Recep Tayyip Erdoğan

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Reis-i Cumhur
Recep Tayyip Erdoğan
Recep Tayyip Erdogan.PNG
12th President of Turkey
Assumed office
28 August 2014
Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu
Preceded by Abdullah Gül
25th Prime Minister of Turkey
In office
14 March 2003 – 28 August 2014
President Ahmet Necdet Sezer
Abdullah Gül
Preceded by Abdullah Gül
Succeeded by Ahmet Davutoğlu
Leader of the Justice and Development Party
In office
14 August 2001 – 27 August 2014
Deputy Mehmet Ali Şahin
Numan Kurtulmuş
Preceded by Position established
Succeeded by Ahmet Davutoğlu
Mayor of Istanbul
In office
27 March 1994 – 6 November 1998
Preceded by Nurettin Sözen
Succeeded by Ali Müfit Gürtuna
Personal details
Born (1954-02-26) 26 February 1954 (age 60)
Istanbul, Turkey
Political party National Salvation Party
(Before 1981)
Welfare Party (1983–1998)
Virtue Party (1998–2001)
Justice and Development Party (2001–2014)
Independent (2014–present)
Spouse(s) Emine Gülbaran (1978–present)
Children Ahmet Burak
Necmettin Bilal
Alma mater Marmara University (disputed)[1][2][3]
Religion Sunni Islam
Website Government website
Personal website
This article is part of a series on
Recep Tayyip Erdoğan
Early life and career · Electoral history
First cabinet · Second cabinet · Third cabinet
Civil–military ties · Foreign policy · Foreign trips · 2023 vision · 2013 protests in Turkey · 2013 corruption scandal in Turkey
Gallery: Picture, Sound, Video

Recep Tayyip Erdoğan (Turkish pronunciation: [ɾeˈd͡ʒep tɑjˈjip ˈeɾdoɰɑn];[note 1] born 26 February 1954) is a Turkish politician who currently serves as the incumbent 12th President of Turkey as of 28 August 2014. He previously served as the 25th Prime Minister of Turkey from 2003 to 2014 and as the Mayor of İstanbul between 1994 and 1998. He founded the Justice and Development Party (AKP) in 2001, leading it to three general election victories in 2002, 2007 and 2011 before stepping down as leader upon his election as President in 2014.

Educated at an Imam Hatip school and graduating from Marmara University in 1981, Erdoğan was also a semi-professional footballer playing for Kasımpaşa between 1969 and 1982 before being elected Mayor of İstanbul from the Islamist Welfare Party in 1994.[2] He was banned from office and sentenced to prison for 10 months after reciting a religiously incriminating poem in Siirt in 1998. He founded the moderately conservative AKP in 2001 and won the 2002 general election with nearly two-thirds of the seats in parliament, with Abdullah Gül becoming Prime Minister of the first single-party government since 1987.[4] Erdoğan became Prime Minister in March 2003 after Gül’s government annulled his political ban.

As Prime Minister, Erdoğan began negotiations for Turkey’s ascension to the European Union, presided over an economic recovery following an financial crash in 2001, reduced inequality, initiated an allegedly Neo-Ottoman foreign policy, began a peace process with PKK separatists and held two successful referendums on constitutional reform in 2007 and 2010.[5][6][7] In contrast, a study found that child poverty had risen to 66% under Erdoğan's premiership while Turkey suffered the highest number of workers' deaths in Europe, with 301 miners being killed in Soma in 2014.[8][9] With support from exiled cleric Fethullah Gülen's Cemaat Movement, Erdoğan was able to curb the political power of the pro-secular military through the controversial Ergenekon and Sledgehammer court cases. Projects such as Marmaray and two high-speed train networks were completed as part of Erdoğan’s 2023 vision for the centenary of the establishment of the Turkish Republic in 1923.

Nationwide protests broke out against Erdoğan’s authoritarian rule in 2013 and 2014.[10][11][12][13][14][15] His government was internationally condemned for a brutal crackdown against protestors by the police and AKP youth members, which resulted in 22 deaths, Gülen withdrawing his support from the AKP and talks with the EU stalling.[16] A ₺100 billion government corruption scandal in 2013 led to arrests of Erdoğan's close allies, with Erdoğan calling the subsequent investigation a coup attempt led by a 'parallel structure' formed of Gülen's supporters in bureaucratic and judicial positions.[17][18][19][20] His government responded with controversial reforms to the judiciary and security forces.[21] Turkey blocked Twitter and YouTube after Erdoğan himself was incriminated in a recording released on the Internet. Although the judiciary annulled the ban, Erdoğan’s government has come under continued fire for media censorship, electoral fraud and disregard for the constitution and the rule of law.[22][23][24][25] His critics and the political opposition have thus branded him as a dictator.[26]

Erdogan was named as the AKP candidate for the 2014 presidential election on 1 July, which he won with 51.79% of the vote. He was sworn in as the 12th President of Turkey on 28 August, with speculation that he would continue to pursue his political agenda while his new Prime Minister, Ahmet Davutoğlu will take a docile approach.[27]

Personal life and education[edit]

Erdoğan was born in the Kasımpaşa neighborhood of Istanbul where he lived with his first cousin, Danny "Talat" Torosoglu,[28] to a family that had moved there from Rize Province. Erdoğan said, I'm a Georgian, my family is a Georgian family which migrated from Batumi to Rize.[29] In Later comments, on 5 August 2014, Erdoğan, in a televised interview on NTV news network, remarked that being Armenian is "uglier" even than being Georgian, saying "You wouldn't believe the things they have said about me. They have said I am Georgian...they have said even uglier things - they have called me Armenian, but I am Turkish."[30][31][32]

Erdoğan spent his early childhood in Rize, where his father was a member of the Turkish Coast Guard.[33] The family returned to Istanbul when Erdoğan was 13 years old.[33] As a teenager, he sold lemonade and sesame buns (simit) on the streets of city's rougher districts to earn extra money.[33]

Brought up in an observant Muslim family, Erdoğan 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. Erdoğan subsequently studied Business Administration at the Aksaray School of Economics and Commercial Sciences, now known as Marmara University's Faculty of Economics and Administrative Sciences.[34]

In his youth, Erdoğan played semi-professional football at a local club.[34][35][36] Fenerbahçe wanted him to transfer to the club; however, his father prevented it.[37] The stadium of the local football club in the district he grew up in, Kasımpaşa S.K. is named after him.

