition of LGBT rights were publicly rejected by government members[50] and the members of the Turkish LGBT community were insulted by cabinet members.[51]


Public debt as percentage of GDP of the six largest European economies (Light blue line for Turkey).

In 2002, Erdoğan inherited a Turkish economy deep in recession due to the financial crisis during the coalition government under the leadership of Ecevit.[52] Erdoğan supported Finance Minister Ali Babacan in enforcing macro-economic policies. Erdoğan tried to attract more foreign investors to Turkey and lifted most of government regulations, with the average GDP growth rate 7.3% during his premiership as he presided over a record 26 quarters of economic growth.[53]

Since 1961, Turkey has signed 19 IMF loan accords. Erdoğan's government satisfied the budgetary and market requirements of the two on his watch and received every loan installment, the only time any government has ever done so.[54] Erdoğan inherited a debt of $23.5 billion to the IMF, which has been reduced to $1.7 billion in 2012. He decided not to sign a new deal. Turkey's debt to the IMF will be completely paid off in 2013.[55]

In 2010, Five-year credit default swaps for Turkey's sovereign debt were trading at a record low of 1.17%, below those of nine EU member countries and Russia. The unemployment rate decreased from 10.3% to 9.7% in 2007. Along with the global economic crisis of 2008, Turkey’s unemployment rate jumped to a record high of 16.1% in the January–March period of 2009. In the April–June period of 2010, the unemployment decreased again to 11.0%, compared to 10.0% in the eurozone.[56] The unemployment rate in Turkey fell to 8.2 percent in May 2012, the lowest level last 10 years.[57]

In 2002, the Turkish Central Bank had $26.5 billion in reserves. This amount reached $92.2 billion in 2011. In the same period, inflation fell from 34.9% to 5.7%, the lowest in 39 years.[58] The public debt as percentage of annual gross domestic product declined from 74% in 2002 to 39% in 2009. In 2012, Turkey has a lower ratio of public debt to gross domestic product than 21 of 27 members of the European Union and a lower budget deficit to GDP ratio than 23 of them.[59]

The World Bank praised Erdoğan for the courageous reforms and the economic stability in the country.[60]


Early in his prime ministership, Erdogan increased the budget of the Ministry of Education from 7.5 billion lira in 2002 to 34 billion lira in 2011, making it the ministry with highest share of the national budget.[61] Before his prime ministership, the military received the highest share of the national budget. Compulsory education is increased from 8 years to 12.[62] In 2004, textbooks became free of charge and since 2008 every province in Turkey has its own university.[63] In 2003, the Turkish government started together with UNICEF the campaign "Come on girls, let's go to school!" (Turkish: Haydi Kızlar Okula!). The goal of this campaign is to close the gender-gap in primary school enrollment through the provision of a quality basic education for all girls, especially in southeast Turkey.[64]

The Prime Minister redeemed his campaign promises by starting the f@tih project in which all state schools spanning from preschools all the way to high school level will receive a total of 620,000 smart boards, while tablet computers will be distributed to 17 million students and approximately one million teachers and administrators.[65] The parliament granted amnesty to students expelled from universities before 2003. The amnesty applied to students dismissed on academic or disciplinary grounds.[66]


On March 2006, the Supreme Board of Judges and Prosecutors (HSYK) for the first time in Turkey's history held a press conference and publicly protest the obstruction of the appointment of judges to the high courts for over 10 months. It claimed Erdoğan wanted to fill the vacant posts with his own appointees which Erdoğan was accused of creating a rift with the Turkey's highest court of appeals (the Yargıtay) and high administrative court (the Danıştay). Erdoğan claimed that the constitution gave power of assigning members to his elected party.[67]

In May 2007, the head of Turkey's High Court asked prosecutors to consider whether Erdoğan should be charged over critical comments regarding the election of Abdullah Gül as president.[67] Erdoğan said the ruling was "a disgrace to the justice system", and criticized the Constitutional Court which had invalidated a presidential vote because a boycott of other parties meant there was no quorum. Prosecutors have already investigated his earlier comments, including saying it had fired a "bullet at democracy". Tülay Tuğcu, head of the Constitutional Court, condemned Erdoğan for "threats, insults and hostility" towards the justice system.[67] The Turkish parliament agreed to reduce the age of candidacy to the parliament from 30 to 25 and abolished the death penalty in all instances, including war time.

