Recep Tayyip Erdoğan (IPA: [ɾeˈdʒep tajˈjip ˈeɾdoɰan]; born February 26, 1954) is the Prime Minister of the Republic of Turkey and a former mayor of Istanbul. He is also the chairman of the Justice and Development Party (AK Parti), which holds a majority of the seats in the Grand National Assembly of Turkey.
Erdoğan graduated in 1981 from Marmara University's Faculty of Economics and Commercial Sciences. He was involved in politics from the age of eighteen. Erdoğan was also engaged in the sport as a semi-professional football player from 1969 to 1982.
Erdoğan was elected Mayor of Istanbul in the local elections of March 27, 1994. He was banned from office and sentenced to a prison term because of a poem he recited during a public address in the province of Siirt on December 12, 1997. The poem was quoted from a book published by a state enterprise and one that had been recommended to teachers by theMinistry of Education. After four months in prison, Erdoğan established the Justice and Development Party (AK Party) on August 14, 2001. From its first year, the AK Party became the largest publicly-supported political movement in Turkey. In 2002, the general elections resulted with the AK Party winning two-thirds of the seats in parliament, forming asingle-party government after 19 years.
As prime minister, Erdoğan implemented numerous reforms within a period of time. After 45 years, the negotiations for Turkey's accession to the EU started during Erdoğan's tenure. Parallel to this, inflation, which had for decades adversely affected the country's economy, was taken under control and the Turkish Lira retrieved its former prestige through the elimination of six zeros. Interest rates for public borrowings were pulled down; per capita income grew significantly. The AK party won the elections of 2007 making it the first time in 52 years that a party in power has increased its votes for a second term.
Erdoğan has also been the target of much criticism. After his 8 years of tenure, there is a still widespread fear among secular Turks and many Western politics watchers about a possible deviation from the secular nature of the Republic. He has also been criticised for becoming aloof and arrogant, and his AK Party featuring favoritism, corruption and partisanism, as it increased its votes. Critics also claim that Erdoğan's confidence has curled into the sort of authoritarianism that, left unchecked, might transform Turkey into another Russia. In particular, the pressure on media is mounting. Having tamed Turkey's largest media conglomerate, Doğan Media, with massive fines for alleged tax fraud, the government is now taking aim at other dissident voices.
Main article: Early life and career of Recep Tayyip Erdoğan
Erdoğan was born in the Kasımpaşa neighborhood of Istanbul to a family that moved from Rize Province. When he visited Georgia on August 11, 2004, he said I'm a Georgian too, my family is Georgian family, migrated from Batumi to Rize. But retired high school teacher and historian Cezmi Yurtsever claims that his family descends from the family of Bagatlı Recep, a large Muslim Turkish family that was settled around Trabzon after Mehmed II's conquest of the city. "Bagatlı Recep" (meaning Recep from Bagat), died in 1916 fighting against the invading Russian and Armenian forces.
Erdoğan spent his early childhood in Rize, where his father was a member of the Turkish Coast Guard. The family returned to Istanbul when Erdoğan was 13 years old. As a teenager, he sold lemonade and sesame buns (simit) on the streets of Istanbul's rougher districts to earn extra money. Brought up in a observant Muslim family, he graduated from Kasımpaşa Piyale Elementary School in 1965 and from Istanbul Religious Vocational High School in 1973 (İmam Hatip school). Erdoğan received his high school diploma from Eyüp High School. He then studied Business Administration at Aksaray School of Economics and Commercial Sciences (now it is known as Marmara University's Faculty of Economics and Administrative Sciences).
In his youth, Erdoğan played semi-professional football in a local club. The stadium of the local football club of the district he grew up in, Kasımpaşa S.K., a team which is currently playing in the Turkish Süper Lig, is named after him.
Recep Tayyip Erdoğan married Emine Erdoğan (née Gülbaran) (b. 1955 in Siirt), whom he met during a conference, on 4 July 1978. The couple has two sons (Ahmet Burak, Necmeddin Bilâl) and two daughters (Esra, Sümeyye). Erdoğan gave a speech in New York on 19 December 2006 in which he talked mainly about the good relations between citizens of Turkey who come from different backgrounds by giving an example from his own life. Erdoğan's first grandson was born in 2006.