Erdoğan married Emine Gülbaran (born 1955, Siirt), whom he met during a conference, on 4 July 1978.[38] They have two sons (Ahmet Burak, Necmeddin Bilal) and two daughters (Esra, Sümeyye).[38] Recep's father, Ahmet Erdoğan, died in 1988. His 88-year-old mother, Tenzile Erdoğan, died in 2011.[39]

Early political career[edit]

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.[40] In 1976, he became the head of Beyoğlu youth branch of the Islamist National Salvation Party (MSP).[41] 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 Necmettin Erbakan's followers into the Islamist 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[edit]

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. 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.[42]

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.[43]

Imprisonment in 1999[edit]

Before his conviction, the fundamentalist 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.[44]

He was given a ten-month prison sentence (of which he served four months; from 24 March 1999 to 27 July 1999)[45] 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.[46] It included verses translated as "The mosques are our barracks, the domes our helmets, the minarets our bayonets and the faithful our soldiers...."[33] 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.[28] Erdoğan claimed the poem had been approved by the education ministry to be published in textbooks.[47] 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, 2003-2014[edit]

In 2001, Erdoğan established the Justice and Development Party.[48] The AK Party won a landslide victory in the 2002 election, taking nearly two-thirds of the seats. However, Erdoğan could not become 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.[49]

Kurdish issue[edit]

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.[50] "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.[50] Erdoğan passed a partial amnesty to reduce penalties faced by many members of the Kurdish guerrilla movement PKK who had surrendered to the government.[51] On 23 November 2011, he apologised on behalf of the state for the Dersim Massacre, where many Alevis and Zazas was killed, during a televised meeting of his party in Ankara.[52]

Armenian genocide[edit]

Prime Minister Erdoğan expressed multiple times that Turkey will acknowledge the mass killings of up to 1.5 million Armenians during World War I as genocide, only after a thorough investigation by a joint Turkish-Armenian commission consisting of historians, archaeologists, political scientists and other experts.[53][54][better source needed] In 2005, Prime Minister Erdogan and the main opposition party leader Deniz Baykal wrote a letter to Armenian President Robert Kocharian, proposing the creation of a joint Turkish-Armenian commission.[55] Armenian Foreign Minister Vartan Oskanian rejected the offer.[56]

In December 2008 Erdoğan criticised the I Apologize campaign by Turkish intellectuals to recognize the Armenian Genocide, saying that "I neither accept nor support this campaign. We did not commit a crime, therefore we do not need to apologise... It will not have any benefit other than stirring up trouble, disturbing our peace and undoing the steps which have been taken."[57] In November 2009 he stated that "it's not possible for a Muslim to commit genocide."[58][59]

In 2011 Erdoğan ordered the tearing-down of the Statue of Humanity, a Turkish-Armenian friendship monument in Kars, which was commissioned in 2006 and represented a metaphor of the rapprochement of countries after many years of dispute over the the events of 1915. Erdoğan justified the removal by stating that the monument was offensively close to the tomb of an 11th-century Islamic scholar, and that its shadow ruined the view of that site, while Kars municipality officials claimed it was illegally erected in a protected area. However, the former mayor of Kars who approved the original construction of the monument said the municipality was not destroying a "monument to humanity" but "humanity itself". The demolition did not happen unopposed; among its detractors were several Turkish artists. Two of them, the painter Bedri Baykam and his associate, Pyramid Art Gallery general coordinator Tugba Kurtulmus, were stabbed after a meeting with other artists at the Istanbul Akatlar cultural center.[60]

On 23 April 2014, Turkish Prime Minister Erdoğan's office issued a statement in 9 languages including two dialects of Armenian, offering condolences for mass killings of Armenians and stated that the events of 1915 had inhumane consequences. Also the statement described the mass killings as two nation's shared pain and said "Having experienced events which had inhumane consequences - such as relocation - during the First World War, (it) should not prevent Turks and Armenians from establishing compassion and mutually humane attitudes among one another". This statement of condolence was regarded as a brave move as it was issued before the recent presidential and general elections which might have caused Erdoğan to lose votes from conservative Turkish voters. Also, the statement was made with no international pressure.[61]

Human rights[edit]

There have been several attempts to replace the Turkish Constitution of 1982 with a more "civil constitution", which failed due to the resistance of the main opposition parties CHP and MHP. After they lost the referendum in 2010, the CHP agreed to the creation of the Constitutional Commission which will, with the participation of all political parties in the Turkish parliament, develop a new draft for the Turkish constitution.[62] The commission's effort is still a work in progress and was expected to be ready in 2013.

During his time as Prime Minister the far-reaching powers of the 1991 Anti-Terror Law were reduced and the Democratic initiative process, with the goal to improve democratic standards in general and the rights of ethnic and religious minorities in particular, was initiated.

After Turkey's bid to join the European Union stalled, European officials noted a return to more authoritarian ways,[63] notably on freedom of speech,[64][65][66] press freedom[67][68][69] and Kurdish minority rights.[70][71][72][73]

Reporters Without Borders observed a continuous decrease in Freedom of the Press during his later terms, with a rank of around 100 on the Press Freedom Index during his first term and rank 154 of a total of 179 countries in 2013.[74] Freedom House sees a slight recovery in the recent years and awarded Turkey a Press Freedom Score of 55/100 in 2012 after a low point of 48/100 in 2006.[75][76][77][78]

Demands by activists for the recognition of LGBT rights were publicly rejected by government members[79] and the members of the Turkish LGBT community were insulted by cabinet members.[80]

In 2011, Erdoğan's government made legal reforms to return properties of Christian and Jewish minorities which were seized by the Turkish government in the 1930s.[81] After the reforms, Erdoğan's government has returned properties to the minorities, the total value of properties returned reaching to 2 billion USD.[82]

Under Recep Tayyip Erdoğan the Turkish government tightened the laws on consumption and sale of alcohol, like banning all advertising for and increasing the tax on alcoholic beverages.[83] A law that raised the legal drinking age from 18 to 24 years was in place from 2011 until it was abolished in 2013.


