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Longtime Turkish Leader, Suleyman Demirel, Dies at 90

  • VOA News

FILE - Suleyman Demirel, former president of Turkey.

FILE - Suleyman Demirel, former president of Turkey.

Former Turkish President Suleyman Demirel, one of Turkey's most prominent leaders of the past half-century, has died at the age of 90.

Doctors at Ankara's Guven Hospital announced Demirel's death on Wednesday. He had been in treatment for a respiratory tract infection.

Demirel came to power in the 1960s and served five terms as prime minister before becoming president from 1993 to 2000. He was toppled twice by military coup, once in 1971 and again in 1980. But he returned as prime minister in 1991 and moved into the presidency two years later.

Demirel, who was trained as an engineer, was known as an ally of Turkey's farmers at a time when the nation was transitioning from an agrarian economy to one that was more heavily industrial, bringing higher living standards to much of Turkey's people. He presided over years when the country was crippled by violence and economic hardship.

He was seen as a consummate politician -- The New York Times reported that it was said he could fly over any village in Turkey and name its mayor. Likewise, he habitually explained changes in his position by telling reporters, "Yesterday was yesterday. Today is today."

Demirel's wife Nazmiye died in 2013, and they had no children.