While studying business administration at what is today Marmara University’s Faculty of Economics and Administrative Sciences and playing semi-professional football, Erdoğan also engaged in politics by joining the National Turkish Student Union, an anti-communist action group. In 1976, he became the head of a local youth branch of the Islamist National Salvation Party (MSP).
Mayor of Istanbul, 1994-1998
In the local elections of March 27, 1994 Erdoğan was elected Mayor of Istanbul, one of the biggest metropolitan areas of the world. He received 25.19% of the popular vote. Many feared that he would impose Islamic law. However, he proved to be very pragmatic in office. Erdoğan tackled many chronic problems of Istanbul, such 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 thepublic buses with environmentally friendly buses. The city's traffic and transportation jams were ameliorated with more than fifty bridges, viaducts, and highways. Erdoğan also prohibited the sale of alcohol in city services. After a period, this measure was reversed. While taking precautions to prevent corruption, Erdoğan took measures to ensure that municipal funds were used prudently. Erdoğan 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.
Erdoğan initiated the first roundtable of mayors during the Istanbul conference, which led to a global, organized movement of mayors. Because of his works, a seven member international jury from the United Nations unanimously found Erdoğan deserving the UN-HABITATaward.
Before his conviction, the Welfare Party was declared unconstitutional and shut down by the Turkish constitutional court on the grounds of threatening the Kemalist nature of Turkey. Erdogan became a constant speaker at the demonstrations held by his party colleagues.
He was given a prison sentence after he had read poetry regarded as a violation of Kemalism by judges. It included verses translated as "The mosques are our barracks, the domes our helmets, the minarets our bayonets and the faithful our soldiers...."
The poem was quoted from a book published by a state enterprise and one that had been recommended to teachers by the Ministry of Education.
In 2001, Erdoğan established the moderate Justice and Development Party with former Fazilet Partisi and Anavatan Partisi members. The AK Party won a landslide victory in the 2002 election, taking two-thirds of the seats. However, Erdoğan could not became prime minister right away, as he was still banned from politics by the judiciary for his speech in Siirt, and deputy leader 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 February 9, 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.
Erdoğan's pro-EU government instituted several democratic reforms. He gave the European Court of Human Rights supremacy over Turkish courts, reduced the powers of the 1991 Anti-Terror Law which had constrained Turkey’s democratization, and abolished many restrictions on freedom of speech and the press. He also passed a partial amnesty to reduce penalties faced by many members of the Kurdish terrorist organization PKK who had surrendered to the government.
The government planned several times to replace the Turkish Constitution of 1982 with a so-called more democratic "civil constitution", but the main opposition party CHP did not want to participate.
In 2009, the Turkish government under Prime Minister Erdoğan announced a plan to help end the quarter-century-long 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.
Such measures, many of which have been required for entry to the European Union, were inconceivable in the early 1980s, when aggressive state policies prohibited use of the Kurdish language and other cultural and political rights for the Kurds.
“We took a courageous step to resolve chronic issues that constitute an obstacle along Turkey’s development, progression and empowerment.” Erdoğan said regarding the issue.
Public debt as percentage of GDP of the six largest European economies.
In 2002, Erdoğan inherited a Turkish economy deep in recession due to the financial crisis during the coalition government under the leadership of Ecevit. Erdoğan supported Finance Minister Ali Babacan in enforcing macro-economic policies. Erdogan tried to attract more foreign investors to Turkey and lifted most of government regulations, with the average GDPgrowth rate 7.3% during his premiership as he presided over a record 26 quarters of economic growth.
Since 1961 Turkey has begun 19 IMF loan accords. Erdogan'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.  Erdoğan inherited a debt of $23.5 billion to the IMF, which has been reduced to $6.1 billion in 2010. He decided not to sign a new deal. Turkey’s debt to the IMF will be completely paid off in 2013. In 2010, Five-year credit default swaps for Turkey's sovereign debt were trading at a record low of 1.17 percentage points, below those of nine EU member countries and Russia. Unemployment rate decreased from 10.3% to 9.7% in 2007. Along with the global economic crisis of 2008, Turkey’s unemployment rate jumped to a record high of 16.1 percent in the January–March period of 2009. In the April–June period of 2010, the unemployment decreased again to 11.0%, compared to 10,0% in the eurozone.
