Tuesday, February 8, 2011


Prime Minister of the Republic of Turkey

Since 2003, Erdogan has been the Prime Minister of one of the most populous and economically developed Muslim-majority countries in the world. Although Turkey has been run according to the ideals of secularism since the end of the Ottoman Empire, the populace is predominantly religious, and primarily Muslim.

Erdogan is also the chairman of the ruling AK Party (Adalet ve Kalkınma Partisi, the Justice and Development Party) though he has announced this year the concession of his parliamentary seat in 2015. The AK Party’s official ideology is ‘conservative democracy’; an attempt to create a Muslim democracy in an aggressively secular country.

A Popular Reformist

The political power that Erdogan now has is in part due to the AK Party’s ability to institute political reforms; both to produce major economic growth and also to enfranchise religious Muslim voters. Erdogan has recently called for more transparency in military operations by abolishing The Protocol on Cooperation for Security and Public Order (EMASYA), which was enacted in 1997. Despite his party’s Islamic orientation, Erdogan has put increased emphasis on Turkey’s accession to the EU- both in Ankara and Brussels. In fact, the stress on EU accession is partially due to his party’s Islamic orientation, as accession to the EU requires further religious freedom reforms that are sought by Turkey’s Muslim population. Erdogan is also leading groundbreaking initiatives to ensure the rights of Turkey’s Kurdish population, and its religious minorities - most recently calling for the establishment of an independent anti-discrimination commission, and the launch of a state-run Kurdish language television channel.

A Mediator

Erdogan insists on a role for Turkey as a mediator and bridge between cultures and civilizations. The Alliance of Civilizations initiative of the United Nations - that Erdogan established with the Spanish president, Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero - has become a key forum for international, intercultural, and interreligious dialogue and cooperation.

Outspoken on Gaza

Erdogan is hailed for his strong opposition toward the Israeli blockade of the Gaza Strip. He is noted for his high-profile snub of Israeli President Shimon Peres at the World Economic Forum in Davos in 2009, and his criticism of Israel's May 31 raid on a humanitarian flotilla, which mark his growing influence in the Muslim world.

Good Neighbor Policy

Erdogan has led a new approach in Turkish foreign relations through his adoption of a ‘good neighbor policy’ - in August 2009, Turkey and Armenia signed protocols to improve relations. During Erdogan’s leadership Turkey has focused on building stronger relations with all of its seven land-contiguous neighbors (especially Greece) and also all of those countries bordering the Black Sea (an important trading hub and a geopolitically significant area).

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