Turkey - Leadership



Erdogan, once a staunch advocate for Islamist values, has moderated them since his founding of the AK party. Once categorizing the European Union (EU) as a "Christian Club," he sees membership in the EU as necessary and useful to Turkey's development. Secularists within Turkey view Erdogan's recent moderation with caution, however. For instance, he has avoided the issue of Islamic dress for women—who are banned from entering government offices and schools if they wear headscarves—by not having his wife, who wears a headscarf, accompany him to official functions.

Even before he became prime minister, his influence in the AK was such that U.S. president George W. Bush invited him to Washington to garner his support. President Bush in early 2003 hoped Turkey would approve the stationing of 62,000 new U.S. troops in Turkey, in preparation for an invasion of Iraq from the north. Erdogan indicated that legislative approval of the troop deployment would not be difficult but on 1 March 2003, Parliament voted not to allow Turkey's bases to be used for any invasion of Iraq. Erdogan was reported to be displeased with the decision, but he maintained that it was a democratic act that had to be respected.

Erdogan is seen as a determined leader, who thrives on adversity and learns from his mistakes. He is seen to transform setbacks into advantages, as when he stated after the March 2003 parliamentary vote vetoing an influx of U.S. troops into Turkey, "may it be for the best."

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