Health care

On April 2006, Erdoğan unveiled a social security reform package demanded by the International Monetary Fund under a loan deal. He claimed that the move, which was passed with fierce opposition, was one of the most radical reforms. Turkey’s three social security bodies were united under one roof, bringing equal health services and retirement benefits for members of all three bodies. Under the second bill, everyone under the age of 18 years old will be entitled to free health services, irrespective of whether they pay premiums to any social security organization or not. The bill also envisages a gradual increase in the retirement age. Starting from 2036, the retirement age will increase to 65 by 2048 for both women and men.[68] The government unified three systems of hospitals and insurance for different professions that were criticized for offering unequal benefits and reserving the best hospitals for civil servants while others waited in long queues. Erdogan claimed that the abortion is murder, saying "you either kill a baby in the mother's womb or you kill it after birth. There's no difference."[69]

On January 2008, the Turkish Parliament adopted a law on a complete prohibition of smoking in most public places. Erdoğan is outspokenly anti-smoking.[70]


Erdoğan supports the continuation of Turkey's high population growth rate and, in 2008, commented that to ensure that the Turkish population remains young every family would need to have at least three children.[71][72] He has repeated this statement on numerous occasions.[73] As of 2010, Turkey's population is estimated at 73,700,000, with a growth rate of 1.21% per annum (2009 figure).[74]

On 26 May 2012, in a question of a reporter after the UN conference on population and development in Turkey, Erdogan said "You either kill a baby in the mother's womb or you kill it after birth. In many cases [not all], there's no difference."[75]

Erdogan has stated that he opposes Turkey's high and growing rate of caesarean section births because he believes that they reduce the fertility of Turkish women, and he is in favor of limiting the number of such births at Turkish hospitals.[76][77]


In July 2012, following long-held speculation that Numan Kurtulmuş was on Prime Minister Erdoğan’s mind as his possible successor as party head, Erdoğan personally invited Kurtulmuş, president of the conservative-oriented People's Voice Party(HSP) to join the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP).

In September 2012, the (HSP) dissolved itself and some of its leaders, including Kurtulmuş joined the (AKP).[78]

Foreign policy

Map of international trips made by Recep Tayyip Erdoğan as prime minister.

European Union

Erdoğan was named "The European of the Year 2004" by the European Voice Organization for the reforms in his country. He said in a comment that "Turkey's accession shows that Europe is a continent where civilisations reconcile and not clash."[79] On 3 October 2005, the negotiations for Turkey's accession to the EU formally started during Erdoğan's tenure as Prime Minister.[80]

Erdoğan is a co-founder of the Alliance of Civilizations (AOC). The AOC initiative was proposed by the Prime Minister of Spain, José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero, at the 59th General Assembly of the United Nations (UN) in 2005. The initiative seeks to galvanize international action against extremism through the forging of international, intercultural and inter-religious dialogue and cooperation.

Greece and Cyprus Dispute

Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou and Erdoğan in Erzurum, 7 January 2011.

During Erdoğan's Prime Ministership, relations with Greece have been normalized. Political and economic relations are much improved. In 2007, Erdoğan and Greek Prime Minister Kostas Karamanlis met on the bridge over the Evros River at the border between Greece and Turkey, for the inauguration of the Greek-Turkish natural gas pipeline, linking the longtime Aegean rivals through a project that will give Caspian gas its first direct Western outlet and help ease Russia's energy dominance.[81] Turkey and Greece signed an agreement to create a Combined Joint Operational Unit within the framework of NATO to participate in Peace Support Operations.[82] Erdoğan and his party strongly supported the EU backed referendum of Cyprus, 2004 to reunify the island.[83]


Under Erdoğan, Iraq and Turkey signed 48 trade agreements by the Iraqi-Turkish Strategic Council in Baghdad. Agreements signed included sectors of security, energy, oil, electricity, water, health, trade, environment, transport, housing, construction, agriculture, education, higher education, and defense. The Turkish government mended relations with Iraqi Kurdistan by opening a Turkish university in Arbil, and a Turkish consulate in Mosul.[84] Abdullah Gül became the first Turkish head of state to visit Iraq in 33 years, on 23 March 2009.


