Ertuğrul Günay graduated from İstanbul University Faculty of Law in 1969. In the 1977 elections, he became the youngest member of parliament from Republican People's Party (CHP). In CHP, he rose to the position of Secretary General in 1992, but was expelled in 2004, following disagreements with CHP leadership.
He joined the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) prior to the elections in 2007. He was elected as a member of parliament from Istanbul, then re-elected from İzmir in 2011.
Günay was Turkey's Minister of Culture and Tourism from 2007 to 2013.