The shepherd boy that brought democracy to Turkey

Published 17.06.2015 23:53

This columnist always dreaded the day that would come when he would have to write a commentary on the demise of a beloved one, Süleyman Demirel. That day has come.

This columnist was a friend and associate of Demirel for 36 years, was his aide between 1979 and 1993 and his special advisor as prime minister from 1991 to 1993. This columnist was regarded the little boy of the Demirel household.

So it is our duty to shed light on history and tell our readers who Demirel was and who he wasn't.

I feel deep comfort that only days before his demise on June 12 I ended by article with the comment after the June 7 elections "It now seems the nation and the new generation of politicians will appreciate the political genius of Süleyman Demirel a lot more".

So I did my duty to Demirel before his demise and not after like so many other people.

Our struggle for democracy in Turkeyin the 1980s was a legend as we took on the military, the misperception created in the public that politicians were bad and corrupt and that after the 1980 coup Demirel and his political movement was finished.

Staring with a handful of people Demriel took on the military and the Turgut Özal administration and single handedly convinced the Turkish nation to lift the political bans against the political leaders who were deposed in the 1980 coup that included late Bülent Ecevit, Necmettin Erbakan and Alparslan Türkeş as well as Demirel.

Demirel ‘s hat became the "torch of democracy" as he showed to the Turkish people that they were being misled by antidemocratic forces and that politicians and politics was not bad. If Turkey managed to become a healthy democracy and managed to get rid of its image of a "military democracy" it is because of the struggle started with the Demirel movement and reached a peak with the Erdoğan administration in 2007.

Demirel spent his life trying to avoid military coups and keep the Parliament functioning. In some cases he succeeded and in some he lost. So he was deposed six times and came back seven times. Despite the turbulent periods of the 1970s and 1980s he served a total of ten years as prime minister and seven years as president. He was pragmatic and felt that democracy should survive at all costs and the Parliament should be kept open despite the odds.

In all that period he built Turkey's physical infrastructure and was called the "king of the dams." But he also built Turkey's public and private industrial infrastructure as well as its agricultural structure which was a great treasure for this country. Thanks to all this future generations managed to build on this infrastructure and bring Turkey to the current state.

The fact that as a shepherd boy he managed to eventually rise to the peak and become the president of this country showed to everyone that Turkey is such a country where a person can achieve anything within a democratic system. He never gave up despite the odds and told us "you can move the mountain if you set your heart into it" and that is exactly what he did in Turkey.

Some call his demise the end of an era. Some say the end of a chapter. We say he remains our inspiration for a more viable democracy and thus the political spirit he created in Turkey will never die.

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