Profile: Who’s Turkey’s Recep Erdoğan and why Somalis love him

Turkey’s Supreme Election Committee has declared Recep Tayyip Erdogan the winner of the country’s presidential election, held on Sunday 24 June.

With 97.7 percent of the ballots counted, Erdogan received 52.5 percent, giving him an outright victory, the state-run Anadolu news agency reported.

The win gives President Erdogan significant executive powers, including abolishing the post of prime minister and removing the monitoring role of parliament.

Seen by many as a tactical campaigner and crowd-puller, Erdogan has a track record of delivering strong economic growth and is loved by millions of working class Turkish citizens.

Born in 1954 on the country’s Black Sea coast, Recep Tayyip Erdogan grew up as the son of a coastguard.

As a teenager, the Turkish leader sold lemonade and sesame buns to earn extra cash and later went to an Islamic school.

Erdogan holds a degree in management from Istanbul’s Marmara University, and was once a professional footballer.

Between 994 and 1998, Erdogan was the mayor of Istanbul, until military officers grabbed power and banned the Welfare Party, of which he was a member.

A year later, he was jailed for four months after he publicly read a patriotic poem which included the words: “The mosques are our barracks, the domes our helmets, the minarets our bayonets and the faithful our soldiers”.

In 2001, Erdogan established the Justice and Development (AK) Party, which won a majority in parliamentary elections two years later. After winning the vote, the party appointed Erdogan Turkey’s prime minister.

In 2014, Erdogan, a father of four, was elected president after the country’s first-ever direct elections for a head of state were held.

Two years later, Erdogan survived an attempted coup by factions within the military.

The Turkish president is admired and loved by Muslims across the world. In Somalia, he is regarded a hero.

In 2011, he became the first non-African leader visit then famine-hit Somalia in nearly two decades.

He visited Somali refugee camps and hospitals in a bid to draw the world’s attention to the plight of millions of people in the Horn of Africa country who were facing starvation.

Turkey has supported Somalia’s government and many observers see it as an impartial partner for the east African country.

On Sunday, Somalia’s president congratulated Erdogan on his victory in the Turkish presidential election.

Calling Turkey a “valuable partner of Somalia”, President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed tweeted that his government also congratulated “the people of Turkey on their historic presidential and parliamentary elections”.

Writing on Al Jazeera website, foreign policy analyst and former Somali envoy to the US Abukar Arman said that “Erdogan has done for Somalia what no other world leader has done in decades”.

Since Erdogan’s visit to Mogadishu in 2011, Somalia and Turkey have fallen in love with each other.

It is common to see Turkish flags on every street in Mogadishu. Turkey has built a new hospital, airport terminal, embassy, the largest in Africa, and a military base, the only Turkish base on the continent, in the Somalia.

83 thoughts on “Profile: Who’s Turkey’s Recep Erdoğan and why Somalis love him

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