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Democratic Party
(Demokrat Parti, DP)
True Path Party
(Dogru Yol Partisi--DYP)

The Democratic Party (Turkish: Demokrat Parti, DP) is a right-wing, conservative Turkish political party, established by Suleyman Demirel in 1983 as the True Path Party (Turkish: Dogru Yol Partisi or DYP). It succeeded the historical Democratic Party and the Justice Party - two parties with similar ideologies which were closed as a result of military intervention. There have been four DYP governments since its foundation; one led by Demirel, the other three by Turkey's first woman prime minister, Tansu Çiller. By 2007 the party had only 4 seats in parliament after faring badly in elections when many voters defected to the similarly-conservative, albeit also moderate Islamist, Justice and Development Party (AKP). The party's logo initially was a horse upon a red background. After the renaming in mid-2007, the new logo is Kir At (a white horse) on a red map of Turkey.

The inability of either the Justice Party or the CHP to win parliamentary majorities and the refusal of both Demirel and Ecevit to cooperate politically necessitated the formation of numerous coalition and minority-party governments. These governments proved ineffective at devising policies to cope with Turkey's economic and social problems, which became steadily more serious throughout the 1970s. Various groups on the extreme right and the extreme left formed illegal political organizations that resorted to violence in pursuit of their objectives, which for certain groups included the overthrow of the government. The apparent inability of governments--whether dominated by the Justice Party or by the CHP--to control increasing terrorism in urban areas contributed to a general sense of insecurity and crisis and served as the catalyst for the 1980 coup. Blaming politicians for the country's political impasse, the military sought to end partisan politics by dissolving the old parties and banning all activity by the politicians deemed responsible for the crisis. Although the formation of new parties was authorized in 1983, none was allowed to use the name of any of the banned parties from the precoup past. Nevertheless, most of Turkey's existing parties in early 1995 were transparent continuations of earlier parties.

In January 1995, the True Path Party (Dogru Yol Partisi--DYP) was the senior partner in Turkey's coalition government. It was a continuation of the Justice Party, and its leader from 1987 until 1993 was Demirel. Because Demirel was barred from political activity prior to late 1987, his close associate, Hüsamettin Cindoruk, became the party's titular chair when the True Path Party was established in 1983. However, Demirel was the driving force behind the party, raising money and campaigning on its behalf despite being banned from political action. Demirel promoted economic policies similar to those he had advocated as leader of the Justice Party, updated, however, to reflect changing economic conditions resulting from international political developments between 1989 and 1991.

The True Path Party's rise from political pariah to ruling party was gradual. In 1983 the military government prohibited the party's participation in the parliamentary elections, effectively shutting it out of the legal political process. However, a gain of thirty-five seats in the National Assembly resulted in 1986 when the Nationalist Democracy Party dissolved itself and most of its deputies joined the True Path Party. Subsequently the party won fifty-nine seats in the 1987 parliamentary elections, and Demirel returned to the National Assembly as a deputy for the first time since the military coup. The party's performance four years later was even more impressive: the True Path Party tripled its representation to 178 seats and emerged from the 1991 elections with a plurality in the assembly. Demirel, who had served three times as prime minister before the 1980 coup and twice had been deposed by the military, succeeded in forming his fourth government by negotiating a coalition agreement with the SHP.

When the Demirel government assumed office in November 1991, it faced several political and economic challenges. Two important political issues eluding resolution were the increasing militancy of Kurdish demands for civil rights and the growing stridency of the confrontation between religious and secular elements of society. Although the True Path Party had no sympathy for Kurdish aspirations, its SHP partners tended to support cultural freedom for the Kurds and had a relatively strong political base in the Kurdish provinces. However, the SHP's ability to influence overall government policy on the Kurdish issue was limited because the military had assumed de facto decision-making authority for matters pertaining to southeastern Turkey and expected that civilian politicians would accept this role. There was also no consensus among either True Path Party or SHP leaders on how to handle Islamist aspirations. Whereas some True Path Party members believed it was possible to accommodate Islamist concerns, militant secularists opposed any concessions to those whom they termed "Islamic fundamentalists."

On April 17, 1993, President Özal died suddenly of a heart attack. On its third ballot, on May 16, the assembly elected Süleyman Demirel as Turkey's ninth president. Demirel was succeeded by former economics minister Tansu Çiller, who became Turkey's first woman prime minister. She received nearly 90 percent of the votes cast in a special election for the leadership of the True Path Party. The smooth succession of power may be seen as evidence that civilian rule was firmly in place. Moreover, the accession of Çiller to the prime minister's office, the second highest position in the nation, showed the extent to which Atatürk's legacy, and in particular the political rights of women, was becoming ingrained in the Turkish body politic.

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Page last modified: 11-07-2011 03:07:04 ZULU