In 2002, the Turkish Central Bank had $26.5 billion in reserves. This amount reached $72.5 billion in 2009. In the same period, inflation fell from 34,9% to 5,7%, the lowest in 39 years.  The public debt as percentage of annual gross domestic product declined from 74% in 2002 to 39% in 2009.
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.
In May 2007, the head of the high court in Turkey asked prosecutors to consider whether Erdoğan should be charged over critical comments regarding the election of Abdullah Gul as president. Erdoğan said the ruling was "a disgrace to the justice system", and criticized theConstitutional 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. 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.
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 men and women. 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.
On January 2008, the Turkish Parliament adopted a law on a complete prohibition of smoking in most public places. The Prime Minister himself is an outspoken anti-smoker.
In 2008 Erdogan commented that to ensure that the Turkish population remains young, every family would need to have at least three children. He has numerous times repeated this statement. His pro-natalist statement caused irritation for many women, especially the feminist organizations in Turkey, where they have reminded that he had also previously said "I do not believe that women and men are equal" in Dolmabahçe.
Main article: Foreign policy of the Recep Tayyip Erdoğan government
Map of international trips made by Recep Tayyip Erdogan as prime minister.
Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva in Brazil, May 27, 2010.
Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and Dmitry Medvedev at the G-20 summit in Pittsburgh, Sep. 26, 2009.
Erdoğan was named by the European Voice Organization "The European of the Year 2004" for the reforms in his country. Erdoğan said in a comment that "Turkey's accession shows that Europe is a continent where civilisations reconcile and not clash." 
On 3 October 2005, the negotiations for Turkey's accession to the EU formally started during Erdoğan's tenure as Prime Minister.
Erdoğan is the co-founder of the Alliance of Civilizations. The AoC is an initiative proposed by the President 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 againstextremism through the forging of international, intercultural and interreligious dialogue and cooperation.
Greece and Cyprus
During Erdoğan's Prime Ministership, relations with Greece have been normalized. Political and economic relations are much improved. In 2007, Prime Minister 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.
Turkey and Greece signed an agreement to create a Combined Joint Operational Unit within the framework of NATO to participate in Peace Support Operations.
Under Recep Tayyip Erdoğan's Prime Ministry, 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.
Turkish government also warmed up relations with Iraqi Kurdistan by opening a Turkish university in Arbil, and a Turkish consulate in Mosul. Abdullah Gül became the first Turkish head of state to visit Iraq in 33 years, on March 23, 2009.
Erdoğan describes Israel as "the main threat to regional peace" and has called for Israel's nuclear facilities to come under IAEAinspection. Erdoğan accuses Israel of turning Gaza into an "open-air prison".
Erdoğan walks out of the session at the World Economic Forum in 2009, vows never to return.
At the 2009 World Economic Forum conference, the debate became heated in relation to the Gaza conflict. The Israeli President Shimon Peres was under attack by Erdogan (sitting beside him) over the handling of the conflict with Erdogan proclaiming "You are killing people," to which Peres responded with finger pointing and strong language, proclaiming that Erdogan would have done the same if rockets had been hitting Istanbul. Peres added a more personal comment that Erdogan does not understand the situation, which causes him to spread lies. Erdogan left the panel, accusing the moderator of giving Peres more time than all the other panelists combined. He has received a hero's welcome upon his return to Istanbul with 5,000 supporters waving Turkish and Palestinian flags welcoming him at Istanbul's airport.
Following the Gaza flotilla raid, tension between the two countries dramatically mounted, when Erdogan strongly condemned the raid, describing it as "state terrorism", calling for Israeli leaders responsible to be punished, and concluding his speech by saying that "we are sick of [Israel's] lies".
For centuries, Turkey and Russia have been rivals for regional supremacy. With the rise of the Erdoğan government, the two countries have realised that friendly relations are in the interest of them both. Accordingly, co-operation rather than rivalry appears to dominate the ties.
In 2002, trade between Turkey and Russia was worth some $5 billion. By the end of 2010, this figure reached almost $30 billion.
In December 2004, President Putin visited Turkey. This was the first Presidential visit in the history of Turkish-Russian relations besides that of the Chairman of the Presidium, 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.
President Medvedev described Turkey as “one of our most important partners with respect to regional and international issues.” He continued “We can confidently say that Russian-Turkish relations have advanced to the level of a multidimensional strategic partnership.”