Erdoğan walks out of the session at the World Economic Forum in 2009, vows never to return.[85]

Erdoğan paid a state visit to Israel in 2005, bringing along a delegation of businessmen to further economic ties.[86] The President of Israel Shimon Peres addressed the Turkish parliament during a visit in 2007, the first time an Israeli leader had addressed the legislature of a predominantly Muslim nation.[87]

At the 2009 World Economic Forum conference, the debate became heated in relation to the Gaza conflict. Israeli President Shimon Peres responded to Erdoğan's claims, stating that Turkey would have done the same if rockets had been hitting Istanbul.[88] Erdoğan was interrupted by the moderator while he was responding to Peres. Erdoğan stated: "Mister Peres, you are older than I am. Maybe you are feeling guilty and that is why you are raising your voice. When it comes to killing you know it too well. I remember how you killed the children on beaches..." Upon the moderator's reminder that they needed to adjourn for dinner, Erdoğan left the panel, accusing the moderator of giving Peres more time than all the other panelists combined.[89]

Following the Gaza flotilla raid in May 2010, tension between the two countries dramatically mounted. Erdoğan strongly condemned the raid, describing it as "state terrorism", calling for Israeli leaders responsible to apologize. Erdoğan has described Israel as "the main threat to regional peace", and has called for Israel's nuclear facilities to come under IAEA inspection.[90] Erdoğan accused Israel of turning Gaza into an "open-air prison".[91]

In 2012, after a round of rocket fire from Gaza aimed at Israel, followed by Israeli retaliatory strikes, Erdogan demanded that Israel must stop 'massacre' of Palestinians in Gaza, saying that it was a part of an Israeli campaign of "genocide" against the Palestinean people.[92]


Erdoğan with Russian President Putin and Berlusconi at the opening of the Blue Stream gas pipeline, 17 November 2005.

Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev in Moscow, 16 March 2011.

For centuries, Turkey and Russia have been rivals for regional supremacy. With the rise of the Erdoğan government, the two countries have realised that friendly relations are in the interest of both. Accordingly, co-operation rather than rivalry appears to dominate the ties. In 2002, trade between Turkey and Russia was worth some $5 billion. By the end of 2011, this figure reached $32 billion.[93]

In December 2004, President Putin visited Turkey. This was the first Presidential visit in the history of Turkish-Russian relations besides that of the Chairman of the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet of the USSR, Nikolai Podgorny in 1972. In November 2005, Putin attended the inauguration of a jointly constructed Blue Stream natural gas pipeline in Turkey. This sequence of top-level visits has brought several important bilateral issues to the forefront. The two countries consider it their strategic goal to achieve "multidimensional co-operation", especially in the fields of energy, transport and the military. Specifically, Russia aims to invest in Turkey’s fuel and energy industries, and it also expects to participate in tenders for the modernisation of Turkey’s military.[94]

President Medvedev described Turkey as “one of our most important partners with respect to regional and international issues... We can confidently say that Russian-Turkish relations have advanced to the level of a multidimensional strategic partnership.”[95]

On 12 May 2010, Ankara and Moscow signed 17 agreements to enhance cooperation in energy and other fields, including pacts to build Turkey’s first nuclear power plant and furthering plans for an oil pipeline from the Black Sea to the Mediterranean Sea. The leaders of both countries have also signed an agreement on visa-free travel. Tourists will be able to get into the country for free and stay there for up to 30 days.[96]

Saudi Arabia

Diplomatic ties with Saudi Arabia were established in 1929. In recent years importance has been given to regional issues and to the improvement of bilateral relations to strengthen political, economic and military ties.[97]

In August 2006, King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz as-Saud made a visit to Turkey. This was the first visit by a Saudi monarch to Turkey in the last four decades. The monarch made a second visit, on 9 November 2007. Turk-Saudi trade volume has exceeded US$ 3.2 billion in 2006, almost double the figure achieved in 2003. In 2009, this amount reached US$ 5.5 billion and the goal for the year 2010 was US$ 10 billion.[98] Trade is expected to increase even more, as the strategic locations of both countries translate into economies which are in a position to supplement each other.[99]


