Erbakan commemorated on anniversary of his death

YUSUF ZIYA DURMUŞ
ISTANBUL
Published
Erbakan commemorated on anniversary of his death

Former Prime Minister Necmettin Erbakan, who changed the Turkish political landscape by introducing conservative masses to politics, was commemorated on the fourth anniversary of his death.

A commemoration ceremony was held at his grave in Istanbul's Zeytinburnu district on Friday while the late politician's admirers held events in his memory all across Turkey.

A separate commemoration ceremony was held in the northwestern city of Bursa with the participation of former Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Erbakan's son Fatih. In his lifetime, Erbakan was known for his efforts to improve ties with Iran and Arab countries. Ahmadinejad praised Erbakan as "a genuine statesman and Muslim [who] worked hard to keep our countries strong and prosperous."

Erbakan, or "hoca" (teacher), as he was known by both his supporters and detractors, died of heart failure at the age of 84 on Feb. 27, 2011, one day before Turkey marked the anniversary of the so-called "postmodern" coup that forced him to resign from his post as prime minister in 1997.

His political goals quashed by three military coups, Erbakan fought against all odds to raise the voice of the conservatives who were long neglected by governments and repressed by secular policies through polices such as blacklisting and banning headscarves.



Along with other political leaders of the time, Erbakan was tried following 1980 coup d'etat. He is seen on trial with other MSP executives in 1981

Born in 1926 in the sleepy Black Sea city of Sinop, Erbakan was a mechanical engineer by profession before he made his foray into politics nine years after the Turkish Republic's first coup deposed the Prime Minister Adnan Menderes's government. He founded the National Order Party one year after he was elected as an independent lawmaker from the central city of Konya, home to a conservative population where his successive parties boasted major support. The National Order Party focused on an agenda that advocated nationwide and "national" industrialization and "spiritual" development.

The party's Islamist line quickly drew the ire of country's secular elite, including the all-too-powerful army. Following a military coup in 1971, it was shut down by the Constitutional Court for "activities against secularism."



Erbakan with his famous 'thumbs up' sign

Undaunted by the pressure, Erbakan and his colleagues staged a powerful comeback by establishing the National Salvation Party (MSP) in 1972. The party garnered 11 percent of the vote in the 1973 elections and formed a short-lived coalition government with the Republican People's Party (CHP) whose cadres were staunchly secular. Erbakan then turned to center-right parties to form coalitions, but once again saw the closure of his party after the 1980 coup. He was barred from politics for seven years, but made a triumphant return in 1987 by being elected as the chairman of the Welfare Party, which his supporters founded in 1983.



Together with Süleyman Demirel of the Justice Party (center) and Alparslan Türkeş of Nationalist Movement Party (right), Erbakan formed two voluntary and one 'reluctant' short lived 'Nationalist Front' govermnents in 1970s, which contributed to the ideological split in the country

Eight years later his party received 21 percent of the vote in the national elections, and formed a coalition government with the center-right True Path Party in 1996. Erbakan, who served as deputy prime minister in several coalition governments in the 1970s, was finally elected prime minister in the Welfare Party and True Path Paty (Refahyol) government. However, secularists once again curbed his political ambitions at a time when his party was boosting its popularity, especially in municipalities run by his party such as Istanbul where President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan served as mayor.



Erbakan during 1994 Local Elections campaign, which marked the rise of Welfare Party with victories in 28 provinces, including municipalities in Istanbul and Ankara

In 1997, amid a growing crisis between the army and the government, Erbakan stepped down from his post after generals issued an ultimatum. His Welfare Party disbanded after the coup and Erbakan was banned from politics for five years. Later, he took charge of the Felicity Party, but it failed to win seats in Parliament in subsequent elections.

In 2002, the already frail Erbakan was sentenced to two-and-a-half years in prison on charges of embezzlement of party funds, a "plot" according to his supporters to further hinder his political goals. His sentence was commuted to house arrest. Erbakan continued to engage in politics up until his death through the Felicity Party that he chaired.

A uniting figure among the country's conservative community who were frustrated by policies of the countless right-wing parties, Erbakan was also the mentor of numerous politicians, including Erdoğan and his predecessor Abdullah Gül, who went on to form the Justice and Development (AK) Party, which has been in power since 2002.

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