Middle East

A decade of Turkey's Islamic-rooted AKP government

Supporters applaud as Turkey's Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan addresses his ruling party members after he announced he is running for president in Ankara, Turkey, Tuesday, July 1, 2014. After more than a decade in power, Erdogan dominates Turkish politics like a one-man-show. He has defanged the once supreme military, reshaped the judiciary and cowed the press. Now, at the peak of his power, he has announced he is running for president - a role he intends to shape into the most powerful job

ANKARA: Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who heads the Islamic-rooted Justice and Development Party (AKP), announced on Tuesday that he will run as a candidate in a presidential poll to be held in August.

The move marks the latest chapter in Erdogan's domination of Turkey which has transformed the country since the AKP came to power in 2002 and he became prime minister in 2003.

Here are key events in Turkey's key decade since the AKP came to power:

- 2002 - The AKP scores its first electoral victory after years of political instability and an unprecedented financial crisis. The victory sets off alarm bells among the secular establishment that fears the Islamic roots of AKP members.

- 2003 - Erdogan takes over from his close ally Abdullah Gul as prime minister after constitutional changes overcome a ban on him holding the post due to a previous conviction for reciting an Islamist poem.

- 2004 - The AKP, which wants to start accession talks with the European Union, launches a massive range of democratic reforms, such as allowing Kurdish language broadcasts on public television.

- 2005 - Negotiations between Turkey and the EU formally begin. The process remains stalled owing to disputes over the divided island of Cyprus and the reluctance of many European countries to welcome a Muslim-majority nation of 75 million people.

- 2007 - In the spring, a political crisis erupts surrounding the election of a new president after the AKP announces that foreign minister Abdullah Gul is its candidate. The army cites concerns over secularism, triggering early elections.

The AKP's vote share rises to 46.7 percent, Erdogan remains prime minister and a month later, parliament elects Gul as president.

- 2008 - The AKP initiates a constitutional amendment to lift the ban on the Islamic headscarf at universities. Deemed anti-secular, it is negated by the constitutional court which sought a political ban on the AKP, which itself narrowly escapes a dissolution by court order. The headscarf ban is finally eased in 2011.

- 2011 - In June, the AKP wins its third consecutive election victory. Erdogan begins a third term as prime minister, the last mandate according to AKP rules.

- 2012 - In September, more than 300 army officers are sentenced to lengthy prison terms for an alleged scheme to oust the AKP government.

In October, lawmakers authorise the government to conduct military operations in neighbouring Syria, which has been torn by fighting since March 2011. By mid 2014, the number of Syrian refugees in Turkey tops one million.

- 2013 - In March, the leader of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) announces a ceasefire, but in September, the group suspends the withdrawal of its fighters, alleging that Ankara has not lived up to its side of the deal.

In May, Turkey's parliament passes a contentious law that would restrict the sale and advertising of alcohol, a move which fuelled anti-government sentiment.

Days later, a group of people demonstrate against government plans to redevelop a park near Istanbul's Taksim square. The protest quickly blows into wider nationwide demonstrations against Erdogan, leaving eight dead and thousands injured after a brutal police crackdown.

In November, a feud emerges between Erdogan and exiled influential Muslim cleric Fethullah Gulen after the government floats plans to close down a network of private schools run by Gulen's Hizmet.

- 2014 - The AKP wins key local elections in March and Erdogan warns his foes they will "pay the price" for plotting his downfall.

But in May, an unprecedented mine disaster that claims 301 lives sparks new anti-government protests, which are violently repressed leaving two dead in Istanbul.

On July 1, Erdogan announces his candidacy to stand in the August presidential election, promising to be a newly-empowered president who will create a "new Turkey".





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