Unemployment rate of Turkey between 2000 and 2014
Current account balance of Turkey

In 2002, Erdoğan inherited a Turkish economy that began to climb back from a recession as a result of reforms implemented by Kemal Dervis.[84] 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. The hot cash flow into Turkish economy between 2002 and 2012 caused a 64% growth in real GDP and a 43% increase in GDP per capita, which are considerably lower than the commonly advertised numbers due to the fact that the inflation of US dollar between 2002 and 2012 was not taken into account.[85] Therefore, the average annual growth in GDP per capita was actually 3.6%, which is expected for a developing economy that was just getting out of a financial crisis. The growth in real GDP between 2002 and 2012 was higher than the values from the developed countries, but it was close to the average when the developing countries are taken into account. The ranking of the Turkish economy in terms of GDP changed from 17 only to 16 during this decade. A major side effect of the policies between 2002 and 2012 was widening the current account deficit from 600 million USD to 48 billion USD.[86]

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.[87] Erdoğan inherited a debt of $23.5 billion to the IMF, which has been reduced to $0.9 billion in 2012. He decided not to sign a new deal. Turkey's debt to the IMF has been declared to be completely paid and he announced that IMF can borrow from Turkey.[88]

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 increased from 10.3% in 2002 to 11.0% in 2010.[89]

Erdoğan, Vladimir Putin and Silvio Berlusconi at the opening of the Blue Stream gas pipeline in November 2005

In 2002, the Turkish Central Bank had $26.5 billion in reserves. This amount reached $92.2 billion in 2011. During Erdoğan's reign, inflation has fallen from 32% to 9.0% in 2004. Since then, the Turkish inflation continued to fluctuate around 9% and was thus still one of the highest inflation rates in the world.[90] 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.[91]

In 2004, the World Bank praised Erdoğan for the social reforms and the economic stability in the country.[92]


Early in his prime ministership, Erdoğan 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.[93] Before his prime ministership, the military received the highest share of the national budget. Compulsory education is increased from 8 years to 12.[94] 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.[95]

The parliament granted amnesty to students expelled from universities before 2003. The amnesty applied to students dismissed on academic or disciplinary grounds.[96] In 2004, textbooks became free of charge and since 2008 every province in Turkey has its own university.[97] During Erdoğan's prime ministership, the number of universities in Turkey nearly doubled, from 98 in 2002 to 186 in October 2012.[98]

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.[99]


Under Erdoğan's government, the number of airports increased from 26 to 50.[100] Between the founding of the Republic of Turkey in 1923 and 2002, there was 6000 km of dual carriageway made. During 2002 and 2011, there was 13500 km of expressway made, increasing the total amount to 19500 km. Due to these measures, the number of car accidents fell by 50 percent.[101] For the first time in Turkish history, high speed railway lines were constructed, and the country's high-speed train service began in 2009.[102] In 8 years, 1076 km of railway was built and 5449 km of railway was renewed. The construction of Marmaray, an undersea rail tunnel under the Bosphorus strait, started in 2004. When completed, it will be the world's deepest undersea immersed tube tunnel.[103] The construction of the 1,9 km long Yavuz Sultan Selim Bridge began in 2013.[104] The choice of name of the bridge led to protests by Alevis in Turkey because of Sultan Selim I's role, nicknamed "the Grim" due to his cruelty, in the Ottoman persecution of Alevis.[105]


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.[106]

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.[106] 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.[107] 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.


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.[108][109] He has repeated this statement on numerous occasions.[110] In 2010, Turkey's population was estimated at 73,700,000, with a growth rate of 1.21% per annum (2009 figure).[111]

On 26 May 2012, in a question of a reporter after the UN conference on population and development in Turkey, Erdoğan 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."[112]

Erdoğan 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.[113][114]

Health care[edit]

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 ever. 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.[115] 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. Erdoğan claimed that abortion is murder, saying "you either kill a baby in the mother's womb or you kill it after birth. There's no difference."[112]

On January 2008, the Turkish Parliament adopted a law on a complete prohibition of smoking in most public places. Erdoğan is outspokenly anti-smoking.[116]

2013–14 protests[edit]

2013-2014 saw protests against the perceived authoritarianism of Erdoğan[10] and his policies, starting from a small sit-in in Istanbul in defense of a city park.[117] After the police's intense reaction with tear gas, the protests grew each day that came after. Faced by the largest mass protest in a decade, Erdoğan made this controversial remark in a televised speech: "The police were there yesterday, they are there today, and they will be there tomorrow." After weeks of clashes in the streets of Istanbul, his government first apologized to the protestors[118] and called for a plebiscite, but then brutally cracked down on the peaceful protesters.[119][120]

2013 corruption arrests[edit]

In December 2013, Turkish police detained more than 50 people[121] and arrested 16 people—including the general manager of Halkbank and the sons of three government ministers—under charges of corruption.[122] Although Erdoğan blamed foreign ambassadors, and pro-Erdoğan newspapers accused the United States or Israel of a plot, outside analysts attribute the arrests to a power struggle between the prime minister and Fethullah Gülen. Gülen, who lives in the U.S., leads a religious movement that had supported the AKP's rise to power. In late 2013, Erdoğan's government proposed shutting down Turkish private schools, many of which are funded by Gülen. Gülen's supporters are believed to have wide influence in the police and judiciary in Turkey.[123]

In late December, Hurriyet and Yeni Safak papers published comments by Erdoğan stating he believes he is the ultimate target of a corruption and bribery probe of his allies. The Turkish prime minister told journalists that anyone attempting to enmesh him in the scandal would be "left empty handed." Erdoğan reshuffled his Cabinet on December 25, replacing 10 ministers hours after three ministers, whose sons were detained in relation to the probe, resigned.[124]

Telephone recordings and social media[edit]

A file containing five audio recordings of conversations between Erdoğan and his son from a 26-hour period beginning December 17, 2013, in which he appeared to be instructing his son to conceal very large amounts of money, was posted to YouTube and widely discussed on social media.[125][126] On February 26, 2014 Erdoğan acknowledged that his telephone had been tapped, but denied that the conversation was real, instead calling it an "immoral montage" that had been "dubbed" by combining other conversations. An analysis by Joshua Marpet of the United States, published by McClatchy, concluded that the recordings were "probably real", and if not the fabrication was done with a sophistication he had not previously seen.[127]

The night of February 26, Turkey's Parliament, dominated by Erdoğan's Justice and Development Party, passed a bill that allowed the government the power to block Internet sites, subject to court review within three days, and granting it access to Internet traffic data. Another bill previously approved by a parliamentary committee would grant the MİT intelligence service access to data held by the government, as well as private institutions and courts. The following day President Abdullah Gul approved placing an investigative agency that appoints judges and prosecutors under the control of Erdoğan's justice minister.[127]

On March 20, Erdoğan made a speech promising to "rip out the roots" of the Twitter service. Hours later the telecommunications regulator BTK blocked DNS service to the site, citing four court orders the Turkish government had made requiring them to remove content to preserve privacy that had not been heeded. Sources covering the story attributed this to the use of Twitter to share links to the Erdoğan recordings on YouTube.[22][128] Mr. Erdoğan also threatened to ban Facebook.[129] However, the block of Twitter proved ineffective, with traffic reaching up a record 138%, and #TwitterisblockedinTurkey becoming the top trending term worldwide.[130] To circumvent the block, Google suggested Turks use their free DNS servers at and, numbers which were soon graffitied in dozens of locations around Istanbul.[131][132] President Abdullah Gül criticized the Twitter ban, defying it himself.[133][134] Two months later, on June 3, Turkey's telecommunications watchdog ordered the ban to be lifted, after a ruling in this sense by the Constitutional Court.[135]

Presidential campaign, 2014[edit]

On 1 July 2014, Erdoğan was named the AK Parti's presidential candidate in the upcoming Turkish presidential election. His candidacy was announced by the deputy president of the AK Party, Mehmet Ali Şahin.

