With the recent victory over the military coup, the Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan rose to stature of international leader. With focus of the entire international media on him, he demonstrated utmost serenity, positivity of character as well as confidence in his people in the entire saga as no straits of worry were visible on his face which usually wore symptoms of slight smile.
He was born in Istanbul on February 26, 1954, graduated from Kasımpaşa Piyale Primary School in 1965 and completed his high school education at Istanbul Imam Hatip School (Religious Vocational High School) in 1973. Having succeeded in the necessary examinations for additional courses, he received a diploma from Eyüp High School as well. He received his graduation diploma from Marmara University’s Faculty of Economics and Administrative Sciences in 1981.
Since his youth, Erdoğan has chosen to lead a social life intertwining with politics. From 1969 to 1982, he was also actively interested in football which taught him the significance of team work and spirit in his younger years. These years coincided with the time when Erdoğan as an idealistic young man started to be interested in social and national problems and stepped into active politics.
Assuming active responsibilities at the students’ branch of the National Turkish Students’ Association during his high school and university years, Erdoğan was elected the Head of the MSP Beyoğlu Youth Branch in 1976 and he was also elected the Head of the MSP İstanbul Youth Branch in the same year. Holding this position until 1980, he served as consultant and senior executive in the private sector during the September 12 era when the political parties were closed down.
Erdoğan returned to political activities with the Welfare Party, established in 1983, and he was elected the District Head of the Welfare Party in 1984. In 1985, he was elected the Istanbul Provincial Head of the Welfare Party and in the same year he became a member of the Central Executive Board of the Welfare Party.
Developing a new organizational structure which served as a model for other political parties during his tenure as Istanbul Provincial Head, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan carried out projects that aimed at urging the participation of women and youth in politics, thus taking important steps toward helping politics to be espoused and respected among the masses. This project won the Welfare Party a great success during the mayoral elections in Beyoğlu in 1989, serving as a good example for others in terms of studies at the party across the country.
As for the local elections held on March 27, 1994, Erdoğan was elected Mayor of Metropolitan Istanbul. During his term in office as Mayor, he produced correct diagnoses and solutions to the chronic problems of Istanbul, one of the world’s most important metropolitan cities through his political abilities, the importance he attached to team work and successful management in human resources and financial issues.
The water problem was overcome by laying hundreds of kilometres of new pipe line, the garbage problem was solved through the establishment of the most modern recycling facilities and the problem of air pollution ended with the natural gas projects developed during his term in office.
As for traffic congestion and transportation deadlock, more than 50 bridges, passageways and freeways were constructed and many more projects which would guide the other administrations in the city were developed.
Taking very stringent precautions for the correct exertion of the municipal resources and to prevent corruption, Erdoğan paid most of the debts of the Istanbul Municipality which he took over with its 2 billion dollars’ debt and he during his tenure achieved investments worth 4 billion dollars. Erdoğan, thus, accomplished a breakthrough in the municipal history and while his works served as good examples for other mayors, he won the confidence of the people.
On December 12, 1997, while addressing the public in Siirt, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan read a poem from a book, which was recommended by the National Education Ministry and published by a state agency, and after that, he was sentenced to imprisonment for reading that poem. Thus, his term as mayor was ended.
Erdoğan, after serving 4 months in prison, established the Justice and Development Party (AK Party) on August 14, 2001 with his friends as a result of the insistent demand from the public and the developing democratic process and he was elected Founding General Chair of the AK Party by the Council of Founders.
The favor of the nation made the AK Party a political movement which enjoyed the broadest public support in the country in the very first year of its establishment and made it the sole ruling party with a two-thirds majority at the TBMM at the end of the parliamentary elections held in 2002.
Erdoğan, who was not a candidate for MP during the elections in November 3, 2002 due to the court’s decision against him at the time, joined the deputy renewal election held on March 9, 2003 in Siirt when the legal obstacle was lifted after the necessary legal regulations had been made. Taking 85 % of the votes cast in that election, he became a deputy from Siirt for the 22nd term.
Taking over the Prime Minister’s office on March 15, 2003, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan implemented a number of reforms of crucial importance in the shortest time with his ideal of a brighter and constantly growing Turkey.
The country made great progress in democratization, transparency and the prevention of corruption. In parallel with this, inflation which had not been overcome and which had adversely affected the country’s economy and the psychology of the people for decades was curbed. 6 zeros were removed from the Turkish currency, giving back the Turkish Lira its credit.
The rate of the state’s debt interests were lowered and a considerable increase in the national income per capita was achieved. An unprecedented number of dams, residential units, schools, roads, hospitals and power plants were constructed. All these affirmative developments were described by many foreign observers and Western leaders as a “Silent Revolution”.
Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, in addition to his fruitful initiatives described as a turning point in the history of the country in its bid to join the EU, has taken significant steps toward the resolution of the Cyprus problem and toward the development of efficient relations with many countries through his rational foreign policy and intense series of visits and contacts.