Turkey profile

President-elect: Recep Tayyip Erdogan

Outgoing president: Abdullah Gul

Turkish President Gul Abdullah Gul is seen as a moderate figure

Abdullah Gul was chosen as president by parliament in August 2007, after months of controversy over his nomination. He is Turkey's first head of state with a background in political Islam in a country with strong secularist principles.

The months leading to his eventual election saw street demonstrations, an opposition boycott of parliament, early parliamentary elections and warnings from the army, which has ousted four governments since 1960.

Turkish secularists, including army generals, opposed Mr Gul's nomination, fearing he would try to undermine Turkey's strict separation of state and religion. Secularists also did not want Turkey's First Lady to wear the Muslim headscarf.

The army top brass and the main opposition Republican People's Party, stayed away from Mr Gul's swearing-in ceremony.

Mr Gul started in politics in an Islamist party that was banned by the courts, but later renounced the idea that Islam should be a driving force in politics. In 2001, along with other moderate members of the Islamist movement, he founded the Justice and Development Party (AKP) and distanced himself from his past political leanings.

The party won elections in 2002 and Mr Gul served as stand-in prime minister before stepping aside for Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Mr Gul served as foreign minister under Mr Erdogan and cultivated an image as a moderate politician, acting as an impassioned voice for reforms to promote Turkey's EU bid.

The government holds most power but the president can veto laws, appoint officials, and name judges. Voters in a referendum in October 2007 backed plans to have future presidents elected by the people instead of by parliament.

Prime minister: Recep Tayyip Erdogan

Recep Tayyip Erdogan won the first direct popular election for president while serving as prime minister in August 2014.

He pledged to change the ceremonial role of president into one which carries far greater responsibility. He is due to take office at the end of August 2014.

He began a third term as prime minister in June 2011, following a resounding general election win for his Islamist-leaning Justice and Development Party (AKP).

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan

Prime Minister Erdogan has been accused of authoritarianism

The election gave the AKP its highest electoral score since coming to power in 2002, and put Mr Erdogan on course to become the most successful leader in Turkey's democratic history.

His party nonetheless fell just short of the majority it was seeking to press ahead with a major constitutional overhaul without the support of other parties in parliament. Mr Erdogan in his victory speech promised to seek compromise with the opposition over the issue.

Mr Erdogan has brought economic and political stability to Turkey and faced down the country's powerful military establishment, which previously had a history of overthrowing elected governments that it saw as challenging either the secular constitution or national security.

Steady military pressure combined with negotiations also brought the Kurdish rebel PKK group to a truce that provided for a withdrawal of all PKK fighters to Iraq from May 2013.

In September 2010, his government won resounding public approval for its plans to change the 30-year-old constitution. The amendments to the constitution were aimed at reducing still further the power of the military and meeting the requirements for EU membership.

Opponents accuse the government of authoritarianism and point to growing intolerance towards critical journalists and media. The Journalists Union of Turkey says 94 were in jail for carrying out their professional duties - the highest number in the world. More than half are members of the Kurdish minority.

The heavy sentences handed down to retired military officers found guilty of conspiring against the Islamist government have also led Mr Erdogan's critics to accuse him of trying to silence the secularist opposition. The prime minister denies that these cases are politically motivated.

Mr Erdogan hinted in October 2012 that he might stand for the presidency in 2014, and is widely expected to made renewed efforts to boost the constitutional powers of the head of state ahead of the vote in order to turn Turkey into a presidential republic.

Mr Erdogan first became prime minister several months after his party's landslide election victory in November 2002. He had been barred from standing in the poll because of a previous criminal conviction for reading an Islamist poem at a political rally. Changes to the constitution paved the way for him to run for parliament in 2003.

He identified EU entry as a top priority and introduced reforms which paved the way for the opening of membership talks in October 2005. although these have run into the twin pillars of widespread European opposition and the eurozone crisis.

Since then Mr Erdogan's foreign policy has concentrated as seeking a role as honest broker in the Middle East by building bridges to Iran and Arab states, while adopting a stridently hostile tone towards Turkey's longstanding ally Israel - albeit falling short of severing diplomatic relations.

The popularity of his "Turkish model" among liberals and moderate Islamic groups in Arab countries has boosted Turkey's prestige, although this has yet to translate into tangible foreign-policy gains for the country.

In the summer of 2013 Mr Erdogan began to look vulnerable for the first time as mass anti-government protests erupted in several cities, further inflamed by the violent police response.

A further threat to Mr Erdogan's continued rule emerged in December 2013, when police launched an inquiry into alleged corruption among the prime minister's allies.

Mr Erdogan denounced the probe as a "dirty operation" against his government and, amid claim and counter-claim, the AKP appeared to be locked in a bitter feud with its former allies in the Islam-inspired 'Hizmet' movement led by US-based cleric Fethullah Gulen.

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