ANKARA, Turkey (AP) — Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Sunday that the era of military coups in the country is over and that Turkey is a model for other Muslim countries to emulate.
Erdogan was addressing a major congress of his ruling party which is marking a decade of electoral success, a strong record of economic growth and a rising regional stature.
The ruling Justice and Development Party, which came to power in 2002 has maintained Turkey's decades-old secular system, but at the same time has curtailed the power of the military, which have staged three coups since the 1960s and forced an Islamic government out of office in 1997.
Earlier this month, a court sentenced more than 300 military officers to long prison terms for attempting to topple the government in 2003.
"The era of coups in this country will never return again," Erdogan told thousands of delegates attending the congress at a sports arena. "Anyone who intervenes or tries to intervene in democracy will sooner or later go in front of the people's courts and be made to account."
Erdogan said his party was an inspiration to all Muslim nations.
"In a country where the majority is Muslim, we let democracy rule in its most advanced form and became an example for all Muslim countries," Erdogan told an audience that included Egypt's new president, Mohammed Morsi.
Many people applauded Erdogan enthusiastically and some were moved to tears. He has led the party since its formation in 2001, and is widely expected to run in Turkey's presidential elections in 2014.
During the congress, Erdogan will declare a new cadre of leaders who will lay the groundwork for what the party hopes is its continued domination of Turkish politics in the years ahead.
Numan Kurtulmus, the popular former leader of a small Islamic party, who closed down his movement and joined Erdogan's party last week, is expected to be a key addition to the party's leadership.