Recep Tayyip Erdoğan (UK: AIR-də-wan, US: -wahn, Turkish: [ɾeˈdʒep tajˈjip ˈæɾdoan] (); born 26 February 1954) is the 12th and current president of the Republic of Turkey. He previously served as Prime Minister of Turkey from 2003 to 2014 and as Mayor of Istanbul from 1994 to 1998. He founded the Justice and Development Party (AKP) in 2001, leading it to election victories in 2002, 2007 and 2011 before standing down upon his election as President in 2014. He later returned to the AKP leadership in 2017. Coming from an Islamist political background and as a self-described conservative democrat, he has promoted socially conservative and liberal economic policies in his administration. Erdoğan played football for Kasımpaşa before being elected as the Mayor of Istanbul in 1994, as the candidate of the Islamist Welfare Party. He was later stripped of his position, banned from political office, and imprisoned for four months for inciting religious hatred. Erdoğan subsequently abandoned openly Islamist politics, establishing the moderate conservative AKP in 2001, which he went on to lead to a landslide victory in 2002. With Erdoğan still technically prohibited from holding office, the AKP's co-founder, Abdullah Gül, instead became Prime Minister, and later annulled Erdoğan's political ban. After winning a by-election in Siirt in 2003, Erdoğan replaced Gül as Prime Minister, with Gül instead becoming the AKP's candidate for the presidency. Erdoğan led the AKP to two more election victories in 2007 and 2011, before being elected President in 2014, and re-elected in 2018. The early years of Erdoğan's tenure as prime minister saw advances in negotiations for Turkey's membership of the European Union, an economic recovery following a financial crash in 2001 and investments in infrastructure including roads, airports, and a high-speed train network. He also won two successful constitutional referendums in 2007 and 2010. However, his government remained controversial for its close links with Fethullah Gülen and his Gülen Movement, now designated as a terrorist organisation, with whom the AKP was accused of orchestrating purges against secular bureaucrats and military officers through the Balyoz and Ergenekon trials. In late 2012, his government began peace negotiations with the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) to end the ongoing PKK insurgency that began in 1978. The ceasefire broke down in 2015, leading to a renewed escalation in conflict. Erdoğan's foreign policy has been described as Neo-Ottoman and has involved attempts to prevent Syrian-Kurdish PYD/YPG forces from gaining ground on the Turkish–Syrian border during the Syrian Civil War. Erdoğan's government has been accused of democratic backsliding and corruption in later years. Starting with the anti-government protests in 2013, his government imposed growing censorship on the press and social media, imposing blocks on sites such as YouTube, Twitter and Wikipedia. This stalled negotiations related to EU membership. A US$100 billion corruption scandal in 2013 led to the arrests of Erdoğan's close allies, and incriminated Erdoğan. Following a souring in relations with Gülen, Erdoğan proceeded to purge his supporters from judicial, bureaucratic and military positions. A failed military coup d'état attempt in July 2016 resulted in further purges and a state of emergency. The government claimed that the coup leaders were linked to Gülen, but he has denied any role in it. As a long-standing proponent of changing Turkey's parliamentary system of government into an executive presidency, Erdoğan formed an alliance with the far-right Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) to establish an executive presidency in 2017, where the changes were accepted in a constitutional referendum. The new system of government formally came into place after the 2018 general election, where Erdoğan and the new AKP-MHP People's Alliance was re-elected. He has since been tackling, but also accused of contributing to, the Turkish currency and debt crisis of 2018, which has caused a significant decline in his popularity and is widely believed to have contributed to his loss in the 2019 local elections in which the ruling party lost control of Ankara and Istanbul for the first time in 25 years. After the loss, the Turkish government ordered a re-election in Istanbul, in which the ruling party lost the elections again with an even greater margin. The two successive losses was seen as a huge blow to Erdoğan, who had once said that if his party "lost Istanbul, we would lose Turkey," and has been called to be the "beginning of the end" of him. Erdoğan ranked first in the World's 500 Most Influential Muslims 2019 list from the Jordan-based Royal Islamic Strategic Studies Centre.