During Erdoğan's term of office, the diplomatic relations between Turkey and Syria have significantly improved. In 2004, President Bashar al-Assad arrived in Turkey for the first official visit by a Syrian President in 57 years. In late 2004, Turkish Prime Minister Erdoğan signed a free trade agreement with Syria. The visa restrictions between the two countries have been lifted in 2009, which caused an economic boom in the regions near the Syrian border.[100] In 2011, the relationship between the two countries has strained following the outbreak of the Syrian civil war. has been trying to "cultivate a favorable relationship with whatever government would take the place of Assad."[101]


In 2011, a severe drought was affecting the entire East Africa region.[102] Said to be "the worst in 60 years",[103] the drought has caused a severe food crisis that threatened the livelihood of more than 12 million people in Somalia and neighbouring countries.[104] On 19 August 2011, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan went to Somalia to draw international attention to the East African country's drought and famine situation. He became the first leader from outside Africa to visit Somalia in nearly two decades. Erdogan, who was accompanied on the trip by his wife, daughter and an entourage consisting of cabinet members and their families, visited refugee camps and hospitals in Somalia to witness the devastation caused by the severe drought.

Turkey will open an embassy in Mogadishu and take several measures to help Somalia improve its infrastructure, which include digging wells to improve water supply, building a major hospital, six field hospitals and a highway from the Mogadishu Airport to the city center, as well as facilities for waste management to clean up Mogadishu's rubbish-strewn streets, Erdoğan said. He said Housing Development Administration of Turkey (TOKİ) will also build houses and schools in the famine-hit country.

A week later, the Turkish Prime Ministry Disaster & Emergency Management Directorate said that Turkish people collected a total of $201 million in donations for Somalia since the aid campaign started 1 August. Somali President Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed was quoted in the Hurriyet newspaper as calling Prime Minister Erdogan's visit to Somalia an “historic gesture.”[105]


Erdoğan had made his first 3 days official visit to Egypt on 12 September 2011, he was accompanied with six ministers and a fleet of 200 businessmen.[106] This visit is considered as a diplomatic success, as it was made very soon after Turkey had ejected Israeli ambassadors, cut all diplomatic and bilateral military agreements.[106] because Israel has refused to apologize for the Gaza flotilla attack which killed Turkish and American humanitarian worker aboard an aid convoy headed to Gaza.[106] and within the last 15 years and after Egypt Revolution of 2011, this is the first visit by a Prime Minister of Turkey.[106][107]

Erdoğan's visit to Egypt was met with much enthusiasm by Egyptians. Even though it was midnight, Cairo traffic was reported to be jammed as thousands rushed to welcome the Turkish Prime Minister with Turkish flags. CNN reported some Egyptians saying "We consider him as the Islamic leader in the Middle East", while others were appreciative of his role in supporting Gaza.[106] Erdoğan was later honored in Tahrir Square by members of the Egyptian Revolution Youth Union, and members of the Turkish embassy were presented with a coat of arms in acknowledgment of the Prime Minister’s support of the Egyptian Revolution.[108] His visit also brought criticism from Middle Eastern Christians when he drew comparisons in a speech between the fall of Mubarak and the Fall of Constantinople, describing the Byzantine Empire as a "dark civilization".[109][110]

When asked in an interview with Mona Al Shazly on Dream TV, Erdogan stated that he recommends secularism for Egypt, the thing which generated rage among Islamic movements, especially the Freedom and Justice party – the political wing of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt.

A week after he left, Turkish Foreign Minister, Ahmet Davutoğlu proclaimed his vision of a strategic alliance between Egypt and Turkey which he described as an “Axis of Democracy”.[108] However, some voiced concerns that the Egyptian revolution was not fulfilled and that Erdoğan was seeking his own country's strategic interests. It was feared that by forming an alliance with the military junta in Egypt during the country’s transition to democracy, Erdoğan may have tipped the balance in favor of those that stand between the Egyptians and their freedom.[108]

United States

Erdoğan and Barack Obama in White House, 7 December 2009.

