Political history and changes
Recep Tayyip Erdo?an, Turkey’s 25th Prime Minister and chairman of the ruling Justice and Development party, joined the National Turkish Student Union—an anti-communist action group while he was studying business administration at Marmara University. In 1976, he became the head of Beyo?lu youth branch of the Islamist National Salvation Party (MSP) and was promoted to the position of chair for the Istanbul youth branch of the party.
After the 1980 military coup, Erdogan followed most of Erbakan’s followers into the Welfare Party. He became the party’s Beyoglu district chair in 1984, and in 1985 he became the chair of the Istanbul city branch. He was elected to parliament in 1991, but was barred from taking his seat.
In the local elections of March 27, 1994 Erdogan was elected Mayor of Istanbul which he was forced to give up on charges of inciting religious and racial hatred. The conviction also stipulated a political ban, which prevented him from participating in parliamentary election.
In the 2002 election his newly-founded Justice and Development Party won a landslide victory taking nearly two-thirds of the seats. However, Erdogan could not become prime minister due to the ban. The Supreme Election Board, in Dec. 2002, canceled the general election on charges of voting irregularities. By that time, the opposition had sought a political change that paved way for Erdogan to run for the parliament. He became the Prime Minister of Turkey in 2003 following his party registered a win the elections.
Erdogan’s government instituted several democratic reforms. He gave the European Court of Human Rights supremacy over Turkish courts; reduced the powers of the 1991 Anti-Terror Law which had constrained Turkey’s democratization, and abolished many restrictions on freedom of speech and the press. He also sought to change the country’s 1982 constitution but the opposition declined.
In 2009, he announced a plan to help end the quarter-century-long Turkey-Kurdistan Workers’ Party conflict that has cost more than 40,000 lives. The government’s plan, supported by the European Union, allowed the Kurdish language to be used in all broadcast media and political campaigns, and restore Kurdish names to cities and towns.
On Nov. 23, 2011, he apologized on behalf of the state for the 1937 Dersim massacre of Kurds during a televised meeting of his party in Ankara.
Erdogan undertook several economic reforms that saw Turkey emerge from the financial mess he had inherited from his predecessors.
On April 2006, Erdogan unveiled a social security reform package demanded by the International Monetary Fund under a loan deal. He claimed that the move, which was passed with fierce opposition, was one of the most radical reforms. Turkey’s three social security bodies were united under one roof, bringing equal health services and retirement benefits for members of all three bodies. Under the second bill, everyone under the age of 18 years old would be entitled to free health services.
The bill also envisages a gradual increase in the retirement age. Starting from 2036, the retirement age will increase to 65 by 2048 for both men and women. The government unified three systems of hospitals and insurance for different professions that were criticized for offering unequal benefits and reserving the best hospitals for civil servants while others waited in long queues.
On Jan. 2008, the Turkish Parliament adopted a law on a complete prohibition of smoking in most public places. Erdogan is leading his country on the path of economic prosperity while catering to the basic needs of the masses. He is regarded as visionary out of a turbulent Muslim world.