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Last Updated: Sunday, 5 November 2006, 23:06 GMT
Turkish ex-PM Bulent Ecevit dies
Bulent Ecevit
Bulent Ecevit helped push Turkey towards the West
Former Turkish Prime Minister Bulent Ecevit has died after nearly six months in a coma following a stroke, aged 81.

The veteran politician had five terms in office in a career of four decades, before being swept from power in 2002.

He ordered the invasion of Cyprus in 1974, arguing that the Turkish Cypriot minority needed protection. That led to the island's division, which still exists today.

Mr Ecevit was responsible for pushing Turkey closer to the West and towards

candidacy for EU membership.

The former Socialist prime minister had strongly opposed the country's Islamists and championed the secular state.

He was swept from power in 2002 after refusing to resign on health grounds, and he was blamed in part for the economic crisis which rocked Turkey.

This made way for the rise of current Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan's Justice and Development Party.

EU candidacy

In 1974, Mr Ecevit 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.

Thousands of Turkish Cypriots had already in the 1960s sought refuge in enclaves, displaced by clashes with Greek Cypriots.

Pushed too far, as he saw it, Mr Ecevit ordered the invasion of Cyprus, in response to the coup and to prevent any possible further violence against Turkish Cypriots.

Greek Cypriots maintain that the invasion was illegal, and today the breakaway Turkish "republic" in the north is recognised only by Ankara.

Mr Ecevit enjoyed hero status in Turkey after the invasion, 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.

Under Mr Ecevit, Turkey was accepted as a candidate for membership in the EU in 1999.

His 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.

Mr Ecevit also had to deal with right-wing nationalists in his own coalition who were opposed to many of the reforms designed to enable Turkey to join the EU.

Poor health dogged him through much of 2002, as he battled fresh political and economic crises. After failing to lead his party back into the National Assembly, he later retired from active politics in 2004.




VIDEO AND AUDIO NEWS
A look back at Mr Ecevit's political career



SEE ALSO
Obituary: Bulent Ecevit
05 Nov 06 |  Europe
Country profile: Turkey
05 Apr 06 |  Country profiles

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