Abdullah Gul

President, Republic of Turkey

(Zaman, Turkish Daily News - 30/08/07; BBC, FT, Independent, RFE/RL, Zaman - 29/08/07; AP, DPA, International Herald Tribune, VOA - 28/08/07; Official Website of the Presidency of the Republic of Turkey; Wikipedia)
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Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul was sworn in as Turkey's 11th president on August 28th, 2007, succeeding Ahmet Necdet Sezer. A devout Muslim, he is the first Turkish politician with an Islamist past to become head of state since the establishment of secularism in the country in 1923.

Gul was born in the central Turkish city of Kayseri on October 29th, 1950. He graduated with an economics degree from Istanbul University in 1971 and received a PhD there in 1983. While completing his graduate education, he studied for two years in Exeter and London. Meanwhile, he also taught economics at Sakarya University's Industrial Engineering Department, which was established earlier with his help.

In 1983, Gul joined the Jeddah-based Islamic Development Bank as an economist. He left the bank eight year later and became a lecturer in international economics.

In 1991, he was elected a member of parliament for the first time, as a candidate of Necmettin Erbakan's Welfare Party. He became the party's deputy chair in charge of foreign affairs in 1993. Following his re-election as a member of parliament in 1995, he joined the legislature's foreign affairs commission, until he was appointed minister of state and spokesman in Erbakan's government in 1996.

He served in those posts until 1997, when the Welfare Party-led coalition was forced out of power under pressure from the country's influential military. The party was eventually banned in early 1998 for undermining Turkey's secular constitution.

Gul then joined the Virtue Party, which emerged from the ashes of its outlawed predecessor, and was re-elected to parliament in 1999, as its candidate.

After the Virtue Party was also stripped of its legal status in 2001, Gul and other former members founded the Justice and Development Party (AKP), distancing themselves from their previous pro-Islamic leanings.

The year 2001 also marked the end of Gul's nine-year service as a member of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, which awarded him with its Pro-merito Medal.

Following the AKP's landslide victory in the November 2002 parliamentary elections, Gul was appointed prime minister. At the time, party leader Recep Tayyip Erdogan was barred from politics. With a comfortable majority in parliament, the AKP was amended the constitution to remove that obstacle. In March 2003, Erdogan won a by-election in the province of Siirt and took over the post of prime minister. Gul then was appointed foreign minister.

Over the next four years, he earned widespread respect for his role in launching Turkey's accession talks with the EU and for promoting democratic reforms in his country. In April 2007, the AKP named Gul as its presidential candidate.

Gul's first bid for the presidency was blocked amid public pressure from secularists and the military. But after the AKP's sweeping 47% victory in the early parliamentary elections on July 22nd, the foreign minister was renominated for the post. He submitted his candidacy application to parliament on August 14th, six days before the launch of the presidential elections process, pledging to abide by the constitution and the principles of secularism if elected.

In the first two rounds of voting on August 20th and 24th, Gul came out well ahead of the other two candidates, Sabahattin Cakmakoglu of the Nationalist Action Party and Huseyin Icli from the Democratic Left Party, but failed to gain the required two-thirds majority to win the post. He was elected president in the third ballot on August 28th with the support of 339 of the lawmakers in the 550-seat assembly-- well above the 276 votes he needed to get in that round of voting.

In his inauguration speech on the same day, Gul again sought to dispel secularist opponents' fears that he and the AKP have a secret Islamist agenda.

"The Turkish Republic is a democratic, secular, social state, governed by the rule of law," he said. "I will always be determined and resolved to advocate, without discrimination, each of these principles and to further strengthen them at every opportunity."

As president, Gul has the power to veto legislation and appoint judges to Turkey's highest courts. He will also serve as commander in chief of the armed forces.

Gul speaks English and Arabic. He and his wife, Hayrunisa, have three children.

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