Turkey profile - Leaders

  • 10 August 2016
  • From the section Europe

President: Recep Tayyip Erdogan

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Image caption Mr Erdogan has long been keen to establish a powerful executive presidency

Recep Tayyip Erdogan was sworn in as president in August 2014, cementing his position as Turkey's most powerful leader.

His victory in Turkey's first popular presidential election capped 12 years as prime minister in which the economy tripled in dollar terms, while fuelling fears of growing authoritarianism.

Turkey is a parliamentary republic and the presidency largely ceremonial, so Mr Erdogan announced plans to amend the constitution to establish an executive presidency if his Islamist AK Party won a large majority in the June 2015 elections.

Critics warn that this would concentrate too much power in the hands of a leader with autocratic instincts, and lead the EU-candidate country ever further from the secular ideals of the republic's founder Mustafa Kemal Ataturk.

A strong showing by the new, pro-Kurdish left-wing People's Democratic Party (HDP), deprived the AK of its parliamentary majority and checked Mr Erdogan's ambitions, at least for the time being.

The AKP regained its majority in snap elections in November, after Mr Erdogan declared efforts to form a coalition had failed, but still did not muster enough seats to authorise a referendum on changing the constitution.

The resignation of Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu in 2016 was seen as strengthening Mr Erdogan's control over Turkish politics even further.


Mr Erdogan became prime minister in 2003. He brought economic and political stability to Turkey and faced down the country's powerful military establishment, which previously tended to overthrow elected governments it suspected of challenging the secular constitution or national security.

In the summer of 2013 Mr Erdogan briefly looked under pressure for the first time as mass anti-government protests erupted in several cities, further inflamed by the violent police response.

Later that year, the government was hit by a police inquiry into alleged corruption among the prime minister's allies, but this did not stop Mr Erdogan from winning both local and presidential elections in 2014.

The corruption probes unleashed a fierce power struggle between Mr Erdogan and his erstwhile ally, the influential US-based Islamic preacher Fethullah Gulen.

Mr Erdogan accused Mr Gulen of running a "state within a state", and of seeking to use his allies in the police and judiciary to bring about the downfall of the president - charges that the cleric denies.

An Istanbul court accused Mr Gulen of complicity in the failed July 2016 coup, and demanded that he be extradited from the United States.

Another substantial setback to stability was the resumption of military operations against the Kurdish PKK armed separatist group in mid-2015.

This ended a truce that had been in place since 2013, and which had previously been trumpeted as a landmark success for Mr Erdogan's strategy of steady military pressure paired with negotiations.

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