Erdoğan made a speech after the announcement, where the 'Erdoğan logo' was used for the first time. The logo was criticised because it was very similar to the logo that U.S. President Barack Obama used in the 2008 presidential election.

Erdoğan was elected as the President of Turkey in the first round of the election with 51.79% of the vote and obviated the need for a run-off by winning over 50%. The joint candidate of the CHP, MHP and 13 other opposition parties, former Organisation of Islamic Co-operation General Secretary Ekmeleddin İhsanoğlu won 38.44% of the vote. The pro-Kurdish HDP candidate Selahattin Demirtaş won 9.77%.

On 21 August, a 3-hour AKP Central Executive Committee meeting chaired by Erdoğan selected Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu as a candidate for the party leadership.

1st AKP Extraordinary Congress[edit]

Erdoğan being presented with an artwork by Mustafa Cemil Efe as a parting gift from his successor Ahmet Davutoğlu during the AKP congress

Erdoğan's last public appearance before assuming the Presidency was his parting speech during the AKP's first ever extraordinary congress on 27 August 2014, where his successor as party leader was to be elected. In a 110 minute speech, he criticised rival political parties for their opposition to his bid for the presidency and the solution process with the PKK, vowing to continue the fight against Fethullah Gülen's 'parallel structure'. Erdoğan further claimed that his departure would not result in a loss of political vision or electoral support for the party.

Erdoğan was one of the 1,420 delegates which cast votes to elect the new leader. Ahmet Davutoğlu was the only candidate, having been handpicked by Erdoğan as his successor in a party executive committee meeting on the 21st. Davutoğlu was unanimously elected with 100% of the vote with the support of 1,382 delegates. There were 6 invalid or blank votes.

The congress was criticised for lacking any reference to Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, as well as the lack of competition in the leadership election.

Presidency, 2014-present[edit]

11th President of Turkey Abdullah Gül and the first elected president 12th President of Turkey Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. Aug 28, 2014

Erdoğan took the oath of office on August 28 and became the 12th president of Turkey. He administrated the new Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu's oath on August 29.

Presidential agenda[edit]

Assuming the role of President, Erdoğan has come under fire for openly stating that he would not maintain presidential neutrality.[136] Erdoğan has also claimed that he intends to pursue a more active role as President, such as utilising the President's rarely used cabinet-calling powers.[137] The political opposition has claimed that Erdoğan will continue to pursue his own political agenda, controlling the government while his new Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu would take a docile and submissive approach.[27] One reason for this allegation was due to the fact that Erdoğan himself chose Davutoğlu to succeed him as Prime Minister during a three-hour AKP Central Executive Committee (MYK) meeting on 21 August, meaning that Davutoğlu was unanimously elected leader unopposed during the AKP congress held on 27 August.[138][139] Furthermore, the domination of loyal Erdoğan supporters in Davutoğlu's cabinet has also fuelled speculation that Erdoğan intends to exercise substantial control over the running of the government.[140]

Presidential palace[edit]

Erdoğan has come under fire for the construction of a new palace called Ak Saray (white palace), which occupies approximately 50 acres of Atatürk Forest Farm (AOÇ) in Ankara.[141] Since the AOÇ is protected land, several court orders were issued to halt the construction of the new palace, though building work went on nonetheless.[142] The opposition described the move as a clear disregard for the rule of law.[143] Allegations of corruption during the construction process, the wildlife destruction and the complete obliteration of the zoo in the AOÇ in order to make way for the new compound were also subject to heavy criticism.[144] The fact that the palace is technically illegal has led to it being branded as the 'Kaç-Ak Saray', with the word kaçak in Turkish meaning 'illegal'.[145]

Ak Saray was originally designed as a new office for the Prime Minister. However, upon assuming the Presidency, Erdoğan announced that the palace would become the new Presidential Palace, while the Çankaya Köşkü will be used by the Prime Minister instead. The move was seen as a historic change since the Çankaya Köşkü had been used as the iconic office of the Presidency ever since. The Ak Saray has almost 1,000 rooms and cost $350 million (€270 million), leading to huge criticism at a time when mining accidents and workers' rights had been dominating the agenda.[146][147]

On 29 October 2014, Erdoğan was due to hold a Republic Day reception in the new palace to commemorate the 91st anniversary of the Turkish Republic and officially inaugurate the Presidential Palace. However after most invited participants announced that they would boycott the event and a mining accident occurred in the district of Ermenek in Karaman, the reception was cancelled.[148]

Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant[edit]

Erdoğan meeting U.S. President Barack Obama during the 2014 NATO summit in Wales

The reluctant and allegedly supportive stance of Erdoğan and the government of Ahmet Davutoğlu on the Islamic State (IS) terror organisation has raised both international and domestic concern. Amid claims that the Turkish government funds the IS fighters, several Kurdish demonstrations broke out near the Turkish-Syrian border in protest against the government's inactivity.[149][150][151] These protests escalated during the fighting in the border town of Kobane, with 42 protestors being killed following a brutal police crackdown.[152][153] Voicing concerns that aid to Kurdish fighters would assist PKK rebels in resuming terrorist attacks against Turkey, Erdoğan held bilateral talks with Barack Obama regarding IS during the 5–6 September 2014 NATO summit in Newport, Wales.[154][155] In early October, United States Vice President Joe Biden accused Turkey of funding IS, to which Erdoğan angrily responded "If Biden does not apologize, he is a man of the past for me." Biden subsequently apologised.[156] In response to the US request to use İncirlik Air Base to conduct air strikes against IS, Erdoğan demanded that Bashar Al Assad must be removed from power first.[157]

Turkey historically lost out on a Security Council seat in the United Nations during the 2014 election, seen widely as a result of global disapproval with Turkey's stance against IS.[158]

Foreign policy[edit]

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

Erdoğan is a co-founder of the so-called "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.

