Former Turkish prime minister Yildirim Akbulut dies aged 85

Turkey's state-run news agency says Yildirim Akbulut, who served as prime minister during the First Gulf War and also oversaw an influx of ethnic Turkish refugees from Bulgaria to Turkey, has died at age 85

Akbulut died at Ankara University Medical Faculty hospital, the agency reported. The cause of death was not made public.

A lawyer by training, Akbulut was a founding member of the Motherland Party, a center-right movement led by Turgut Ozal that came to power in 1983 — the first election held after a military coup.

Ozal served as prime minister until 1989, when he was elected to the then largely ceremonial post of president. He hand-picked Akbulut, a loyal ally, to succeed him.

Ozal however, was believed to have continued to govern behind the scenes, leading some media at the time to describe Akbulut as a “puppet” prime minister.

Still, Akbulut steered Turkey during tumultuous times when hundreds of thousands of Kurdish refugees massed on Turkey’s borders with Iraq following the First Gulf War that ended in 1991. In 1989, the Akbulut government was forced to deal with the exodus of hundreds of thousands of ethnic Turkish Bulgarians escaping an assimilation policy that had forced them to change their names.

Akbulut’s tenure as prime minister ended in 1991, when he was replaced by former foreign minister Mesut Yilmaz who won the Motherland Party leadership.

Akbulut had previously been appointed as interior minister by Ozal in 1984, a position he held until 1987. He also served as parliament speaker between 1987 and 1989 and again between 1999 and 2000.

The office of the prime minister was abolished following amendments to Turkey’s Constitution, approved in 2017, which vastly expanded the powers of the president.

Akbulut had three daughters. Funeral arrangements were not immediately known.