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Turkey's 12 presidents from Ataturk to Erdogan

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(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

Turkish voters delivered a victory on Sunday to Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan in the country's first ever direct presidential election.

Turkey's president is a largely ceremonial figure, but holds some important powers. Erdogan is expected to expand the role when he takes office by changing the constitution.

Here is a look at the 12 presidents (including Erdogan) since the foundation of the modern Turkish state in 1923:

Mustafa Kemal Ataturk (1923-1938)

Ataturk was the founding father of the secular Turkish republic that was born out of the ashes of the Ottoman empire in 1923. His 15-year presidency saw the abolition of the Islamic caliphate and the introduction of major reforms in every sphere of life in his quest to bring Turkey to the level of Western civilisations. Most notably, he made the country's political institutions and education system secular.

Ismet Inonu (1938-1950)

An heir to Ataturk, philosophically and in practice, Inonu ascended to the presidency upon Ataturk's death and received the title of "National Chief" after being elected leader of the secular Republican People's Party (CHP). Inonu managed to keep Turkey out of World War II for the most part and played key role in switching to a multi-party system after the war.

Celal Bayar (1950-1960)

Bayar oversaw Turkey's admission to NATO in 1952. He was ousted in 1960 by a military junta headed by General Cemal Gursel, which placed him, prime minister Adnan Menderes, and several hundred others on trial. Menderes was executed. Bayar's sentence was commuted to life imprisonment in 1961. Because of ailing health, he was released in 1964 and pardoned in 1966.

Cemal Gursel (1960-1966)

Following the 1960 coup, Gursel headed the national unity committee formed by the military. He played a key role in drafting a new constitution for Turkey's transition to democracy again. Due to deteriorating health, his presidency was terminated by the parliament in 1966.

Cevdet Sunay (1966-1973)

Another military man, Sunay served as chief of general staff in 1960, and retired from the army in 1966. The same year he was elected president by parliament.

Fahri Koruturk (1973-1980)

A one-time chief of the Turkish navy, Koruturk presided over the Turkish invasion of northern Cyprus in 1974 in response to a coup aimed at uniting the island with Greece. At home, martial law was declared in 1980 after violence between rightists and leftists claimed over 2,000 lives. A military-run National Security Council held office from 1980-1982, during which there was no president.

Kenan Evren (1982-1989)

As head of the armed forces, Evren seized power in a pre-dawn assault on September 12, 1980. A new constitution was approved in 1982 with the provision that Evren would remain head of state until 1989. The ailing former president was sentenced to life in prison in June 2014 for his role in the 1980 coup.

Turgut Ozal (1989-1993)

Ozal was seen as a moderniser who led Turkey after the long period of military rule that followed the 1980 coup. He directed Turkey's economy toward the free market. An ethnic Kurd, Ozal also repealed the ban on speaking Kurdish and sought a negotiated solution to the Kurdish issue in Turkey.

Suleyman Demirel (1993-2000)

A veteran politician who served as prime minister seven times, Demirel came from humble roots. But his presidency saw a financial crisis in 1994 and intense clashes with Kurdish rebels. Kurdish rebel leader Abdulah Ocalan was captured in 1999 and brought back to Turkey.

Ahmet Necdet Sezer (2000-2007)

Previously head of Turkey's constitutional court, Sezer was a staunchly secular president, a point that caused friction between him and Erdogan's ruling Islamic-leaning Justice and Development Party (AKP). He openly said the secular regime was under threat and warned attempts to bring religion into politics were stoking tensions.

Abdullah Gul (2007-2014)

The first attempt by AKP co-founder Gul to become president in April 2007 sparked a political crisis. A pious man whose wife wears the Islamic headscarf, many opposed his nomination because they considered him too Islamic. The crisis forced a snap general election in July in which the AKP won a huge majority, a result the party hailed as a popular mandate to renominate Gul. Today, Gul is largely seen as the moderate face of the AKP in contrast to Erdogan.

Recep Tayyip Erdogan (2014- )

Erdogan is due to be inaugurated as president on August 28. He is eligible to serve two five-year terms, which means he could serve until 2024, seeing in the 100th anniversary of Turkey's foundation as a modern state in 2023.

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http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/afp/140810/turkeys-12-presidents-ataturk-erdogan