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Ex-Turkey president, PM Suleyman Demirel dies aged 90: state media

ANKARA: Turkey’s former president and prime minister Suleyman Demirel, a giant figure in the country’s politics for over half a century, died Wednesday, the state Anatolia news agency said. He was 90.

In a remarkable career, Demirel survived his dismissal in two military coups and a ban on holding office to become president and one of Turkey’s most respected elder statesmen.

Demirel served as prime minister on repeated occasions in the 1960s and 1970s and then again in the 1990s before serving as head of state from 1993-2000.

He died of heart failure resulting from a severe respiratory tract infection, Anatolia said, quoting the private Ankara hospital where he was treated.

His name epitomises one of the most chaotic periods of modern Turkish history where governments changed sometimes once a year and were frequently ousted by coup-happy generals.

Twice deposed by the military in 1971 and 1980, Demirel was one of modern Turkey’s great political survivors.

Despite being hit with a ban from all political activity after the 1980 intervention, he returned to head the government for a final time from 1991-1993.

He then became the ninth Turkish president in May 1993 following the sudden death of his predecessor Turgut Ozal, serving his full term until 2000.

Nicknamed “Coban Sulu” (Suleyman the Shepherd), Demirel was known for his earthy turns of phrase and folksy wisdom that showed up his roots in the southern Isparta province.

In his later years, he was affectionately known as “Baba” (Father) in Turkey.

In total, he ruled the modern Turkish state longer than anyone else as premier and prime minister, with the exception of the second president and right hand man of its founder, Ismet Inonu. – AFP

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