Turkish Prime Minister Necmettin Erbakan served as prime minister of Turkey only a year before he was forced to stand down in 1997 by his country's staunchly secular military. His Welfare Party was banned in 1998, while Necmettin Erbakan was barred from politics for five years for violating the constitution. During his turbulent year as prime minister, Necmettin boldly challenged Turkey's secular dogma, vowing to create a pan-Islamic currency. He embraced the religious regime in Iran, allowed female civil servants to wear headscarves to work, and held Islamic feasts in the prime minister's residence. Among the last survivors of the political generation that ruled Turkey as it struggled toward democracy during the second half of the 20th century, a period punctuated by three military coups, Necmettin was often called 'Hodja', a term of affection accorded to religious teachers or wise men. Like other political patriarchs of his era, Necmettin was a nationalist who bowed before the reality of military power. Yet he repeatedly pushed for a greater role for religion in public life. His party was banned multiple times. After each shutdown, he re-invented and renamed it. In 1970, stung by the refusal of a centre-right party to nominate him for a seat in Parliament, Necmettin formed his own political party, which advocated a return to religious values. The party survived repeated closings and Necmettin's several years of exile in Switzerland. Though the party never won nearly enough votes to put him in power, he emerged as a kingmaker. Twice in the 1970s he became deputy prime minister. In the 1995 election Necmettin's party, then called Welfare, finished first with 21 percent of the vote. After striking a coalition deal with another party leader who was eager to control corruption investigations, Necmettin became prime minister. He immediately began challenging the secular, pro-Western foundations of modern Turkey. After Necmettin had been in office for 12 months military commanders, who consider themselves the ultimate guardians of Turkish secularism, decided to strike against him. They forced him out with a series of threatening memoranda listing his sins. He resigned on Feb. 28, 1997, ousted by what is widely described as Turkey's only postmodern coup. These events split the religious political movement in Turkey. A group of insurgents, accusing Necmettin of losing touch with a rapidly changing country, tried to wrest control of the party from him. When they failed, they quit the party, founded their own, calling it Justice and Development, and rocketed to national power. Necmettin later became the target of corruption charges. In 2002 he was sentenced to two years and four months in prison on charges of 'forgery of personal documents.' President Abdullah Gul, who was his foreign policy adviser during his ill-fated year in power, pardoned him. Necmettin Erbakan was born in the Black Sea town of Sinop. He later compiled an outstanding record as an engineering student. He completed his doctoral work in Aachen, Germany, and worked in that country for several years, specialising in diesel engine design. His German remained fluent and lyrical.
Compiler: M. Nauman Khan