Nihat Erim

Prof. Dr.
Ismail Nihat Erim
Prime Minister of Turkey
In office
March 26, 1971  May 22, 1972
Preceded by Süleyman Demirel
Succeeded by Ferit Melen
Deputy Prime Minister
In office
January 16, 1949  May 22, 1950
Preceded by Faruk Ahmet Barutçu
Succeeded by Samet Ağauğlu
Minister of Public Works
In office
June 10, 1948  January 16, 1949
Preceded by Kasım Gülek
Succeeded by Hasan Şevket Adalan
Personal details
Born 1912
Kandıra, Hudavendigar, Ottoman Empire
Died July 19, 1980
Kartal, Istanbul Province, Turkey
Resting place Zincirlikuyu Cemetery, Istanbul
Nationality Turkish
Political party Republican People's Party (CHP)
Spouse(s) Kamile Okutman
Children 2
Alma mater Istanbul University, University of Paris
Profession Academic
Religion Sunni Islam

Ismail Nihat Erim (1912 – July 19, 1980) was a Turkish politician and jurist. He served as the Prime Minister of Turkey for almost 14 months after the 1971 Turkish coup d'état. He was assassinated in Istanbul in 1980.


Nihat Erim was born in Kandıra to Raif Erim and Macide Erim. After graduating from Istanbul University Law School in 1936, he studied further to earn his doctorate degree in Paris Law School in 1939. He returned to Turkey to become an assistant professor in 1939 and professor in 1942 at the Ankara University School of Law.

He was appointed as legal advisor to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in 1943 while he was still in the university. He also served as an advisor in the Turkish committee at the conference on the foundation of the United Nations in San Francisco in 1945. That same year, he was elected and served as the Kocaeli Province representative at the Turkish Parliament to join the Republican People's Party (Turkish: Cumhuriyet Halk Partisi, CHP) group at the parliament. In 1949, he served as the minister of public works and later as Deputy Prime Minister.

Erim was married to Kamile Erim née Okutman and has two children Işık Erim and Işıl Onalp née Erim. He has five grandchildren and ten great-grandchildren.

Political career

Nihat Erim shaking hands
Nihat Erim on a visit in Washington D.C.

In 1950, when CHP lost the majority in the parliament after the elections, he lost his seat and became the chief politics editor and leading writer of the newspaper "Ulus" ("Nation"). When it was closed down by the government, he went on to publish his own newspaper, "Yeni UlusHalkçı" ("New NationPopulist") in 1953. In 1956, he participated at the negotiations on Cyprus in London, England. The same year, he was selected as the Turkish member of the European Commission on Human Rights to serve in this position until 1962. He led the Turkish committee on the preparation of the Cyprus constitution in 1959, following Zurich and London Agreements. He continued legally advising the Turkish committees at further negotiations on Cyprus at the United Nations.

After the military coup of 1960, once again he was elected and served as Kocaeli representative in the parliament, and this time as head of the CHP group. He was one the focal points of internal conflicts of CHP, opposing the leader Ismet Inönü. The conflict resulted in him being ousted from the party in 1962. He was re-elected to the party's ruling committee taking second highest votes, thus joining the party again.

He served as the Turkish representative at the Council of Europe between 1961 and 1970, and was elected as deputy secretary general in 1961. In 1969, he was appointed as a member of the UN International Law Commission in The Hague, Netherlands.

In Turkey, after a spree of political violence, and the coup by memorandum, the army forced the resignation of prime minister Süleyman Demirel on March 12, 1971. Nihat Erim, while still at the university, was advised to withdraw from his post in the Republican People's Party (CHP) by the National Security Council, which was then heavily influenced by the military. He was appointed a neutral and technocratic prime minister on March 26, 1971 to form a "national unity" coalition government (see 33rd government of Turkey), the first of a series of weak governments until the elections in 1973.

Erim was forced to resign when 11 technocratic ministers of his cabinet resigned as a body on December 3, 1971. However, he was appointed once more by the President Cevdet Sunay, and he formed his second cabinet on December 11, 1971. He resigned on April 17, 1972 on health grounds, when his decision to promulgate decree laws was not backed by the parliament. His resignation was approved on May 22, 1972, and Ferit Melen, representative of the Van Province and minister of national defense in his cabinet, was appointed as the new prime minister and formed his own cabinet.

During his premiership, a significant contribution he made to Turkish politics was to form a ministry of culture (today in the form of the Ministry of Culture and Tourism), which was until then a mere department within the ministry of education. He appointed Talat Halman, journalist-writer, as the minister to this newly formed post. His government's prohibition of opium poppy harvesting in June 1971 under US pressure fired controversy. A change in the constitution brought together a witch hunt for leftists, reaching its peak after the abduction and killing of the Israeli ambassador Efraim Elrom in May 1971. One of the boldest actions taken during Erim's prime ministry was the closing down of the Workers Party of Turkey (Turkish: Türkiye İşçi Partisi, TİP).


Erim was shot to death by two gunmen near his home in Kartal, Istanbul on July 19, 1980; his bodyguard, Ali Kartal, was also killed in the attack. Radical leftist Turkish militant group Dev Sol (Revolutionary Left) claimed responsibility for the attack. The assassination might have accelerated the military coup on September 12 of that year led by chief of staff Kenan Evren. The motive behind the assassination is thought to be related to the approval by the parliament of the execution of three leftist militants, one being Deniz Gezmiş, during his service as prime minister.

Erim's assassination was part of the wave of political violence in Turkey in the late 1970s between left-wing Marxist and right-wing ultranationalist groups.

See also



Political offices
Preceded by
Faruk Ahmet Barutçu
Deputy Prime Minister of Turkey
Jan 16, 1949May 22, 1950
Succeeded by
Samet Ağaoğlu
Preceded by
Süleyman Demirel
Prime Minister of Turkey
Mar 26, 1971May 22, 1972
Succeeded by
Ferit Melen
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