When Barack Obama became President of United States, he made his first overseas bilateral meeting to Turkey in April 2009.

At a joint news conference in Turkey, Obama said: "I'm trying to make a statement about the importance of Turkey, not just to the United States but to the world. I think that where there's the most promise of building stronger U.S.-Turkish relations is in the recognition that Turkey and the United States can build a model partnership in which a predominantly Christian nation, a predominantly Muslim nation – a Western nation and a nation that straddles two continents," he continued, "that we can create a modern international community that is respectful, that is secure, that is prosperous, that there are not tensions – inevitable tensions between cultures – which I think is extraordinarily important."[111]

Policy on the Armenian Genocide

Erdoğan has suggested that the Turkish and Armenian Historians should do more research together to find real fact and as a nation they will not accept it until this has been done. In December 2008 he criticised a campaign by Turkish intellectuals to acknowledge the genocide, saying that "I neither accept nor support this campaign. We did not commit a crime, therefore we do not need to apologize... It will not have any benefit other than stirring up trouble, disturbing our peace and undoing the steps which have been taken."[112] In November 2009 he stated that "it's not possible for a Muslim to commit genocide."[113]

Elections and Referendum

General elections

The elections of 2002 were the first elections in which Erdoğan participated as a leader of a party. All parties previously elected to parliament failed to win enough votes to re-enter the parliament. The AK Party won 34.3% of the national vote and formed the new government. Turkish stocks rose more than 7% on Monday morning. Politicians of the previous generation, such as Ecevit, Bahceli, Yılmaz and Çiller, resigned. The second largest party, the CHP, received 19.4% of the votes.

Recep Tayyip Erdoğan

An election campaign poster featuring Erdoğan: "Istanbul is Ready, Target 2023", Taksim, Istanbul.

The stage of the elections of 2007 was set for a fight for legitimacy in the eyes of voters between his government and the country's Kemalist[clarification needed] opposition. Erdoğan used the events at that took place during the ill-fated Presidential elections a few months earlier as a part of the general election campaign of his party. On 22 July 2007, the AK Party had won an important victory over the opposition, garnering 46.7% of the popular vote. The 22 July elections marked only the second time in the Turkish Republic's history whereby an incumbent governing party won an election by increasing its share of popular support.[114]

On 14 March 2008, Turkey's Chief Prosecutor asked the country's Constitutional Court to ban Erdoğan's governing party.[115] The party escaped a ban on 30 July 2008, a year after winning 46.7% of the vote in national elections, losing 50% of its public funding.[116]

In the 12 June 2011 elections, Erdoğan's governing party won 327 seats (49.83% of the popular vote) making Erdoğan the only prime minister in Turkey's history to win three consecutive general elections, each time receiving more votes than the previous election. The second party, the Republican People's Party (CHP), received 135 seats (25.94%), the nationalist MHP received 53 seats (13.01%), and the Independents received 35 seats (6.58%).[117]

Presidential elections

On 14 April 2007, an estimated 300,000 people marched in Ankara to protest the possible candidacy of Erdoğan in the 2007 presidential election, afraid that if elected as President, he would alter the secular nature of the Turkish state.[118] Erdoğan announced on 24 April 2007 that the party had nominated Abdullah Gül as the AK Party candidate in the presidential election.[119] The protests continued over the next several weeks, with over one million reported at a 29 April rally in Istanbul,[120][121] tens of thousands reported at separate protests on 4 May in Manisa and Çanakkale,[122] and one million in İzmir on 13 May.[123]

Early parliamentary elections were called after the failure of the parties in parliament to agree on the next Turkish president. The opposition parties boycotted the parliamentary vote and deadlocked the election process. At the same time, Erdoğan claimed the failure to elect a president was a failure of the Turkish political system and proposed to modify the constitution. Gül was later elected President after the general elections on 22 July 2007 that saw AK Party and Erdoğan brought back to power with 46.7% of the vote. Later in 2007, Turkish constitutional referendum approved with the support of 69% of the voters to modify the constitution to allow the people to elect the President.