European Union[edit]

Erdoğan was named The European of the Year 2004 by the newspaper European Voice 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."[159] On 3 October 2005, the negotiations for Turkey's accession to the EU formally started during Erdoğan's tenure as Prime Minister.[160]

Erdoğan's government is not unconditionally pro-European. The European Commission generally supports Erdoğan's reforms, but remains critical of his policies. Negotiations about a possible EU membership came to a standstill in 2009 and 2010, when Turkish ports were closed to Cypriot ships. The Turkish government continues its refusal to recognize EU member state Cyprus. Furthermore, fundamental rights remain an issue in Turkey. A law establishing the Turkish National Human Rights Institution was adopted by the Turkish parliament, but the law does not comply fully with the UN Paris principles on human rights institutions. In a report that the European Commission presented in 2012 about a possible Turkish accession to the European Union, the Commission specifically mentioned the lack of freedom of expression, freedom of thought, conscience and religion, freedom of assembly, access to independent and impartial justice, children’s rights, and trade union rights as areas where the Turkish government needs to implement reforms. Freedom of the media continued to be further restricted in practice, according to the report. No progress was made on anti-discrimination policies, such as discrimination against homosexuals. The position of socially vulnerable persons and/or persons with disabilities, torture in prisons and the issue of violence to women in relationships outside marriage, as well as early and forced marriages, also remain concerns, according to the report.[161]

Greece and Cyprus dispute[edit]

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.[162] Turkey and Greece signed an agreement to create a Combined Joint Operational Unit within the framework of NATO to participate in Peace Support Operations.[163] Erdoğan and his party strongly supported the EU-backed referendum to reunify Cyprus in 2004.[164] Negotiations about a possible EU membership came to a standstill in 2009 and 2010, when Turkish ports were closed to Cypriot ships. The Turkish government continues its refusal to recognize EU member state Cyprus.[165]


Armenia is Turkey's only neighbor which Erdoğan has not yet visited during his prime ministry. Turkish-Armenian relations are difficult due to the denial of the Armenian Genocide by Erdoğan and had been frozen since 1993 because of the Nagorno-Karabakh War with Turkey's close ally Azerbaijan.

Diplomatic efforts resulted in the signing of protocols between Turkish and Armenian Foreign Ministers in Switzerland to improve relations between the two countries. One of the points of the agreement was the creation of a joint commission on the issue. The Armenian Constitutional Court decided that the commission contradicts the Armenian constitution. Turkey said that Armenian court’s ruling on the protocols is not acceptable.[166] The parliament of Armenia and Turkey decided for the suspension of the rectification process.

Erdoğan has said that Armenian President Serzh Sargsyan should apologize for calling on school children to re-occupy eastern Turkey. When asked by a student at a literature contest ceremony if Armenians will be able to get back their “western territories” along with Mt. Ararat, Sargsyan said, "This is the task of your generation.” Armenians attach great historical and cultural importance to Mt. Ararat on the eastern border of modern-day Turkey, around where Armenians are believed to have first adopted Christianity as an official religion in 301 A.D.[167]


High-Level Russian-Turkish Cooperation Council with Prime Minister Erdoğan and President Putin

In December 2004, Russian president Vladimir 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.[168]

In 2010, then-president Dmitry 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.”[169]

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.[170]

United States[edit]

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."[171]


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.[172] Abdullah Gül became the first Turkish head of state to visit Iraq in 33 years, on 23 March 2009.

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s government has fostered very strong economic and political relations with Irbil, and Turkey is beginning to consider the Kurdistan Regional Government in northern Iraq as an ally against Maliki’s government.[173]


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

Erdoğan paid a state visit to Israel in 2005, bringing along a delegation of businessmen to further economic ties.[174] 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.[175]

At the 2009 World Economic Forum conference, the debate became heated in relation to the Gaza War. Israeli President Shimon Peres responded to Erdoğan's claims, stating that Turkey would have done the same if rockets had been hitting Istanbul.[176] 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.[177]

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.[178] Erdoğan accused Israel of turning Gaza into an "open-air prison".[179] UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon subsequently described Erdoğan's remarks as "hurtful and divisive."[180][181]

During the March 2012 Gaza–Israel clashes, Erdoğan demanded that Israel must stop 'massacre' of Palestinians in Gaza, saying that it was a part of an Israeli campaign of "genocide" against the Palestinian people.[182]

In February 2013, Erdoğan called Zionism a "crime against humanity", comparing it to Islamophobia, anti-Semitism, and fascism.[183] He later walked back the statement, saying he had been misinterpreted. He said "everyone should know" that my comments were directed at "Israeli policies," especially as regards to "Gaza and the settlements." Erdogan also said "in several statements "I openly condemned anti-Semitism", and it clearly displays my position on this issue"[184][185] Erdoğan's branding of Zionism as a crime against humanity was condemned by the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, criticized by the US Secretary of State John Kerry and UN Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon, called unacceptable by the German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle and EU High Representative Catherine Ashton.[186][187][188][189][190]

In August 2013, the Hürriyet reported that Erdoğan had stated to a meeting of the AKP's provincial chairs that Israel was responsible for the recent military coup in Egypt which overthrew Mohammad Morsi. Erdoğan reportedly stated "Who is behind this? Israel. We have evidence" - specifically, Erdoğan cited a video posted online of Tzipi Livni speaking with French intellectual Bernard-Henri Levy. Erdoğan claimed that Levy had stated: "The Muslim Brotherhood will not be in power even if they win the elections, because democracy is not the ballot box." However, according again to the Hürriyet, what Levy said was: "If the Muslim Brotherhood arrives in Egypt, I will not say democracy wants it, so let democracy progress. Democracy is not only elections, it is also values...I will urge the prevention of [the Muslim Brotherhood] coming to power, but by all sorts of means.”[191] The Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman later stated that Erdoğan’s accusation was “a statement well worth not commenting on." Egypt's interim government rejected Erdoğan' claim, describing it as "baseless,” and charged that "Its purpose is to strike at the unity of Egyptians."[191][192][193]

The relations tended to normalize after Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu officially apologized for the death of nine Turkish activists during the Gaza flotilla raid.[194] However, in response to the 2014 Israel–Gaza conflict, Erdoğan accused Israel of being "more barbaric than Hitler",[195] and conducting "state terrorism" and a "genocide attempt" against the Palestinians.[196] He also stated that "If Israel continues with this attitude, it will definitely be tried at international courts."[197]


During Erdoğan's term of office, diplomatic relations between Turkey and Syria significantly deteriorated. At first there were hopeful signs. 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 were lifted in 2009, which caused an economic boom in the regions near the Syrian border.[198] Before the Syrian civil war Erdoğan and al-Assad were described by The Economist as "the best of friends".[199] However in 2011 the relationship between the two countries was strained following the outbreak of conflict in Syria. Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said he was trying to "cultivate a favorable relationship with whatever government would take the place of Assad."[200] However, he began to directly support the armed opposition in Syria, creating a serious Syrian refugee problem in Turkey, conflict over armed fighter bases in Turkey and an unpopular conflict with Syria.[201] Erdoğan's policy of providing military training for anti-Damascus fighters has also created conflict with Syria's ally, Iran.[202]

Saudi Arabia[edit]

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.[203]

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.[204] 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.[205]


Erdoğan and Hosni Mubarak are among the world leaders seen here at the G8 summit in 2009.

