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Recep Tayyip Erdogan

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Recep Tayyip Erdogan (born 1954) became prime minister of Turkey in March 2003. He is the leader of the Adalet ve Kalkinma Partisi (AK Party, or Justice and Development Party).

Erdogan, a native of Istanbul, was a member of the defunct Welfare Party during the 1980s. He was elected mayor of Istanbul in 1994, where he made a name for himself as a populist, effective administrator, building up Istanbul's infrastructure and transportation grid, while simultaneously beautifying the city. He was tried and convicted of inciting hatred on religiuos grounds in 1998 based on a public reading of one of the patriotic poems of Ziya Gokalp. Once released from jail, he led a movement to draw his former compatriots from the Welfare Party away from religious rhetoric. They founded the Justice and Development Party in 2002 and subsequently won a landslide election.

Erdogan's appointment as Prime Minsiter was delayed after his party's victory in the elections for legal reasons. The prime minister in Turkey must be a member of parliament and the constitution excluded those with previous convictions from standing. Abdullah Gül became a stand-in prime minister and pushed through a constitutional amendment that allowed Erdogan to win a freshly vacant seat in the province of Siirt in a by-election. Gul resigned and Erdogan was appointed Prime Minister by President Ahmet Necdet Sezer.

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