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Nihat Erim (1912 - 1980) was a Turkish political figure and jurist. He served as the prime minister of Turkey from 1971 until 1972, for only about 5 months. He was assassinated on July 19, 1980 in Istanbul.
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 Turkish 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 at San Francisco in 1945. The same year, he was elected and served as the Kocaeli Province representative at the Turkish Parliament to join the Republican People's Party (CHP) group at the parliament. In 1949, he served as the Minister of Public Works and later as Deputy Prime Minister.
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 "Ulus" newspaper. When Ulus was closed down, he went on to publish his own newspaper, Yeni Ulus–Halkçı (New Nation–Populist) in 1953. In 1956, he participated to the negotiations on Cyprus in London. 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 lead 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 at the parliament, and this time was selected as the CHP group head. 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 at The Hague.
In Turkey though, after a spree of political violence, and the coup by memorandum, the army forced the resignation of the prime minister 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 heavily influenced by the military then, and appointed as a neutral prime minister on March 26, 1971 to form a "national unity" coalition government, the first of a series of weak governments until the elections in 1973.
Erim had to resign when 11 ministers of his cabinet resigned on December 3, 1971, however he was appointed once more by the president Cevdet Sunay and therefore 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 May 22, 1972 and Ferit Melen , representative of the Van Province was appointed as the new prime minister.
During his prime ministership, a significant contribution he made to Turkish politics was to form a Ministry of Culture, 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 with US pressure fired controversy. A change in the constitution brought together a witchhunt for the leftists, reaching its peak after the abduction and killing of the Israeli ambassador Efraim Elrom in January 1971. One of the boldest actions taken during Erim's prime ministry was the closing down of the Turkish Worker's Party (TİP).
He was shot to death by two gunmen in 1980. Radical leftist Turkish militant group Dev Sol (Revolutionary Left) claimed responsibility for the attack. The assassination might have accelerated the military coup in September the same year, lead by the chief of staff Kenan Evren. The motive behind the assassination can be related to the approval by the parliament of the execution of three leftist militants, one being Deniz Gezmis, during his service as prime minister.
- Le Positivisme Juridique et le Droit International (Judicial Positivism and International Law), 1939.
- XVII. Yüzyıldan Zamanımııza Kadar Tabii Hukuk Nazariyeleri (Natural Theories of Law from 17th Century Until Today), translation from Le Fur, 1940.
- Amme Hukuku Dersleri (Public Law Lessons), 1941.
- Devletlerarası Amme Hukuku (International Public Law), translation from Le Fur, 1944.
- Siyasi Tarih ve Devletlerararası Hukuk Metinleri (Political History and International Law Texts), 1953.
- Kılıçlıoğlu, Safa; Araz, Nezihe; Devrim, Hakkı; (eds.) (1969). ERIM (Nihat). In Meydan-Larousse Büyük Lügat ve Ansiklopedisi, Vol. 4; p.319. Meydan Yayınevi, Istanbul.
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