Statesman, jurist and academic member (B. 1912, Kandıra / Kocaeli – D. 19 July 1980, Istanbul). His full name is İsmail Nihat Erim. He graduated from Galatasaray High School and Istanbul University Faculty of Law. He completed his PhD in Paris Faculty of Law. In 1939 he was assigned to Ankara University Faculty of Law as associate professor of public law; in1941 he was promoted to professorship. In addition to his lectures of public law in Ankara University, Faculty of Law, he taught international law in School of Political Science. Between the years 1945-50 he was elected Parliament Member from the list of Cumhuriyet Halk Party (CHP) and entered TBMM. In the second government established by Hasan Saka he served as Minister of Public Works, and in the government established by Şemsettin Günaltay as Vice Prime Minister.
Nihat Erim became political director and chief editor of Ulus newspaper after CHP became an opposition party in 1950. Meanwhile he returned to his duty in the university but resigned after a while (1953). After the closure of Ulus newspaper he published Yeni Ulus and Halkçı newspapers (1953). He participated to London negotiations about Cyprus (1956). Upon the request of Prime Minister Adnan Menderes he took part in the preparation of the Constitution of Republic of Cyprus. The same year he was chosen as Turkey member of European Human Rights Commission and continued it until 1962. After treaties of Zurich and London he presided the Turkish delegation about the preparation of the Constitution of Republic of Cyprus (1959).
Erim in 1961 returned to TBMM as PM of CHP and became the Vice Group President of CHP. He was chosen member of Institute of International Law whose center was in Hague (1963). Being reelected as PM in 1964 elections, he was reassigned to Vice Group Presidency of CHP. He served as a consultant to Turkish delegation for Cyprus negotiations in United Nations. Between the years 1961-70 he represented Turkish Parliament in European Council and served as Vice President (1969).
He joined the central leftist movement started by Bülent Ecevit within CHP. Later he left CHP and opposed his old party together with Prof. Dr. Turhan Feyzioğlu who established the Cumhuriyetçi Güven Party. After the military memorandum of 12 March 1971 he was assigned to establish the government replacing Süleyman Demirel who resigned from Prime Ministry, under the condition that he left his party. Thus the 1st supra-parties Erim Government was established on the 26th of March 1971 being supported by the Adalet Party, Cumhuriyet Halk Party and Milli Güven Party. Meanwhile Atilla Karaosmanoğlu who worked in the World Bank as a planner in the past and Osman Olcay who was the first assistant of General Secretary of NATO were called to the homeland so that they take part in the established government. The young Karaosmanoğlu who was the most discussed member of this government took office in the cabinet as State Minister and Vice Prime Minister. He undertook the task of improving the economy, one of the most important tasks in the government.
The government of technocrats in office was very assertive and said “Either we make the reform or we leave”. Even if the government received the vote of confidence it faced a certain resistance from especially within the parliament starting from the first day. Nihat Erim who could not endure this resistance for a long period presented his resignation on the 26th of October 1971. President Cevdet Sunay did not accept the resignation, the government was persuaded and it was decided to continue. Government of technocrats under the leadership of Erim remained in the administration until the 3rd of December 1971. Atilla Sav explained the reason of resignation of 11 ministers, among them Türkân Akyol, Atilla Karaosmanoğlu, Mehmet Özgüneş, Selahattin Babüroğlu and Osman Olcay, as following: “We took office in the government established to realize the move of development and reforms our homeland needs within a Kemalist view. Since we believe that there is no more possibility to realize these purposes, we are resigning.”
Upon these resignations, Nihat Erim Government had to resign in the same day. When the 1st Erim government was discharged inflation was increasing with rapidity. Inflation rate, which was around 11% when they took office, increased to 23% within 9 months. Later the 2nd Erim Government was established and remained in power for six months. When Erim resigned again, the economic situation of the country was not good at all. The third government of technocrats with its Prime Minister Ferit Melen could not achieve much success. All these governments, which left their marks on 1970s, failed, including Nihat Erim Governments.
Nihat Erim was known with the nickname “Sledgehammer” since he started the actions, which were known as “Operation Sledgehammer” and which led to the execution of Deniz Gezmiş, Hüseyin İnan and Yusuf Aslan. Because of his word “If necessary, one has to cover democracies with a scarf” he was called “Scarf Nihat” by Aziz Nesin.
Aside from his other works, Erim published his memories and observations about Cyprus in a book titled “Bildiğim ve Gördüğüm Ölçüler İçinde Kıbrıs” in 1975. On the 19th of July 1980 he was assassinated by Dev-Sol militants near to his home in Istanbul, Dragos as a revenge of Mahir Çayan and his friends. He was inhumed into Zincirlikuyu Cemetery.
La Positivisme Juridique et le Droit International (1939), XVII. Yüzyıldan Zamanımııza Kadar Tabii Hukuk Nazariyeleri (Natural Theories of Law from 17th Century Until Today, 1940), Amme Hukuk Dersleri (1942), Devletlerarası Amme Hukuku (1944), Devletlerarası Hukuk ve Siyasî Tarih Metinleri - Osmanlı İmparatorluğu Andlaşmaları (1953), Bildiğim ve Gördüğüm Ölçüler İçinde Kıbrıs (memories and observations, 1975), Günlükler 1925 – 1979 (2 volumes, 2005).