Turkey under Erdogan: 10 key developments

Turkey, under, Erdogan:, 10, key, developmentsBy AFP

ISTANBUL: 

Turkish voters are to decide on Sunday whether to grant President Recep Tayyip Erdogan expanded powers in a referendum.

Here are key dates since Erdogan’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) came to power:

The AKP scores its first electoral victory on November 3, 2002 after years of political instability and an unprecedented financial crisis. The victory sets off alarm bells in the secular establishment. Its leader Erdogan becomes prime minister in March 2003.

From 2002 to 2004, Ankara adopts a broad range of democratic reforms, including allowing Kurdish-language broadcasts on public television and abolishing the death penalty.

On October 3, 2005, it begins accession talks with the European Union (EU). However, the EU process has since stalled.

On August 28, 2007, lawmakers elect foreign minister Abdullah Gul as president, the first time an Islamic-rooted candidate is named to the country’s highest office.

His victory is seen as one for the AKP over lay factions backed by the army, and the new government progressively brings the army to heel. But it causes shudders in the secular establishment as Gul’s wife wears the headscarf.

In 2011, Turkey sides with majority Sunni rebels in neighbouring Syria who have launched a revolt against the government of Bashar al-Assad. Ankara has since taken in some 2.9 million Syrian refugees.

On May 31, 2013, security forces crack down on demonstrators who staged a rally against government plans to redevelop a park near Istanbul’s Taksim square. The protest quickly grows into nationwide demonstrations against Erdogan but peter out after a month.

Erdogan is elected president on August 10, 2014 with 52 per cent of a vote held for the first time by universal suffrage. Ever since, he has argued that the position requires reinforced powers.

In July 2015, the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) breaks a unilateral ceasefire with the Turkish army and fighting resumes in an insurgency that has left tens of thousands dead in over three decades.
Repeated attacks attributed to Kurdish militants or the IS group have kept Turkey on edge ever since.

Early on July 16, 2016 a failed coup by members in the army kills 249, not including the plotters. Erdogan blames the coup on exiled US-based Muslim cleric Fethullah Gulen. Since then more than 113,000 people are fired, suspended from their jobs, or detained. The government imposes control over the army whose political influence ebbs.

Erdogan meets with Russian President Vladimir Putin on August 9, 2016 to cement relations with one of the main backers of Assad’s regime in Syria. The meeting also helps restore trust after Turkey shot down a Russian jet over the Syrian-Turkish border in late 2015.
Two weeks later, Turkey launches a major military operation in northern Syria, driving IS fighters from several cities. Another key target for Turkey is Kurdish militia groups which Ankara considers allies of PKK separatists.

In March 2017, several European countries cancel rallies by Turkish ministers and bar its politicians from campaigning in favour of a ‘Yes’ in the April 16 referendum. A war of words ensues, with Erdogan repeatedly accusing Germany and the Netherlands in particular of behaving like “Nazis”.

On April 4 Erdogan denounces a suspected chemical attack that killed at least 86 civilians in rebel-held northwestern Syria, calling Assad “a murderer”. Three days later Turkey welcomes a US missile strike on a Syrian regime airbase in retaliation for the attack.

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