Turkey: Seeking a saviour

After forty years in politics, Süleyman Demirel’s seven-year term as president of Turkey came to an end in the middle of May, the day before a Turkish football team won the UEFA cup. The new president, former head of the Constitutional Court, Ahmet Necdet Sezer, couldn’t have timed his inauguration better. There was already a light breeze of optimism gently blowing over the country for the new president to build on, but victory on the football field brought a change of attitude. Suddenly the people of Turkey – known for their harsh self-criticism and feelings of not being the equal of other nations – took the soccer win to heart. Turkey was now an equal among equals.

The World Today Updated 28 October 2020 Published 1 July 2000 3 minute READ

Debbie Lovatt

Lecturer, International Relations Department, Dokuz Eylül University, Izmir

Prime Minister Bü lent Ecevit initially feared that the search for a new president could topple his one-year-old tripartite coalition and scupper the ambitious dis-inflation and economic stabilisation International Monetary Fund package begun in January.

For the sake of stability, Ecevit had campaigned for a change to the constitution to allow the re-election of Süleyman Demirel, but parliament – the only body to vote for a new president – rejected this, and the search began for candidates.

Media support for a second term for Demirel had been weak and the populace felt it was time to see a new face, and preferably a younger one. But no one was asking them anyway. Society was ready for a change, but it was suspected that the centre would disregard the ideal profile put forward by the media, civil organisations and the public in favour of a colourless yes-man who would maintain the status quo – there were no women candidates.

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