April 20, 2024

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Türkiye’s Elections: How Erdoğan Reshaped Turkey Over the Decades

Sunday’s elections in Turkey may decide the political future of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan – a leader whose decades in power have reshaped Turkish politics and its role in world affairs.

First as prime minister and then as president, Erdogan has faced moments of uncertainty (he survived an attempted coup in 2016). Over time, though, he moved toward one-man rule, consolidating his power and capitalizing on Turkey’s international influence.

A polarizing figure, Sunday will face the most competitive election of his career. He has presided over soaring inflation, and in recent months his government has come under fire for its response to earthquakes that left more than 50,000 dead in Turkey earlier this year.

While in office, he tightened restrictions on speech and expression, and under his government the judiciary imprisoned or charged dissidents. Opposition leader Kemal Kilicdaroglu, his most prominent rival, promised an alternative: “Nothing will ever happen to you because you criticize me.”

Here are some files Key points in Erdogan’s career as a civil servant and player on the world stage, trace his path from the famous mayor of Istanbul to the firm one-man rule.

1994: Erdogan, already involved in local politics, is running for mayor of Istanbul, winning about 25 percent of the vote as a member of the Welfare Party. As mayor, Erdogan is focused on modernizing public goods and services – including through privatization. Among his constituency: rural-urban immigrants looking for an alternative to the entrenched secular establishment.

1997: Erdogan is being accused of inciting religious hatred after he recited a passage from a poem – which includes hardline religious imagery: “Minarets are our bayonets” – that contradicts Turkey’s laws of secularism. As a social conservative from an Islamic political tradition, he seeks to gain more political representation for religious Muslims.

1998: Erdoğan was forced to resign as mayor, serving a four-month prison sentence in early 1999, due to the recitation. Imprisonment only raises his image.

2001: Erdogan founds the Justice and Development Party. He and his allies calculated that an overtly Islamist party would not win power in Turkey in the early 2000s. The AKP positions itself as conservative and respectful of Islamic traditions. Erdogan said: “I am a Muslim” Time Magazine in 2002. “But I believe in the secular state.”

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2003: Erdogan became prime minister after his party won power in parliament, and made some legal changes to allow him to serve despite his imprisonment. In this role, and in the context of Turkey’s quest for European Union membership, Erdogan’s government is seeking reforms, including radical changes to the penal code, more money for spending on education, as well as laws that expand freedom of expression and religion. This comes alongside a more conservative agenda, including attempts to restrict the sale of alcohol, which Erdogan has also pursued as Istanbul mayor.

2009: President Barack Obama chose Türkiye as the destination for his first foreign bilateral diplomatic trip. His visit underscores Turkey’s vision of charting a course for a form of Islamism acceptable to the West that appears linked to EU membership. Obama said in comments To a student round table during that visit, during which he mentioned that he had “productive” talks with Erdogan.

200os: The EU accession talks, which began in 2005, have stalled in late periods, with many world leaders expressing frustration about the pace of negotiations.

2010: Regionally, Erdogan is receiving praise for his leadership of Turkey throughout the Arab Spring, when uprisings rocked the Arab world, according to the Brookings Institution. Arab public opinion poll 2011. Of the 3,000 survey respondents in Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Morocco and the United Arab Emirates, “Turkey is seen as having played the ‘most constructive’ role in Arab events,” a Brookings Institution writing of the survey’s findings states. Among the respondents, the book says Those who envision a new president for Egypt want the new president to look like Erdogan.

Around the same time, in late 2010, Erdogan and the AKP won a constitutional referendum that would limit the military’s power and turn presidential elections into a national rather than a parliamentary vote.

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2013: Massive anti-government protests, sparked by public opposition to a construction project backed by Erdogan, are taking place in Istanbul Gezi Park, marks a turning point in Erdogan’s political path. Activists launched a sit-in, and the ensuing police response gave rise to a broader movement, and thus an even wider crackdown.

In the same year, a sweeping corruption scandal implicated members of the AKP in cases of bribery, money laundering and fraud, which led to the resignations of several politicians, including members of Erdogan’s government. Audio recordings leaked through social media appear to depict Erdoğan Discuss bribes with his son. Erdogan dismissed the recordings as fabrications and part of an international plot to remove him from power.

2014: Erdoğan rose to the presidency, winning Turkey’s first presidential election based on a national vote.

2016: In March, Erdogan reached an agreement with the European Union, amid a regional migration crisis, that would allow people fleeing the West to return to Turkey. The Washington Post reported at the time that the deal “turns Turkey into a refugee camp in the region and leaves untold thousands stranded in a country with a deteriorating human rights record.”

After the failed military coup attempt on July 15, which plunged the country into brief but violent chaos, Erdogan consolidated his power. He oversees a crackdown on independent and critical journalism. (The New York-based Journalists’ Project Committee selected Türkiye as one of the The chief jailers of journalists.) Erdogan has begun a series of purges, expelling thousands, including former allies, from politics, academia, the judiciary and the military, along with expelling foreign NGOs from the country. The purges target many followers of exiled cleric Fethullah Gulen, a former ally of Erdogan.

2017: Voters approve a slate of constitutional reforms put forward by Erdogan, which change the form of Turkish government, abolish the position of prime minister, and give power to a chief executive. The following year, Erdoğan was re-elected president, with much more power given to him than he had in 2014.

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After becoming president, Erdoğan restricted social media platforms and websites including Twitter, YouTube and Wikipedia, and drastically curtailed independent media through arrests and purges, while supporting tightly controlled pro-government outlets. Regarding Turkey’s moves towards joining the European Union, European Council President Charles Michel goes on to say that the country’s government often takes “one step in the right direction and then two steps in the wrong direction.”

2018: Following the killing of Jamal Khashoggi, a Washington Post reporter, in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, of which Turkish officials obtained audio recordings, Erdogan. It seems to pay For more distant relations between Riyadh and Washington. Where is Khashoggi’s body? … Who gave the order to kill this good soul? Unfortunately, the Saudi authorities refused to answer these questions.

2019: For the first time since the party’s formation, an AKP candidate loses the Istanbul mayoral elections. The position is held by Ekrem Imamoglu, a member of the opposition Republican People’s Party. Imamoglu, a popular mayor with presidential prospects, was sentenced to prison for “insulting public figures” in 2022, undermining his chances of standing against Erdogan in the 2023 presidential election and casting doubt on Erdogan’s willingness to allow fair elections.

In October, Turkey launched an offensive against US-allied Kurdish forces in northern Syria. The move puts NATO powers at odds over the fight against the Islamic State.

2021-2022: In the midst of the Russian war in Ukraine, Erdogan took advantage of Turkey’s status as a NATO member with ties to Russia to position himself as a mediator. In 2022, Turkey and the United Nations facilitate an agreement between Russia and Ukraine to restore commercial shipments of grain that Russia has blocked in the Black Sea, in return for easing restrictions on some Russian exports. He supports Sweden’s bid to join NATO, saying the country harbors “terrorists” hostile to Turkey’s national security.