Erbakan, Necmettin

born с 1926, Sinop, Tur.

First leader of an Islamic political party to win a general election in Turkey (1995).

Son of an Ottoman-era religious court judge, he studied mechanical engineering before being elected to the National Assembly in 1969. Despite Turkey's strong secular tradition and its laws prohibiting the formation of parties based on religious ideology, Erbakan formed an Islamic party in 1970 and another in 1972, serving twice as deputy prime minister. His third attempt to form a party created the Refah ("Welfare") Party, which won the most seats in the 1995 elections. As prime minister, he formed a coalition government in 1996, but his party was outlawed in 1997; he was then banned from politics.

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▪ 1997

      On July 8, 1996, the national legislature of Turkey confirmed a coalition government headed by Necmettin Erbakan, who, among other things, advocated strengthening ties to Islamic nations. His Welfare (Refah) Party had won the most votes in the legislative elections held in December 1995, taking 158 of the 550 seats and thereby becoming the first Islamic party ever to win a general election in Turkey. After a centre-right coalition collapsed in June, Erbakan and Tansu Ciller, a former prime minister and head of the True Path Party, formed a coalition.

      Erbakan was born in Sinop, a town in northern Turkey on the Black Sea, in 1926. He was the son of one of the last Islamic judges of the Ottoman Empire, whose system of religious courts was replaced by a secular legal code after the founding of modern Turkey in 1923. The future political leader received degrees in mechanical engineering from Istanbul Technical University, where he later taught, and the Rhenish-Westphalian Technical University of Aachen, then in West Germany. Elected to the legislature as an independent in 1969, the next year he formed an Islamic party, but it was banned by the military government in 1971. He re-formed the party in 1972 and twice during the 1970s served as a deputy prime minister. In 1980 the military again banned his party and briefly put Erbakan in prison. He was prohibited from engaging in politics from 1980 to 1987. His third attempt to form a political party was more successful, and the Welfare Party became especially well organized on the local level, where it opposed what many saw as the arrogant corruption of the leaders of the established parties. In the 1995 campaign Erbakan advocated withdrawing from NATO, abrogating agreements with Israel, and developing closer ties with such Middle Eastern nations as Syria and Iran. His proposals were particularly unsettling to Western leaders, who had long depended on a friendly secular government in Turkey as a basis for their policy in the Middle East.

      Early in 1996 Erbakan tried but failed to form a coalition government. A centre-right coalition of the True Path and Motherland parties then held power until internal disagreements brought it down in June. Erbakan was again asked to try to form a coalition, and this time, when Ciller agreed to join him, he succeeded. Under the agreement, Erbakan and Ciller would alternate as prime minister, with Ciller initially holding the posts of deputy prime minister and minister of foreign affairs. The various other ministries were divided between the two parties. The Welfare Party headed such departments as Finance, Labour, Justice, and Culture, which gave the Islamists considerable influence over domestic affairs. The True Path Party, however, controlled not only Foreign Affairs but also such ministries as Defense and Interior and thus strengthened its hand, and that of the military, in the conduct of foreign policy. (ROBERT RAUCH)

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▪ prime minister of Turkey
born 1926, Sinop, Tur.
 
 Turkish politician whose tenure as the first Islamist prime minister of Turkey (1996–97) ended abruptly amid accusations that he was attempting to undermine Turkey's secular constitution.

      Erbakan was the son of one of the last Islamic judges of the Ottoman Empire, whose system of religious courts was replaced by a secular legal code after the founding of modern Turkey by Kemal Atatürk (Atatürk, Kemal) in 1923. He received degrees in mechanical engineering from Istanbul Technical University, where he later taught, and the Rhenish-Westphalian Technical University of Aachen, then in West Germany. He was elected in 1969 to the legislature as an independent in 1969 and formed an Islamic party the following year, but it was banned by the military government in 1971. He re-formed the party in 1972 and twice during the 1970s served as a deputy prime minister. In 1980 the military again banned the party and briefly imprisoned Erbakan. He was prohibited from engaging in politics from 1980 to 1987.

      When he returned to politics, Erbakan became a leader of the pro-Islamic Welfare Party, which was well organized on the local level and opposed what many saw as the arrogant corruption of the leaders of the established parties. In the run-up to the 1995 parliamentary elections, Erbakan advocated withdrawing from the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, abrogating agreements with Israel, and developing closer ties with such Middle Eastern countries as Syria and Iran. His proposals were particularly unsettling to Western leaders, who had long depended on a friendly secular government in Turkey as a basis for their policy in the Middle East. A large segment of voters, however, seemed to support his views, as the Welfare (Refah) Party won the largest number of seats, capturing 158 of the 550 seats in the legislature and thereby becoming the first Islamic party ever to win a general election in Turkey.

      Early in 1996 Erbakan tried but failed to form a coalition government. A centre-right coalition of the True Path (Dogru Yol) and Motherland (Anavatan) parties then held power until internal disagreements brought it down in June. Erbakan was again asked to try to form a coalition, and this time, when Tansu Ciller (Ciller, Tansu), head of the True Path Party, agreed to join him, he succeeded.

      On July 8, 1996, the national legislature of Turkey confirmed a coalition government headed by Erbakan. He and Ciller would alternate as prime minister, and the various other ministries were divided between the Welfare Party and the True Path Party. Erbakan's tenure as prime minister marked the first time an Islamist had held the position, but it was short-lived. Fears that the Welfare Party was attempting to Islamicize the country led the military to force Erbakan to resign. He left office on June 18, 1997, and early in 1998 the Welfare Party was banned entirely. Erbakan was prohibited from political action for five years, and in 2000 he was convicted of “provoking hatred” for a speech he made in 1994 that attacked Turkey's secular government. Though he avoided prison time, Erbakan was convicted in 2002 of having embezzled Welfare Party funds during its dissolution, and he was sentenced to more than two years of house arrest. He became politically active once again in 2003, after the end of his five-year ban, and worked with the pro-Islamic Felicity (Saadet) Party.

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Universalium. 2010.

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