Erdoğan had made his first official visit to Egypt on 12 September 2011, accompanied by six ministers and 200 businessmen.[206] This visit was considered a diplomatic success. It was made very soon after Turkey had ejected Israeli ambassadors, cut all diplomatic and bilateral military agreements.[206] because Israel has refused to apologize for the Gaza flotilla attack which killed eight Turkish and one Turco-American aboard a convoy headed to Gaza.[206] This was the first visit by a Prime Minister of Turkey in 15 years and the first after the Egyptian Revolution of 2011.[206][207]

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.[206] 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.[208] 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".[209][210]

When asked in an interview with Mona Al Shazly on Dream TV, Erdoğan stated that he recommends secularism for Egypt, 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 Turkey and Egypt, which he described as an "Axis of Democracy".[208] 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.[208] In July 2014, after Mohammed Morsi, Egypt's first democratically elected leader, was ousted in 2013, Erdoğan called Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi an "illegitimate tyrant".[211]


The embassy of Turkey in Mogadishu.

Erdoğan's administration maintains strong ties with the Federal Government of Somalia. Following a greatly improved security situation in Mogadishu in mid-2011, the Turkish government re-opened its foreign embassy with the intention of more effectively assisting in the post-conflict development process.[212] It was among the first foreign administrations to resume formal diplomatic relations with Somalia after the civil war.[213]

Development cooperation between Turkey and Somalia is multi-tiered, and includes military, social, economic and infrastructural partnerships.[213][214] In May 2010, the Turkish and Somali governments signed a military training agreement, in keeping with the provisions outlined in the Djibouti Peace Process.[215] Enforcement of the pact officially began in November 2012. Outlining training, technical and scientific cooperation, the treaty includes joint-service exercises between both national militaries and exchanges of delegations and personnel. It also encompasses training by the Turkish Military Medical Academy and Mapping General Command, between the gendarmerie and coast guard, as well as in-field training and education at national military installations and institutions. Additionally, the agreement includes provisions for the mutual exchange of information vis-a-vis military history, publications and museology.[214]

Turkish Airlines became the first long-distance international commercial airline in two decades to resume flights to and from Mogadishu's Aden Adde International Airport.[213] In September 2013, the Turkish company Favori LLC began operations at the airport.[216] In partnership with the Somali government, Turkish officials have also launched various development and infrastructure projects in Somalia. They have assisted in the building of several hospitals, and helped renovate and rehabilitate the National Assembly building, among other initiatives.[213]

In May 2013, the 1st Turkish-Somali Business Forum was held in Istanbul to highlight commercial opportunities in both Turkey and Somalia for Turkish and Somali businesses. Organized by the Somali Council in conjunction with Turkish and Somali government ministries, the event included roundtable discussions on potential commercial ventures in both countries as well as business-to-business meetings between Turkish and Somali firms.[217]

Controversies and accusations of dictatorship[edit]

President of Turkey Mr. Recep Tayyip Erdoğan (right) with Gulbuddin Hekmatyar (middle) in Istanbul, Turkey during Hikmatyar visit to Turkey after the successful end of Afghan Jihad

Early during his premiership, Erdoğan was praised as a role model for emerging Middle Eastern nations due to several reform packages initiated by his government which expanded religious freedoms and minority rights as part of accession negotiations with the European Union.[218] However, his government has undergone several crises which involved the Sledgehammer and Ergenekon cases against the Turkish Armed Forces, corruption scandals, accusations of media intimidation as well as the pursuit of an increasingly polarising political agenda which the opposition claims to have incited political hatred throughout the country. Central to the accusations of authoritarianism are Erdoğan's controversial ties with exiled Islamic cleric Fethullah Gülen, who has openly called for the dismantling of the secular Turkish state in favour of an Islamic Republic.

In response to criticism, Erdoğan made a speech in May 2014 denouncing allegations of dictatorship, claiming that the leader of the opposition Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, who was there at the speech, would not be able to 'roam the streets' freely if he was a dictator.[219] He further claimed that such allegations would raise public tensions, and demanded that the opposition should 'hear what comes out of their mouths' while making such accusations.[220] Kılıçdaroğlu responded by claiming that political tensions would cease to exist if Erdoğan stopped making his polarising speeches for three days.[221] Erdoğan's speech was received with irony since an Alevi Muslim named Uğur Kurt had been accidentally shot and killed by police in Okmeydanı, İstanbul while Erdoğan was speaking about freedom to roam the streets.[222][223][224]

Politicisation of the Judiciary[edit]

The judiciary has traditionally adhered to strict secular principles as outlined in the Constitution of Turkey. This resulted in the closing down of two former parties of which Erdoğan was a member, namely the Welfare Party in 1998 and the Virtue Party in 2001. The judiciary was thus seen as a significant threat to the Justice and Development Party (AKP). In 2008, the Constitutional Court of Turkey heard a case in favour of closing down the AKP and banning 71 senior members from politics for five years. Although the AKP survived closure, it lost 50% of its state funding.

In April 2014, the President of the Constitutional Court Haşim Kılıç accused Erdoğan of damaging the credibility of the judiciary, labelling Erdoğan's attempts to increase political control over the courts as 'desperate'.[225]

Ergenekon and Sledgehammer[edit]

Both the military and judiciary were widely known for their secular credentials, both therefore representing a threat against Erdoğan's moderately Islamist government. During the chaotic 2007 presidential election, the military issued an E-memorandum warning the government to keep within the boundaries of secularism while choosing a candidate. Regardless, Erdoğan's close relations with Fethullah Gülen and his Cemaat Movement has allowed his government to maintain a degree of influence within the judiciary through Gülen's supporters in high judicial and bureaucratic offices.[226][227] Shortly after, an alleged coup plot codenamed Sledgehammer became public and resulted in the imprisonment of 300 military officers including İbrahim Fırtına, Çetin Doğan and Engin Alan. Similarly, several opposition politicians, journalists and military officers went on trial for allegedly being part of an ultra-nationalist organisation called Ergenekon.

