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17.06.2021 14:42 News >> Suleyman Demirel: Periphery's Self-Made Man In Center

Suleyman Demirel: Periphery's Self-Made Man In Center

Coming from village in southwestern province Isparta, Demirel strived to carry the country’s periphery to center, both economically, politically, during his decades long political career.

Six years have passed since Turkish politician Suleyman Demirel's death, but he is still remembered as one of the most dominant figures of the Turkish political life, owing to his survival skills, sense of humor, a talent of efficient oratory, passion for industrialization, and immense infrastructure projects, among many other things.
Born into a family of peasant farmers in 1924 in Islamkoy, a village in Turkey's southwestern Isparta province, Demirel graduated as an engineer from Istanbul Technical University (ITU), one of the country's top universities. While there, he was a schoolmate of Necmettin Erbakan, a veteran politician and eventually prime minister between 1996-1997, and Turgut Ozal, prime minister between 1983-1980 and the eighth president.
Demirel's technical ability and sharp mind drew the attention of the contemporary prime minister, Adnan Menderes. Consequently, at the age of 31, he became director-general of the State Hydraulic Works (DSI).
After the military coup in 1960 that deposed Menderes' government, Demirel emerged as the winner in the contest to lead Turkey's center-right political scene dominated by Justice Party (AP), first becoming prime minister after the 1965 general elections. In 1969, AP won general elections again, giving Demirel his second term. Until his ouster from the government in 1971 by a 'military coup by memorandum,' he undertook massive industrialization projects, including Iskenderun steel mill, Seydisehir aluminum mill, Petkim petrochemical complex.
Equally important, Demirel attributed particular importance to infrastructure projects. Under his rule, motorway network, and electricity generation, and transmission grid were expanded across the country.
Accordingly, industrial development and improvement of the infrastructure significantly accelerated the economic integration of the periphery to the center, which had started in 1950 by the Democratic Party's, AP's predecessor, taking over the power. Demirel saw industrialization as key to generate prosperity for larger segments of the society, which would eventually become the backbone of a democratic regime. His foreign policy deserves to be mentioned. Even though he was a pro-western-oriented politician, he was aware of Turkey's necessity to pursue a more autonomous foreign policy without abandoning the West.
Demirel's Turkey skillfully exploited the détente between Soviet and Western blocs to improve relations with the former, from which it obtained cheap loans and technology to use in massive industrialization undertakings.
After four years in opposition, he made a comeback in 1975 by forming the first of the right-wing coalition governments, known as Milliyetci Cephe, with support of Alparslan Turkes' Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) and his old friend, political rival Necmettin Erbakan's National Salvation Party (MNP). The same political equation resulted in Demirel's forming two more right-wing coalition governments, the first between 1977-1978 and the second from 1979 to September 12, 1980, when a military coup toppled him.
The coup him placed under a 10-year ban from politics. But a referendum in 1987 paved the way for his final comeback, and ultimately in 1991, he became prime minister for the last time. He then served as president from 1993 to 2000. He passed away at the age of 91 at a hospital in the capital Ankara where he had been undergoing treatment for a respiratory tract infection.
Talking to Anadolu Agency, Aylin Cesur, Demirel's personal doctor for 20 years and presently deputy from his hometown Isparta, highlighted the impoverishment and desperation of the Turkish countryside, which Demirel experienced at first hand as farmer's son, made him take part in Turkish political life. He emphasized the construction of roads, hydroelectrical dams, irrigation projects, and improvement of education to create a developed, prosperous and democratic Turkey, she remarked.
"When Demirel was born, Turkey, a country of 13 million population and $50 personal income, was an agricultural nation that was importing all of its industrial goods requirement. His life story tells us about not only his path that started in a village and reached the presidency, but also about Turkey's struggle for development and modernization," Cesur said. -



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