Turkey: President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan


In 1983 Recep Tayyip Erdogan joined the Welfare Party, beginning his adult political career.  In 1994 Erdogan was elected mayor of Istanbul; however, he was removed and jailed for inciting religious violence after reciting a poem that contained imagery glorifying Muslim violence.  In 2001 Erdogan founded the Justice and Development Party (AKP).  He went on to become Prime Minister in 2003. Throughout his first term as Prime Minister Erdogan focused on salvaging Turkey’s economy.  Erdogan began by reigning in the inflation that had ballooned to over 100% in the 1990s, and slashing six zeros off Turkey’s currency to restore its credit. Once Erdogan had restored the economy to its feet he focused on attracting new foreign investment, eventually establishing an annual growth rate of 4.5% and raising per capita income.  Although Erdogan has faced some criticism over his three terms as Prime Minister for apparent power grabs, he did make strides toward increasing democracy and transparency and decreasing endemic corruption.  Some even called his tenure Turkey’s Silent Revolution. He has retained strong support due to his hand in Turkey’s economic growth.

Due to constitutional limits Erdogan could not run for a fourth term; however, in 2014, Erdogan ran for and won the presidency.  Traditionally a mostly symbolic role, Erdogan made it clear that he intended to create a more muscular presidential role.  Securing the Turkish economy has remained an important priority throughout Erdogan’s presidency.  He has also strongly pushed for Turkey’s acceptance as a new member of the European Union and has made clear his intention to make Turkey a regional leader and global player.  In that light, Erdogan has condemned Israel’s treatment of Palestinians and sent Turkish troops to back Syria’s plight against Assad.  Domestically, Erdogan has implemented notably liberal reforms, including ending requirements for women to wear headscarves in public, a requirement that had been held for decades.  

Last year in Hamburg, there was controversy between Erdogan and Germany, as Erdogan wanted to address protestors outside of the summit, but was banned to do so by the German government in an efforts to keep ties between Germany and Turkey from further eroding. Erdogan has cited interest rates as the source of Turkey’s economic struggle, which he called “the mother of all evil.” He has stated continuously that high interest rates increase inflation. His economic policy has largely surrounded this principle, as he has held down interest rates. Many have deemed him to be a pragmatist, seeking stability primarily. With the upcoming G20 Summit, which has historically been focused on how to ensure stable economies globally, it is likely this will continue to be a goal and central point of discussions for Erdogan.

“If you’re the leader, you have to communicate the message of immortality to your people. Because I believe if a leader hides behind a rock, then the people will hide behind a mountain.”

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