Recep Tayyip Erdoğan (b. February 26, 1954 in Rize, Turkey) has served as the Prime Minister of Turkey since March 14, 2003. He is the chief of the Justice and Development Party (Adalet ve Kalkınma Partisi, or AKP). He married Emine Erdoğan (née Gülbaran) (b. 1955 in Siirt) on 4 July, 1978 and they have two sons (Ahmet Burak, Necmeddin Bilâl) and two daughters (Esra, Sümeyye). He is one of the major representative of the moderate Islamist movement in Turkey.
As mayor of Istanbul, Erdogan renamed tram cars with his initials (RTE) and bought a ferry named "Recep Tayyip Erdogan". These vheicles are still in use today.
Erdogan also allowed growing of unlicenced houses resulting in massive ghetto -favela- areas surrounding the town. These poor people were the voting machines of his later success.
In 1997, the Welfare Party was declared unconstitutional and was shut down on the grounds of threatening the secular nature of the state. In 1998, Erdoğan become a constant speaker at the demonstrations held by his colleagues from the banned Welfare Party. Secularism in Turkey has been taken very seriously since the establishment of the state with Kemalist ideology as its guiding principle. In line with the Atatürk's Reforms, the Constitution of Turkey states that laïcité, social equality, and equality before law are the main and unchangeable characteristics of Turkey. Kemalist ideology also adopted the position of "public reason", which claimed that activities falling outside of the private sphere should be secular and no religious group should be given permission to dominate over other belief systems. Any activity or promotion of domination over other belief systems are felt to fall under the somewhat controversial concept of "incitement to religious hatred", which has been part of the Turkish constitution since its establishment. The "religious hatred" concept has been used against the movements that promoted the reestablishment of the abolished Ottoman Caliphate and Islamic fundamentalist positions. There is no question that Erdoğan is pro-Islamic (he calls himself a religious conservative) but the extent of his position towards the fundamentally secular nature of the state was called into question on 12 December, 1997 at a public meeting in Siirt in Eastern Anatolia. In his speech, Erdoğan identified Turkish society as having "two fundamentally different camps" – those who blindly follow the Atatürk's Reforms [seculars] and the Muslims who unite Islam with Sharia. He publicly read a well-known Islamic poem including modified lines:
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Erdoğan was tried and convicted of inciting "religious hatred" in 1998. He was sentenced to ten months' imprisonment of which he served four between March and July 1999.
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. They claimed Erdoğan wanted to fill the vacant posts with its own Islamic-minded appointees which through this policy Erdoğan was accused of creating a rift with the Turkey's highest court of appeals (the Yargitay) and high administrative court (the Danıştay). Erdoğan claimed that the constitution gave the power of assigning members to his elected party. Erdoğan hold the position that there is nothing wrong with their policy-making regarding the positions in the judiciary, as himself a graduate of the İmam Hatip school said: "sees no wrong in the appointment of tens of thousands of Koranic school graduates who already became judges as higher court judges".
On May 2007, the head of the top court in Turkey has asked prosecutors to consider whether Erdoğan should be charged over critical comments regarding the 2007 Presidential elections. 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.
Concerning birth control, Erdoğan had said that he personally did not practice it and was against it because the future required a dynamic young population.
Erdoğan does not drink alcohol and as the mayor of Istanbul, he had restricted use of alcohol in public restaurants. During his premiership he did not bring forward a nationwide law to restrict the use of alcohol. He did however, progressively increase the taxes imposed on tobacco and alcohol during his tenure out of line with other consumer products, under the name "special consumption tax" (özel tüketim vergisi). This move led to reduced consumption of alcohol and tobacco products in Turkey.
In relation to social policies, Erdoğan frequently paid lip service to the argument that Turkish Social Security is strong but that he wants the same social service treatment that he once had the chance to observe in Germany. On April 2006, Erdoğan unveiled a social security reform package demanded by the International Monetary Fund under a loan deal. Erdoğan claimed that the move, which was passed with fierce opposition, was the 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 below the age of 18 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 eventually increase to 65 as of 2048 for both women and men.
Erdoğan was investigated by Turkish prosecutors for allegedly using the word 'Mister' (Sayın) when referring to the convicted former PKK leader Abdullah Öcalan in a 2000 interview with SBS Radio. However, in April 2007, the prosecutors decided not to open a case against him, saying they found "no element of criminal offence" in the interview. The PKK is a militant group listed as a terrorist organization internationally by a number of states and organizations, including the U.S., NATO, and the EU.
Erdoğan has appointed liberal Muslim theologians to the Department of Religious Affairs. He has promised to crush the country's Islamic militants. Radical Muslim groups are considered a threat to the secular political establishment. Erdoğan had passed several reforms such as: giving the EU Court of Human Rights supremacy over Turkish courts, diminishing the powers of the 1991 Anti-Terror Law which had constrained Turkey’s democratization, and passing a partial amnesty to reduce penalties faced by many members of the Kurdish terrorist organization PKK who had surrendered to the government.
Erdogan used EU to prevent a possible Army coup; he never actually committed to the reforms required by the EU.
Early parliamentary elections were called after the failure of the parties in parliament to agree on the next Turkish president. At the same time, Erdoğan claimed the failure to select a president is a failure of the Turkish political system and proposed to change the constitution. The redesign of the position of presidency, moving away from a position that balances powers in the parliament is faced with reaction from the other parties. The final decision will be decided in the Turkish constitutional referendum, 2007.
Erdoğan called for early general elections. The stage of the elections was set for a fight for legitimacy in the eyes of voters between his government, which has its roots in political Islam, and the country’s secularist movement. Erdoğan used the events at "2007 Presidency elections" as a part of the general election campaign of his party. In the night of July 22, it became obvious that AKP had won an important victory over the opposition, garnering over 46 percent of the popular vote. July 22 elections were only the second time in Turkish Republic's 74-year history whereby an incumbent governing party won an election by increasing its share of popular support.