Sezer, Ahmet Necdet (1941–)

views updated

Sezer, Ahmet Necdet

Ahmet Necdet Sezer is the tenth president of the Republic of Turkey. The Grand National Assembly of Turkey (TBMM) elected Sezer president in 2000 after Süleyman Demirel's seven-year term expired. Sezer pledged to protect Turkey's secular institutions, social peace, and territorial integrity at all costs.


Ahmet Necdet Sezer was born on 13 September 1941 in Afyonkarahisar, a city in western Turkey. After his graduation from Afyonkarahisar High School, he obtained a BA from the Ankara University Faculty of Law in 1962. He began his career as a candidate judge in Ankara and later served as a reserve officer in the Military Academy. Upon completing his military service, he became a judge in DicleYerköy, a district of the Diyarbakιr Province in Turkey. He worked as a district judge for many years and returned to Ankara as a supervisory judge in the Supreme Court. During this period, he also obtained his MA in civil law from the Ankara University Faculty of Law.

In 1983 he was elected to the Supreme Court. In 1988 while serving in the Division Two of the Supreme Court, he was appointed by Turkey's president Kenan Evren to the Court of Constitution as a primary member, Turkey's highest court. Sezer's work ethic was well respected and his decisions so critical that he became the chief justice of the Constitutional Court in 1998.

In May 2000, after Turkey's political parties failed to reach a consensus on a candidate for presidency, Sezer, the head of the Constitutional Court, received the backing of leaders from all five parties in the parliament. The political leaders—Bülent Ecevit, Devlet Bahçeli, Mesut Yιlmaz, Recai Kutan, and Tansu Çiller—all agreed to nominate Sezer to replace outgoing president Suleyman Demirel. Following this, he was elected by the parliament as the tenth president of the Turkish Republic. He was sworn in and the coalition ruling the government appeared stable under his presidency. The government led by Prime Minister Bulent Ecevit began to concentrate on legislating vital economic reforms demanded by the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

President Sezer accomplished much during his seven-year term of presidency, which officially ended in April 2007. He gained vast support from the public because of his protection of secularism in Turkey. He promoted the supremacy of the law and democratization and fought corruption. At his swearing-in cermony, he said, "Unless we abandon elements which resemble a police state, we can't meet the demands of being a modern society" (Morris). He has urged stronger efforts for the country to join the European Union (EU), saying, "Our country, which cannot remain inward-looking, has to become integrated with the values of civilization embraced by the EU. Our success in the areas of the supremacy of the law and democracy will enhance our respectability in the community of modern nations" (Southeast European Times). Nevertheless, there were some issues on which President Sezer was criticized as well. Given his lack of experience in foreign affairs, he did not play a major role on the international stage representing Turkey's interests.


President Sezer is known as a man of great personal integrity who possesses a deep respect for the rule of law. He follows the philosophical path of Atatürk, the founder and first president of the Turkish Republic. With the victory of the Turkish War of Independence in 1923, Atatürk instituted a form of democracy with a parliament (the Grand National Assembly), raising Turkey to a modern civilization. He abolished Islam as the state religion and instructed a secular law structure with secular institutions of justice and education. During Atatürk's presidency (1923–1938), educational, social, and economic reforms were begun and messages about the necessity of a peaceful and mutually respectful co-existence of all nations were given. Ahmet Necdet Sezer, inspired by Atatürk, has followed in his footsteps not only as a judge, but also as president.


Name: Ahmet Necdet Sezer

Birth: 1941, Afyonkarahisar, Turkey

Family: Wife, Semra (m. 1964); two daughters, Zeynep and Ebru; one son, Levent

Nationality: Turkish

Education: BA (law), Ankara University, 1962; 1978, LL.M.


  • 1963–1978: Served first as a judge in Dicle and Yerköy towns; served as a supervisory judge in the High Court of Appeals in Ankara
  • 1983: Elected as a member to the High Court of Appeals
  • 1988: Appointed by the president as member of the Constitutional Court
  • 1998: Elected chief justice of the Constitutional Court
  • 2000: Elected as the tenth president of Turkish Republic

President Sezer prohibited any type of Islamic influence in the Turkish state and has promoted secularism in every circumstance. His contributions as the chief justice of Turkey's highest court and as the tenth president of Turkey stem from his support of secularism and freedom of expression. There were, however, times that President Sezer and Prime Minister tayyip erdogan disagreed on proposed laws. He vetoed those and asked for improvements on behalf of the secularism.

President Sezer always has been a supporter for free speech and encouraged the government and military to repeal laws that imprison journalists and politicians for voicing allegedly subversive views. He has called for an end to the ban on teaching and broadcasting in the Kurdish language.

Overall his election helped to maintain stability throughout the nation. On the international stage, however, President Sezer has not had an active profile due to his lack of experience in foreign affairs. He has supported peace initiatives in Middle East. He met with the presidents of Middle Eastern countries and emphasized the possible consequences of ethnic and sectarian clashes in the Middle East extending beyond the region, adding, "initiatives with common sense should be undertaken to strengthen a peaceful solution" (Washington Post). In a joint news conference with Pakistani president General Pervez Musharraf, Ahmet Necdet Sezer said "We are aiming to contribute to efforts to bring peace to our region, to the world and the Muslim world" (Washington Post).


When President Sezer was the chief judge in Turkey, his messages were well received in the world. Stephen Kinzer, a New York Times correspondent, wrote in 1999, "Ahmet Necdet Sezer, Turkey's highest-ranking judge, surprises country by sharply condemning restrictions on freedom of speech; urges Parliament to repeal series of laws and constitutional provisions; also calls for lifting ban on teaching Kurdish language, which he contends violates international agreements."

His democratic profile and presidential election in 2000 are highly respected internationally. Europeans regarded President Sezer as a leader who could supervise Turkey's reform attempts and change its laws as required for membership in the European Union (EU).


Ahmet Necdet Sezer, a reformist judge with a profound respect for the rule of law, became Turkey's tenth president in 2000. He is the first Turkish president without prior service as either an active politician or a senior military officer. Turkish presidents have vital meanings for Turkey in many aspects. As indicated in its constitution, the president has many critical powers including appointing the chief of General Staff, choosing the members of the Constitutional Court, selecting the justices of the Court of Appeals and the Chief Public Prosecutor's Office, and also members of the Board of Higher Education (YOK) and university rectors. President Sezer has fullfilled these critical duties and maintained stability during times of conflict between the political power and the state system.


"Ahmed Necdet Sezer: President of the Republic of Turkey." Southeast European Times. Available from

Kinzer, Stephen. "Chief Judge in Turkey Urges Lifting of Curbs on Free Speech." New York Times, 30 April 1999. Available from

Morris, Chris. "Turkey's New President Takes Office." BBC News. Updated 16 May 2000. Available from

"Pakistan, Turkey in Mideast Peace Effort." Washington Post, 6 February 2007. Available from

Presidency of the Republic of Turkey. Available from

                                       Gunes Aygok