Erdogan with Davutoglu. Erdogan’s language – if not his message – is softening. REUTERS/Umit Bektas
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Recep Tayyip Erdogan's caustic rhetoric has won him the devotion of Turkey's conservative Islamic heartlands, from his dismissal of political enemies as "worse than leeches" to his comparisons of Israel's actions in Gaza to those of Hitler. His fiery podium speeches and blunt populism have galvanized core supporters and cemented his rise as modern Turkey's most powerful leader, culminating in his victory this month in the country's first popular election for president.Erdogan emerged victorious in the Aug. 10 presidential vote after one of his most difficult years in office, bouncing back from anti-government demonstrations last summer, a corruption scandal months later and a power struggle with his former ally turned archfoe, U.S.-based sheikh Fethullah Gulen.Erdogan accuses Gulen's sympathizers of infiltrating institutions including the police and judiciary in an effort to seize the levers of state power, a struggle which he has vowed to pursue as president, along with his new prime minister, outgoing foreign minister Ahmet Davutoglu.Here too, though, Erdogan's language – if not his message – appears to be softening.
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