Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

Ciller-Yilmaz Agreement Ends Five-Month Political Crisis

Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

Ciller-Yilmaz Agreement Ends Five-Month Political Crisis

Article excerpt

Ciller-Yilmaz Agreement Ends Five-Month Political Crisis

By James M. Dorsey

The long-awaited agreement between Turkey's two conservative parties to form a minority government has ended the country's five-month-old political crisis and raised hopes for a desperately needed economic reform program that will reduce both double-digit inflation and huge budget deficits.

Under the agreement, Motherland Party (ANAP) leader Mesut Yilmaz will serve as prime minister for the first year, caretaker Prime Minister Tansu Ciller, leader of the True Path Party (DYP), will take over for the next two years, and Mr. Yilmaz will again head the government in its fourth year. In its fifth and last year, the government would be headed by a member of Mrs. Ciller's DYP.

This complicated arrangement was seemingly the only way for the two party leaders, who share a pro-Western, free-market vision of predominantly Muslim Turkey, to set aside their deep-seated political differences that have virtually paralyzed the country for nearly half a year.

Portraying herself as the one to have "sacrificed" by dropping her initial demand that she be prime minister first in whatever government included the DYP, Mrs. Ciller said she had done so to keep the Islamist Refah (Welfare) Party from gaining power.

Refah emerged from last December's inconclusive general election as Turkey's largest political party, but its 158 deputies are a far cry from the 276-seat majority in the 550-member assembly needed to form a government.

Pressure from both Turkey's military and its business community persuaded Mr. Yilmaz to break off coalition talks with Refah and seek an alliance with his archrival, Mrs. Ciller.

"The Motherland Party was faced with intensive pressure from all quarters, led by the military, not to accept a deal with Refah," said Ilnur Cevik, editor-in-chief of the Turkish Daily News and a close associate of President Suleyman Demirel.

President Demirel invited Mr. Yilmaz in early February to form a government after both Refah leader Necmettin Erbakan and caretaker Prime Minister Tansu Ciller, leader of the center-right DYP, had each separately failed to form a coalition government.

The willingness of Mrs. Ciller and Mr. Yilmaz to compromise with each other followed a series of messages sent to them by the military, according to political analysts and prominent Turkish journalists.

Chief-of-staff Gen. Ismail Hakki Karabayi sent a newspaper article opposing Refah's participation in government to Parliament Speaker Mustafa Kalamli, a member of ANAP, with a note which read, according to Ertugul Ozkirk, editor-in-chief of the mass-circulation Hurriyet newspaper: "I would put my signature under this. Please read this article to Mesut Bey [Mr. Yilmaz]. Tell him I am of the same opinion."

Gen. Karabayi also conveyed this view to Mrs. Ciller during talks with the prime minister prior to the agreement to form a conservative coalition.

In a separate message to Mr. Yilmaz, military police commander Gen. Teoman Koman also stressed the military's rejection of Refah participation in government, Mr. Ozkirk said. Gen. Koman was head of Turkish intelligence during Mr. Yilmaz's short-lived government in 1991. In fact, the military had several times in recent months insisted on the inviolability of secularism in Turkey.

Some analysts warn, however, that preventing Refah from entering government and reports that the State Security Court is itching to prosecute Refah on charges of violating laws banning the mixing of religion and politics could backfire and provoke an even more serious crisis in Turkey. …

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