Both cases were marred by irregularities and were condemned as a joint attempt by Erdoğan and Gülen to curb opposition to the AKP.[228] The original Sledgehammer document containing the coup plans, allegedly written in 2003, was found to have been written using Microsoft Word 2007.[229] Despite both domestic and international calls for these irregularities to be addressed in order to guarantee a fair trial, Erdoğan instead praised his government for bringing the coup plots to light.[230] When Gülen publicly withdrew support and openly attacked Erdoğan in late 2013, Several imprisoned military officers and journalists were released after the government admitted that the judicial proceedings were unfair.[231]

2013-14 Judicial reform[edit]

When Gülen withdrew support from the AKP government in late 2013, a government corruption scandal broke out leading to the arrest of several family members of cabinet ministers. Erdoğan accused Gülen of co-ordinating a 'parallel state' within the judiciary in an attempt to topple him from power and proceeded to remove or reassign several judicial officials in an attempt to remove Gülen supporters from office. Erdoğan's 'purge' has been widely questioned and criticised by the European Union.[232] A new law was passed by parliament giving the government greater control over the judiciary in early 2014 which sparked public protest throughout the country. International organisations perceived the law to be a danger to the separation of powers.[233]

Several judicial officials removed from their posts claimed that they had been removed due to their secular credentials. The political opposition accused Erdoğan of not only attempting to remove Gülen supporters, but supporters of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk's principles as well in order to pave way for increased politicisation of the judiciary. Several family members of Erdoğan's ministers who had been arrested as a result of the 2013 corruption scandal were released, and a judicial order to question Erdoğan's own son Bilal Erdoğan was annulled.[234] Controversy erupted when it emerged that many of the newly appointed judicial officials were actually AKP supporters.[235] İslam Çiçek, a judge who ejected the cases of five minister's relatives accused of corruption, was found to be an AKP supporter by social media, and an official investigation was launched into his political affiliations.[236] On 1 September 2014, the courts dissolved the cases of 96 suspects, which included Bilal Erdoğan.[237]

Media intimidation and censorship[edit]

Erdoğan has been criticised for his politicisation of the media, especially after the 2013 protests. The opposition Republican People's Party (CHP) claim that over 1,863 journalists lost their jobs due to their anti-government views in 12 years of AKP rule.[238] Opposition politicians have also alleged that intimidation in the media is also due to the government's attempt to restructure the ownership of private media corporations. Journalists from the Cihan News Agency and the Gülenist Zaman newspaper have been repeatedly barred from attending government press conferences or asking questions.[239] Several opposition journalists such as Soner Yalçın have also been arrested as part of the Ergenekon trials and Sledgehammer coup investigation on controversial grounds.[240] Veli Ağbaba, a CHP politician, has called the AKP the 'biggest media boss in Turkey.'[238]

Notable cases of media censorship occurred during the 2013 anti-government protests, where the mainstream media did not broadcast any news regarding the demonstrations for three days after they began. The lack of media coverage was symbolised by how CNN International were covering the protests, whereas CNN Türk were broadcasting a documentary about penguins at the same time.[241] The Radio and Television Supreme Council (RTÜK) controversially issued a fine to pro-opposition news channels such as Halk TV and Ulusal Kanal for their coverage of the protests, accusing them of broadcasting footage which could be morally, physically and mentally destabilising to children.[242] Erdoğan has been criticised for not responding to the accusations of media intimidation, and caused international outrage after telling a female journalist (Amberin Zaman of The Economist) to know her place and calling her a 'shameless militant' during his 2014 presidential election campaign.[243] While the 2014 presidential election was not subject to substantial electoral fraud, Erdoğan was again criticised for receiving disproportionate media attention in comparison to his rivals. The British Newspaper The Times claimed that between 2 and 4 July, the state-owned media channel TRT gave 204 minutes of coverage to Erdoğan's campaign and less than a total of 3 minutes to both his rivals.[244]

Erdoğan has also tightened controls over the internet, signing into law a bill which allows the government to block websites without prior court order on 12 September 2014.[245] His government blocked Twitter and YouTube in late March 2014 following the release of a recording of a conversation between him and his son Bilal, where Erdoğan allegedly warns his family to 'nullify' all cash reserves at their home amid the 2013 corruption scandal.[246]

Electoral fraud[edit]

Erdoğan's government developed the SEÇSİS secure vote counting system in order to reduce fraud. However, it has been criticised for being prone to manipulation.[247] Particular controversy was generated by the fact that the system was developed in the United States.[248]

The first significant cases of election fraud under Erdoğan's rule were documented during the 2009 local elections, where numerous cases of ballot paper theft were reported in Ankara and Adana.[249][250][251][252][253]

In the 2011 general election, a minivan containing ballot papers with a pre-stamped vote for the AKP was impounded on by police in İzmir.[254][255] An independent candidate from Yalova also claimed that officials at polling stations were intimidating voters to vote for the AKP.[256][257]

Map showing provinces suffering from electricity cuts during the counting process for the 2014 local elections[258]

Substantial levels of fraud were documented during the 2014 local elections, involving the theft and burning of ballot papers cast both for and against the AKP and the intimidation of officials counting the votes by government forces including European Union Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu.[259][260][261][262][263][264][265] Several cases of opposition votes being counted as invalid and vote totals per ballot box being recorded incorrectly also caused controversy.[266] With an unusually high number of electricity cuts occurring throughout the country while the votes were being counted, the government was ridiculed when Energy Minister Taner Yıldız blamed them on cats entering transformers.[267][268][269] Erdoğan was criticised for disregarding the high number of fraud cases and declaring victory none-the-less. Significant cases of misconduct were documented in Yalova, Ankara, Antalya and Ağrı. The Supreme Electoral Council ordered a repeat of the election in Yalova and Ağrı, both of which the AKP had initially lost narrowly to the CHP and BDP respectively.

Despite strong surveillance by citizens during the 2014 presidential election, no serious cases of fraud were documented during the voting or counting process.[270] However, Erdoğan was still heavily scrutinised over what was perceived to be excessive media bias in his favour during the campaigning process.[271]

Political polarisation[edit]

Political polarisation in Turkey soared during the 2013-14 anti-government protests due to the government's response. A more general polarisation has also been caused by the undermining of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk's principles and the Constitution, which has created tension between Secularists and government supporters. Both have been allegedly fuelled by Erdoğan's ignorance of the opposition as well as strongly partisan speeches which have referred to anti-government protestors as 'looters,' 'terrorists,' and 'traitors.'

Elections and referenda[edit]

In terms of his successes in elections and referenda, Erdoğan is one of the most successful politicians in the Republican era of Turkish history. Since 1994, he has taken part in 3 general elections, 3 local elections, 1 by-election and 2 referenda, none of which he has lost.

General elections[edit]

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

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.