On May 12, 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.
During Erdoğan's term of office, the diplomatic relations between Turkey and Syria have significantly improved. In 2004, President Bashar al-Assad arrived in Turkey for the first official visit by a Syrian President in 57 years. In late 2004, Turkish Prime Minister Erdoğan signed a free trade agreement with Syria. The visa restrictions between the two countries have been lifted in 2009, which caused an economic boom in the regions near the Syrian border.
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 Christiannation, 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."
The elections of 2002 were the first elections in which Erdogan 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 seven percent on Monday morning. Politicians of the previous generation, such as Ecevit, Bahceli, Yılmaz and Çiller, declared to resign from their role as political leader. The second biggest party CHP received 19.4% of the votes.
The stage of the elections of 2007 was set for a fight for legitimacy in the eyes of voters between his government and the country’s kemalist opposition. Erdoğan used the events at that took place during the ill-fated Presidential elections a few months earlier as a part of the general election campaign of his party. In the night of 22 July 2007, it became obvious that AK Party had won an important victory over the opposition, garnering 46.7 percent of the popular vote. July 22 elections were 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.
On 14 March 2008, Turkey's Chief Prosecutor asked the country's Constitutional Court to ban Erdoğan's governing party. The party later escaped a ban on 30 July 2008, a year after winning 46.7 percent of the vote in national elections, only receiving a removal of 50% share of their public granted funds.
Main article: Turkish presidential election, 2007
On April 14, 2007, an estimated 300,000 people marched in Ankara to protest the possible candidacy of Erdoğan in the 2007 presidential election, afraid that if elected as President, he would alter the secular nature of the Turkish state. Erdoğan announced on April 24, 2007 that the party had decided to nominate Abdullah Gül as the AK Party candidate in the presidential election. The protests continued over the next several weeks, with over one million reported at an April 29 rally in Istanbul, tens of thousands reported at separate protests on May 4 in Manisa and Çanakkale, and one million in İzmir on May 13. 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.
Abdullah 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 percent of the vote. Later in 2007, Turkish constitutional referendum approved with the support of 69% of the voters to modify the constitution to allow the people to elect the President.
In the local elections of 1994 Recep Tayyip 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 Erdogan, it has received more votes in the 2004 local elections. The AK party was the biggest party in 12 out of 16 metropolitan municipality.
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 votes and lost 3 points compared to the local elections of 2004. The second party CHP received 23% of the votes and the third party MHP received 16% of the votes.
After the opposition parties deadlocked the 2007 presidential election by boycotting the parliament, the ruling AK party proposed a constitutional reform package. The reform package was first vetoed by president Sezer. Then he applied to the Turkish constituonal court about the reform package, because the president is unable to veto amendments for the second time. The Turkish constituonal court did not find any problems in the packet and 68.95% of the voters supported the constitutional changes. 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 issues of the AK Party during the 2007 election campaign. The main opposition party CHP was not interested to alter the Constitution on a big scale, making it impossible to vorm a Constitutional Commission (Anayasa Uzlaşma Komisyonu). 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 includes 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 possibility of civilian courts to convict members of the military, the right for public servants to go on strike, a privacy law, and the structure of the Constitutional Court. The referendum was agreed by a majority of 58%.
§ On March 12, 2007, Erdoğan received together with the Spanish prime minister Zapatero the 2007 RUMI Peace and Dialogue award.
§ On June 14, 2007, Erdoğan received the Turkish Leader of the Year Award from the mediagroup Imedya.
§ On July 11, 2007, Erdoğan received the highest award of the UN Food and Agriculture Organization, the Agricola Medal, in recognition of his contribution to agricultural and social development in Turkey.
§ On January 15, 2008, Erdoğan received together with the 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.
§ On March 1, 2010, Erdoğan won the 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.”
§ On April 29, 2010, Erdoğan was listed for the second time in Time magazine's "100 most influential people in the world".
§ On June 29, 2010, Erdoğan received the 2010 World Family Award from the World Family Organization which operates under the umbrella of the United Nations.
§ On November 4, 2010, Erdoğan received the Golden Medal of Independence, an award conferred upon Kosovo citizens and foreigners that have contributed to the independence of Kosovo.
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§ Erdoğan's personal website (Turkish)