Tur­key ex-leader Demirel, who sur­vived two coups, dies age 90


Tur­key’s for­mer pres­i­dent and Prime Min­is­ter Su­ley­man Demirel, a gi­ant fig­ure in the coun­try’s pol­i­tics for over half a cen­tury, died Wed­nes­day, the state Ana­to­lia news agency said. He was 90.

In a re­mark­able ca­reer, Demirel sur­vived dis­missal in two mil­i­tary coups and a ban on hold­ing of­fice to be­come pres­i­dent and one of Tur­key’s most re­spected el­der states­men.

Demirel served as prime min­is­ter on re­peated oc­ca­sions in the 1960s and 1970s and then again one fi­nal time in the 1990s be­fore serv­ing as head of state from 1993 to 2000.

He died of heart fail­ure re­sult­ing from a se­vere res­pi­ra­tory tract in­fec­tion, Ana­to­lia said, quot­ing the pri­vate Ankara hos­pi­tal where he was treated.

His hey­day was dur­ing one of the most chaotic pe­ri­ods of mod­ern Turk­ish history when gov­ern­ments changed some­times an­nu­ally un­der the shadow of the pow­er­ful mil­i­tary, with the coun­try was be­set by daily street vi­o­lence and an eco­nomic slump.

Sur­vivor of Two Coups

Trained as an engi­neer, Demirel first went into pol­i­tics in the early 1960s in the wake of the 1960 mil­i­tary coup that re­sulted in the ex­e­cu­tion of then-Premier Ad­nan Men­deres.

Lead­ing the cen­ter-right Jus­tice Party (AP), he first be­come prime min­is­ter in 1965, be­com­ing at 40 Tur­key’s youngest ever gov­ern­ment chief.

He held to­gether a gov­ern­ment for some six years, a huge achieve­ment by the stan­dards of the time.

But Demirel re­signed in the 1971 coup, which be­came known as the “coup by mem­o­ran­dum” when the army pre­sented him with a writ­ten ul­ti­ma­tum rather than send­ing tanks onto the streets.

The coup in 1980, the third in the history of the Turk­ish re­pub­lic, saw Demirel hit with a ban from all po­lit­i­cal ac­tiv­ity and sent into tem­po­rary in­ter­nal ex­ile at a mili- tary camp.

But the ban was over­turned through re­forms agreed in the con­sti­tu­tional ref­er­en­dum of 1987 which Demirel had him­self pressed for.

Lead­ing the True Path Party (DYP) which he founded he re­place the AP, Demirel’s forces won 1991 elec­tions and he re­turned to head the gov­ern­ment for a fi­nal stint.

He be­came the ninth Turk­ish pres­i­dent in May 1993 fol­low­ing the sud­den death of Turgut Ozal, serv­ing his full term un­til 2000.

When his sin­gle term as pres­i­dent was to ex­pire — the max­i­mum al­lowed un­der the con­sti­tu­tion — Demirel tried un­suc­cess­fully to get a sec­ond term.

Demirel’s death comes just one month af­ter the gen­eral who mas­ter­minded the 1980 coup, for­mer pres­i­dent Ke­nan Evren, died in dis­grace af­ter be­ing sen­tenced to life in prison in June 2014.

Nick­named “Coban Sulu” (Su­ley­man the Shep­herd), Demirel was known for his earthy turns of phrase and folksy wis­dom that showed up his pro­vin­cial roots in the south­ern Is­parta re­gion.

Crit­ics ac­cused him of be­ing a po­lit­i­cal chameleon, happy to make com­mon cause with the far right on oc­ca­sion but also with the Is­lamists led by Necmet­tin Er­bakan, the fa­ther of po­lit­i­cal Is­lam in Tur­key.

He turned against the Is­lamists and it was un­der his pres­i­dency that the army ousted Er­bakan, Tur­key’s first Is­lamic- rooted premier, in 1997 in the so-called “post-mod­ern coup.”

He was also fre­quently pic­tured wear­ing a fe­dora hat, which be­came a sym­bol of his prag­matic im­age.

He was also cred­ited with lead­ing key in­fra­struc­ture projects to mod­ern­ize Tur­key, most no­tably the first bridge across the Bospho­rus in Is­tan­bul.

In his later years, he was af­fec­tion­ately known as “Baba” (fa­ther).

Even be­fore Demirel’s death, the air­port in Is­parta was named in his honor, as well as the univer­sity in the re­gion.

In to­tal, Demirel ruled the mod­ern Turk­ish state longer than any­one else as pres­i­dent and prime min­is­ter, with the ex­cep­tion of Is­met Inonu, the sec­ond pres­i­dent and right hand man of its founder Mustafa Ke­mal Ataturk.

Only Inonu and Re­cep Tayyip Er­do­gan, who be­came pres­i­dent in 2014, have served longer as prime min­is­ter.

Demirel was mar­ried to his wife Nazmiye for 65 years un­til her death in 2013. They had no chil­dren.

Thou­sands of Haitian un­doc­u­mented im­mi­grants lined up out­side gov­ern­ment of­fices in the Do­mini­can Re­pub­lic Tues­day rac­ing a dead­line to register with the author­i­ties or face de­por­ta­tion.

The Do­mini­can gov­ern­ment has given un­doc­u­mented im­mi­grants — the vast ma­jor­ity of whom are from Haiti next door, the poor­est coun­try in the Amer­i­cas — un­til Wed­nes­day to sub­mit pa­pers un­der new rules to reg­u­lar­ize their sta­tus.

But those stand­ing in the long lines un­der the hot sun said the dead­line was im­pos­si­ble to meet, as rights groups es­ti­mated that some 200,000 Haitians would be left fac­ing de­por­ta­tion.

“I’ve been com­ing here for five days, and haven’t man­aged to get in,” said Jean Claude Jo­dias as he


In this Feb. 20, 1997, file photo, Pales­tinian leader Yasser Arafat, left, and Turk­ish Pres­i­dent Su­ley­man Demirel lis­ten to their coun­tries’ na­tional an­thems dur­ing a wel­com­ing cer­e­mony for Arafat at the pres­i­den­tial palace in Ankara, Tur­key.

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