Erdoğan at Çanakkale in 2008

The stage of the elections of 2007 was set for a fight for legitimacy in the eyes of voters between his government and the CHP. Erdoğan used the event 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.[272]

On 14 March 2008, Turkey's Chief Prosecutor asked the country's Constitutional Court to ban Erdoğan's governing party.[273] 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.[274]

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%).[275]

Presidential elections[edit]

On 14 April 2007, an estimated 300,000 people marched in Ankara to protest against 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.[276] Erdoğan announced on 24 April 2007 that the party had nominated Abdullah Gül as the AK Party candidate in the presidential election.[277] The protests continued over the next several weeks, with over one million people reported to have turned out at a 29 April rally in Istanbul,[278][279] tens of thousands reported at separate protests on 4 May in Manisa and Çanakkale,[280] and one million in İzmir on 13 May.[281]

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, a Turkish constitutional referendum was approved with the support of 69% of voters to modify the constitution to allow the people to elect the President.

Local elections[edit]

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.[282]

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 constitutional 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.[283] 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).[284] 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%.[285]

Accusations of antisemitism[edit]

In 1974, Erdoğan wrote, directed and played the lead role in a play titled “Mas-Kom-Ya” (Mason-Komunist-Yahudi [Mason-Communist-Jew]), which presented freemasonry, communism and Judaism as evil.[286]

A 2009 report issued by the Israeli Foreign Ministry, accused Erdoğan of inciting anti-Semitism.[287]

In 2013 a comment made by Erdoğan made second place on the Simon Wiesenthal Center's list of the year's top ten anti-semitic/anti-Israel slurs, after Erdoğan blamed the "interest rate lobby" as organizers of the mass protests against him in cities around the country in June 2013.[288] In another quote that was regarded as antisemitic, he said "When the word 'media' is pronounced, Israel and Israel's administration comes to mind. They have the ability to manipulate it as they wish." He then claimed he believes that not only the international press is run by Israel but also Turkish newspapers.[289]

In August 2014, during the 2014 Israel–Gaza conflict, Erdoğan accused Israel of deliberately killing Palestinian mothers, saying: "They kill women so that they will not give birth to Palestinians; they kill babies so that they won't grow up; they kill men so they can't defend their country ... They will drown in the blood they shed". He also likened Israel's actions to those of Adolf Hitler, saying: "Just like Hitler, who sought to establish a race free of all faults, Israel is chasing after the same target".[290]

Honors and accolades[edit]


U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, with U.S. Vice President Joseph Biden, delivers remarks in honor of Erdoğan, May 16, 2013
Erdoğan joined by his Kosovo counterpart Hashim Thaçi, November 3, 2010
Erdoğan participated in the ceremony held on the occasion of Victory Day, August 30, 2014
  • 29 January 2004: Profile of Courage Award from the American Jewish Congress, for promoting peace between cultures.[291] Returned at the request of the A.J.C. in July 2014.[292]
  • 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.[293]
  • 13 June 2004: Golden Plate award from the Academy of Achievement during the conference in Chicago.[294]
  • 3 October 2004: German Quadriga prize for improving relationships between different cultures.[295]
  • 1 December 2004: named European of the Year by the weekly European Voice, for having put Turkey on the path to reform.[296]
  • 2 September 2005: Mediterranean Award for Institutions (Italian: Premio Mediterraneo Istituzioni). This was awarded by the Fondazione Mediterraneo.[297]
  • 1 June 2006: Russian state medal from the President of the Russian Federation Vladimir Putin.[298]
  • 8 August 2006: Caspian Energy Integration Award from the Caspian Integration Business Club.[299]
  • 1 November 2006: Outstanding Service award from the Turkish humanitarian organization Red Crescent.[300]
  • 2 February 2007: Dialogue Between Cultures Award from the President of Tatarstan Mintimer Shaimiev.[301]
  • 12 March 2007: together with Spanish Prime Minister Zapatero, the 2007 RUMI Peace and Dialogue award.[302]
  • 15 April 2007: Crystal Hermes Award from the German Chancellor Angela Merkel at the opening of the Hannover Industrial Fair.[303]
  • 14 June 2007: Turkish Leader of the Year Award from the mediagroup Imedya.[304]
  • 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.[305]
  • 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.[306]
  • 11 May 2009: Avicenna award from the Avicenna Foundation in Frankfurt, Germany.[307]
  • 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.[308]
  • 25 June 2009: Key to the City of Tirana on the occasion of his state visit to Albania.[309]
  • 26 October 2009: Nishan-e-Pakistan, the highest civilian award in Pakistan.[310]
  • 29 December 2009: Award for Contribution to World Peace from the Turgut Özal Thought and Move Association.[311]
  • 12 January 2010: King Faisal International Prize for "service to Islam" from the King Faisal Foundation.[312]
  • 23 February 2010: Nodo Culture Award from the mayor of Seville for his efforts to launch the Alliance of Civilizations initiative.[313]
  • 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."[43]
  • 29 April 2010: listed for the second time in Time magazine's "100 most influential people in the world".[314]
  • 17 May 2010: Georgia's Order of Golden Fleece for his contribution to development of bilateral relations.[315]
  • 27 May 2010: medal of honor from the Brazilian Federation of Industry for the State of São Paulo (FIESP) for his contributions to industry[316]
  • 31 May 2010: World Health Organization 2010 World No Tobacco Award for "his dedicated leadership on tobacco control in Turkey."[317]
  • 29 June 2010: 2010 World Family Award from the World Family Organization which operates under the umbrella of the United Nations.[318]
  • 4 November 2010: Golden Medal of Independence, an award conferred upon Kosovo citizens and foreigners that have contributed to the independence of Kosovo.[319]
  • 25 November 2010: "Leader of the Year" award presented by the Union of Arab Banks in Lebanon.[320]
  • 29 November 2010: guest of honor at the 3rd EU-Africa Summit in Libya and Al-Gaddafi International Prize for Human Rights.[321]
  • 11 January 2011: "Outstanding Personality in the Islamic World Award" of the Sheikh Fahad al-Ahmad International Award for Charity in Kuwait.[321]
  • 2 February 2011: Kyrgyzstan's Danaker Order in Bishkek.[322]
  • 25 October 2011: Palestinian International Award for Excellence and Creativity (PIA) 2011 for his support to the Palestinian people and cause.[323]
  • 21 January 2012: ’Gold Statue 2012 Special Award’ by the Polish Business Center Club (BCC). Erdoğan was awarded for his systematic effort to clear barriers on the way to economic growth, striving to build democracy and free market relations.[324]

Honorary doctorates[edit]

Honorary citizenship[edit]


  1. ^ loosely pronounced rə-JEP tah-YIP ARR-daw-ahn


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