ANKARA - Celebrating a decade in power, Turkey's moderate Islamist Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan flaunted his country's successes in establishing itself as a rising democratic power that became an example to the Muslim world.
We called ourselves conservative democrats, Erdogan told thousands of cheering party members at the Justice and Development (AK) party congress in a sports stadium in the capital Ankara on Sunday, September 30, Reuters reported.
We focused our change on basic rights and freedom.
Charting the party agenda for the next decade in a lengthy two and half hours speech, Erdogan vowed to forge a more diverse Constitution and turn a new page in relations with Turkey's 15 million Kurds.
The AK party congress is attended by a host of Muslim leaders, including Egypt's President Mohamed Morsi, Kyrgyz President Almazbek Atambayev and Masoud Barzani, president of Iraq's autonomous Kurdistan region.
Talking confidently, Erdogan affirmed to AK members that the era of military coups in Turkey, a nation of 75 million people, was over.
For decades, the army has been Turkey's dominant political force, seen as the ultimate protector of the country's secular system.
Since 1960, the army has toppled four governments on claims of defending the country's secularism.
Relations between the secularist military and Erdogan's socially conservative party have been fraught since the second won power in 2002.
Yet, after failed coup attempts, the heads of the army, navy and air force resigned in protest at the detention of more than 200 officers charged in a separate alleged conspiracy against the government.
The arrests, linked to investigation into an alleged 2003 plot to discredit the ruling AK party ended army hopes of retaking power.
Reflecting Erdogan's political ambition, the Islamist politician looked ready to take a leading role in the entire Middle East.
This stance has gone beyond our country's borders and has become an example for all Muslim countries, Erdogan told the AK party congress.
Khaled Meshaal, Hamas's leader in exile, agreed in his speech to the congress.
Turkey has shown the bright face of Islam, Meshaal said.
Erdogan, you are not only a leader in Turkey now, you are a leader in the Muslim world as well.
The AK party has won three consecutive election victories since 2002, ending a history of military coups and fragile coalition governments.
It has presided over strong economic growth and a more assertive foreign policy, combining economic liberalism with religious conservatism.Per capita income has nearly tripled in that time and Turkey has re-established itself as a regional power, with its allies seeing its mix of democratic stability and Islamic culture as a potential role model in a volatile region.