Erdogan's 40-year political life with ups and downs: The way to presidency
Sunday, August 10, 2014
ANKARA - The man who will take office as Turkey's first democratically elected president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, started his political career some 40 years ago at the lowest level, and his path since then has included its ups and downs -- including a stint in prison in 1999.
Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Turkey's dominant political figure for the past decade, won the presidential election Sunday, as pre-election surveys has predicted.
In his 11 years as prime minister, the country has grown economically -- at times faster than some countries in the European Union. Erdogan has pledged a move away from parliamentary system to a government with a more powerful president. For that reason, the election was seen as not only a judgment on his record as prime minister but also as a referendum on systemic change in Turkey.
Erdogan's political career started in 1976, when he elected to the presidency of the Istanbul youth branch of the conservative National Salvation Party. He continued in that post until a 1980 military coup in the country, after which the National Salvation Party, along with many others, was closed down.
He returned to politics in 1983, in the conservative Welfare Party, which was founded by the caucus of the National Salvation Party. He rose through the party ranks and in 1994 he became mayor of Istanbul, Turkey's largest social and economic center, serving in that role until 1998.
He was a popular mayor for successful work on Istanbul’s chronic problems, such as water shortages, pollution and traffic chaos. But his time in office ended when he was sentenced to prison for reading a religious poem at a rally in southeastern Siirt province. He served four months behind bars.
In 2001, he was one of the founders of the ruling Justice and Development Party, often known by its initials as the AK Party.
He became prime minister in March 2003, and has served in that post ever since.
The ruling Justice and Development Party has been the winner of three successive general elections, increasing its share of the vote each time -- in 2002, 2007 and 2011.
The AK Party’s 12-year rule has been marked by an enhancement of political and cultural freedoms, as the ban on wearing veils in Turkish universities and public institutions was lifted and the Kurdish-speaking population gained more freedom to use its mother tongue.
The end of 40-plus year campaign of terrorism by the Kurdistan Workers' Party, known as the PKK, in late 2012 has been the most successful result of AK Party-led "solution process" being conducted with the jailed head of the PKK and other Kurdish politicians.
Other reforms have included improving conditions for Turkey's Roma citizens and the return from the state of the Mor Gabriel Monastery Foundation, the most vital Assyrian Orthodox monastery in March, 2013. It is situated in Turkey's southeastern region.
Erdogan announced his presidential candidacy July 1, and held his first rally in the northern province of Samsun on July 5. During the course of the campaign, he held 30 rallies in major cities.
During his rallies, Erdogan presented his vision for the presidency, describing a stronger, more activist role than in the past. He also touted the accomplishments of his government and said he would be president of all of Turkey's 77 million people.
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