Local elections

In 1994 Erdoğan was elected Mayor of Istanbul, one of the biggest metropolitan areas of the world. He received 25.19% of the popular vote. After the AK Party won the 2002 general elections under the leadership of Erdoğan, it has received more votes in the 2004 local elections. The AK party was the biggest party in 12 out of 16 metropolitan municipality.[124]

The Turkish local elections of 2009 took place during the financial crisis of 2007–2010. In these elections the AK Party received 39% of the vote, 3% less than in the local elections of 2004. The second party CHP received 23% of the vote and the third party MHP received 16% of the vote. The AK Party won in Turkey's two largest cities: Ankara and Istanbul.


After the opposition parties deadlocked the 2007 presidential election by boycotting the parliament, the ruling AK party proposed a constitutional reform package. The reform package was first vetoed by president Sezer. Then he applied to the Turkish constituonal court about the reform package, because the president is unable to veto amendments for the second time. The Turkish constituonal court did not find any problems in the packet and 68.95% of the voters supported the constitutional changes.[125] The reforms consisted of:

  • Electing the president by popular vote instead of by parliament;
  • Reducing the presidential term from seven years to five;
  • Allowing the president to stand for re-election for a second term;
  • Holding general elections every four years instead of five;
  • Reducing the quorum of lawmakers needed for parliamentary decisions from 367 to 184.

Reforming the Constitution was one of the main pledges of the AK Party during the 2007 election campaign. The main opposition party CHP was not interested in altering the Constitution on a big scale, making it impossible to form a Constitutional Commission (Anayasa Uzlaşma Komisyonu).[126] The amendments lacked the two-thirds majority needed to instantly become law, but secured 336 votes in the 550 seat parliament – enough to put the proposals to a referendum. The reform package included a number of issues such as the right of individuals to appeal to the highest court, the creation of the ombudsman’s office, the possibility to negotiate a nation-wide labour contract, gender equality, the ability of civilian courts to convict members of the military, the right of civil servants to go on strike, a privacy law, and the structure of the Constitutional Court. The referendum was agreed by a majority of 58%.[127]

