Turkish society deeply divided after 20 years of Erdogan's rule

Over the past two decades, Recep Tayyip Erdogan has emerged as the undisputed master of Turkish politics. Elected prime minister in 2003, then president in 2014, he is gearing up for a hotly contested re-election bid later in 2023. FRANCE 24's Shona Bhattacharyya and Ludovic de Foucaud look back at the political legacy of a man who has had a profound impact on the lives of everyday Turks, for better or for worse.

Born in Istanbul to a family from the Black Sea, and with dreams of becoming a professional football player in his youth, Erdogan proved highly appealing to those who are sometimes called "Black Turks": conservative, often religious, and poorly educated voters, who had long felt abandoned by previous secular and Western-leaning governments. Over the last 20 years, Erdogan and his Justice and Development Party (AKP) put them in the driving seat of the country.

His early years marked one of the most open periods of modern Turkish history: opening up the economy to attract foreign capital; holding direct negotiations with the Kurdish PKK (since 1984, a civil war had killed tens of thousands); and allowing veiled women access to university, the army and civil service.

>> Read our webdocumentary on Turkey's 'great purge'

A divisive figure


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