ISTANBUL – At a party congress in Ankara Necmettin Erbakan (84), former Prime Minister of Turkey, has been elected leader of the religious Saadet Partisi (Felicity Party). Erbakan, the grand old man of conservative Islamic Turkish politics, once again has firm control of the party, according to several Turkish media reports on Sunday.
Erbakan has led several religious parties since the nineteen-seventies, all of which were eventually closed down for having a too Islamic agenda. For the same reason Erbakan was forced by the army to step down as Prime Minister in 1997. Later he founded Saadet Partisi, but the party never attracted a large membership, largely because of the success of the much more moderate AKP, which is in government now.
Last week tensions within the party reached a climax: party leader Kurtulmus resigned after a court decided he had to hand over power to a board of trustees, of which family and friends of Erbakan were in charge. Kurtulmus tried to break the power of the Erbakan clan and refused to give children and friends of the old leader high positions within the party.
It seemed Erbakan’s son had a good chance of becoming the new party leader, but in the end it turned out there was only one candidate: the old and fragile Necmettin Erbakan himself. His son and daughter have been appointed to the party board.