Suleyman Demirel was a master pragmatist whose remarkable talent for staying on top of Turkish politics saw him survive two coups, serve seven terms as Turkey’s prime minister and cap his career with the presidency.
Demirel died at 2:05 a.m. at Ankara’s Guven Hospital of heart failure and a respiratory tract infection, doctors said in an announcement broadcast on Turkish television.
He served as head of state from 1993 to 2000, the culmination of a four-decade career that repeatedly took him in and out of high office — with two stints as prime minister cut short by military intervention.
Born to a peasant family in a village in southwestern Turkey, he moved from the civil service to the private sector and then into politics, where he distinguished himself by his hard work and an open embrace of political realism.
He believed his governments of the 1960s and 1970s deserved much of the credit for transforming Turkey from a largely agrarian society into an increasingly industrial and urban one, bringing higher living standards for most Turks.