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Monday, 4 November, 2002, 18:49 GMT
Bulent Ecevit: Survivor finally falls
Bulent Ecevit
Ecevit finally ran out of road in November elections
Ousted Turkish Prime Minister Bulent Ecevit fell from the political precipice after months on the edge.

He had previously proved himself as a man with a strong instinct for political survival in a career which spanned 45 years.


A cup of tea, a piece of paper, a pencil, and a poetry book are the most faithful friends of Bulent

University yearbook

But his luck ran out at last, swept from office in November 2002 by the political newcomers of the AK (Justice and Development) Party.

The 77-year-old had refused to bow to pressure from his own allies and resign as prime minister during months of failing health, and played a key role in the political crisis into which Turkey tumbled.

But it was his very tenacity which had characterised a long political career.

His refusal to budge on many issues earned him a reputation as someone who did not like to give way.

Poetry and politics

Bulent Ecevit was born in 1925, the son of a professor of medicine and a painter.

A Turkish air strike on Cyprus in 1974
It was Ecevit who ordered the invasion of Cyprus
He graduated in literature from Istanbul's Robert College. A class yearbook entry reads: "A cup of tea, a piece of paper, a pencil, and a poetry book are the most faithful friends of Bulent."

But he was interested in politics too.

After a stint in the Turkish embassy in London, Mr Ecevit became the youngest member of the Turkish parliament, standing for the Republican People's Party (RPP) in 1957.

Heading up

His rise was steady. After serving as a government minister, he became the secretary general of the RPP.

He was a bitter opponent of martial law imposed in 1971 and resigned from the post to fight against the party leadership's decision to support a government imposed by the military.

The next year, he took the party reins.

Bulent Ecevit in 1972
He became prime minister at the age of 47

In the general election campaign which followed, Mr Ecevit toured the country outlining his social democratic ideals. He promised political and social reform and fairer distribution of land.

In 1972, he became Turkey's first left-wing prime minister.

But despite his social democrat views, he was also a strong nationalist - a quality that particularly emerged after the coup on the island of Cyprus by Greek Cypriots later that year.

It was Mr Ecevit who ordered the invasion to protect the Turkish Cypriot minority, leading to the division which still exists today.

He enjoyed hero status in Turkey in the aftermath, but his coalition broke up before the end of the year and he was out of office.

Thereafter, his political career was a rollercoaster. He served as prime minister for two brief periods during the late 1970s, but was also imprisoned by the military following coups during the early 1980s.

Banned from politics for 10 years, he nonetheless managed to cultivate a reputation as a moderate elder statesman - which was to serve him well.

Unexpected return

As the country faced financial crisis, Mr Ecevit was re-elected prime minister in 1999 by a nation eager for stability.

He strongly opposed the country's Islamists and championed the secular state.

Initially, things went well.

But this last period in office was marred by a very public row with the country's President, Ahmet Necdet Sezer, over how to tackle corruption.

In early 2001, as fears grew over the stability of the country, the Turkish lira lost a quarter of its value and the International Monetary Fund was called in to rescue the economy.

He has also had to deal with right-wing nationalists in his own coalition who are opposed to many of the reforms designed to enable Turkey to join the European Union.

Ill-health dogged him through much of 2002, as he battled fresh political and economic crises.

Voters, it seems, finally tired of the great survivor and risked a leap into an unknown, post-Ecevit world.

Turkey's election

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