Honors and accolades


  • 29 January 2004: Profiles of Courage Award from the American Jewish Committee, for promoting peace between cultures.[128]
  • 18 April 2004: listed in Time magazine's "100 most influential people in the world" and was called a builder of bridges by the magazine.[129]
  • 13 June 2004: Golden Plate award from the Academy of Achievement during the conference in Chicago.[130]
  • 3 October 2004: German Quadriga prize for improving relationships between different cultures.[131]
  • 1 December 2004: named European of the Year by the weekly European Voice, for having put Turkey on the path to reform.[132]
  • 2 September 2005: Mediterranean Award for Institutions (Italian: Premio Mediterraneo Istituzioni). This was awarded by the Fondazione Mediterraneo.[133]
  • 1 June 2006: Russian state medal from the President of the Russian Federation Vladimir Putin.[134]
  • 8 August 2006: Caspian Energy Integration Award from the Caspian Integration Business Club.[135]
  • 1 November 2006: Outstanding Service award from the Turkish humanitarian organization Red Crescent.[136]
  • 2 February 2007: Dialogue Between Cultures Award from the President of Tatarstan Mintimer Shaimiev.[137]
  • 12 March 2007: together with Spanish Prime Minister Zapatero, the 2007 RUMI Peace and Dialogue award.[138]
  • 15 April 2007: Crystal Hermes Award from the German Chancellor Angela Merkel at the opening of the Hannover Industrial Fair.[139]
  • 14 June 2007: Turkish Leader of the Year Award from the mediagroup Imedya.[140]
  • 11 July 2007: highest award of the UN Food and Agriculture Organization, the Agricola Medal, in recognition of his contribution to agricultural and social development in Turkey.[141]
  • 15 January 2008: together with Spanish Prime Minister Zapatero, the Building Bridges Award from the AMSS(UK), for their efforts to unify communities separated by race, culture and religion, for promoting a climate of respect, and peaceful co-existence through launching the Alliance of Civilizations project.[142]
  • 11 May 2009: Avicenna award from the Avicenna Foundation in Frankfurt, Germany.[143]
  • 9 June 2009: guest of honor at the 20th Crans Montana Forum in Brussels and received the Prix de la Fondation, for democracy and freedom.[144]
  • 25 June 2009: Key to the City of Tirana on the occasion of his state visit to Albania.[145]
  • 26 October 2009: Nishan-e-Pakistan, the highest civilian award in Pakistan.[146]
  • 29 December 2009: Award for Contribution to World Peace from the Turgut Özal Thought and Move Association.[147]
  • 12 January 2010: King Faisal International Prize for "service to Islam" from the King Faisal Foundation.[148]
  • 23 February 2010: Nodo Culture Award from the mayor of Seville for his efforts to launch the Alliance of Civilizations initiative.[149]
  • 1 March 2010: United Nations–HABITAT award in memorial of Rafik Hariri. A seven member international jury unanimously found Erdoğan deserving the award because of his "excellent achievement and commendable conduct in the area of leadership, statesmanship and good governance. Erdoğan also initiated the first roundtable of mayors during the Istanbul conference, which led to a global, organized movement of mayors."[16]
  • 29 April 2010: listed for the second time in Time magazine's "100 most influential people in the world".[150]
  • 17 May 2010: Georgia's Order of Golden Fleece for his contribution to development of bilateral relations.[151]
  • 27 May 2010: medal of honor from the Brazilian Federation of Industry for the State of São Paulo (FIESP) for his contributions to industry[152]
  • 31 May 2010: World Health Organization 2010 World No Tobacco Award for "his dedicated leadership on tobacco control in Turkey."[153]
  • 29 June 2010: 2010 World Family Award from the World Family Organization which operates under the umbrella of the United Nations.[154]
  • 4 November 2010: Golden Medal of Independence, an award conferred upon Kosovo citizens and foreigners that have contributed to the independence of Kosovo.[155]
  • 25 November 2010: "Leader of the Year" award presented by the Union of Arab Banks in Lebanon.[156]
  • 29 November 2010: guest of honor at the 3rd EU-Africa Summit in Libya and Al-Gaddafi International Prize for Human Rights.[157]
  • 11 January 2011: "Outstanding Personality in the Islamic World Award" of the Sheikh Fahad al-Ahmad International Award for Charity in Kuwait.[157]
  • 2 February 2011: Kyrgyzstan's Danaker Order in Bishkek.[158]
  • 25 October 2011: Palestinian International Award for Excellence and Creativity (PIA) 2011 for his support to the Palestinian people and cause.[159]
  • 21 January 2012: ’Gold Statue 2012 Special Award’ by the Polish Business Center Club (BCC), which is considered the most prestigious award in Poland. Erdogan was awarded for his systematic effort to clear barriers on the way to economic growth, striving to build democracy and free market relations[160]

Honorary doctorates

  • 26 January 2004: St. John's University.[161]
  • 3 April 2004: Crimean State University.[162]
  • 18 May 2006: Bulgarian Academy of Sciences.[163]
  • 20 July 2006: Girne American University.[164]
  • 29 March 2008: University of Sarajevo.[165]
  • 15 October 2008: Fatih University.[166]
  • 4 July 2009: Maltepe University.[167]
  • 4 July 2009: Istanbul University.[167]
  • 22 August 2009: University of Aleppo.[168]
  • 16 April 2010: Islamic University of Gaza.[169]
  • 18 May 2010: European University of Madrid.[170]
  • 12 June 2010: Black Sea Technical University.[171]
  • 2 October 2010: Piri Reis University.[172]
  • 31 October 2010: Harran University.[173]
  • 4 November 2010: University of Pristina.[174]
  • 25 January 2011: Taras Shevchenko University.[175]
  • 16 March 2011: Moscow State University.[176]
  • 21 March 2011: Umm al-Qura University.[177]
  • 2 July 2011: Istanbul Aydın University.[178]
  • 11 April 2012: Shanghai International Studies University.[179]
  • 22 May 2012: Quaid-i-Azam University.[180]
  • 29 June 2012: Atatürk University.[181]

Honorary citizenship

  • Seoul, South Korea, February 2004.[182]
  • Tehran, Iran, February 2009.[183]
  • Prizren, Kosovo, November 2010.[184]


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