Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

One-Woman Show in Turkey Faces Key Deadline to Join European Union A Military Invasion, Unemployment, Inflation Continue to Hound Ciller's Coalition Government

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

One-Woman Show in Turkey Faces Key Deadline to Join European Union A Military Invasion, Unemployment, Inflation Continue to Hound Ciller's Coalition Government

Article excerpt

TURKEY'S human rights activists may soon be able to openly question the police, journalists may be able to criticize the military, and ethnic Kurds may be able to speak their own language without being thrown in jail.

Turkey, the most secular and pro-Western Muslim nation, is facing a crucial six-month period.

Long-talked-about democratization and economic reforms must be enacted in the next six months or a proposed customs union agreement with the European Union -- a preliminary step to full EU membership -- will be rejected by the European Parliament.

Observers say the troubled government of Prime Minister Tansu Ciller has its back against the wall. "Given the current circumstances, the European Parliament will not approve anything," says Emre Gonen, secretary general of the Istanbul-based Economic Development Foundation, a private, pro-business think tank. "If we pull back our forces {from Iraq}, enact some legislation concerning democratic standards, then we could see the end of the tunnel."

A two-week old Turkish military incursion into northern Iraq to stamp out the separatist Kurdish Worker's Party is being bitterly criticized by European governments, who are vowing to block the customs union agreement if Turkish troops do not withdraw.

A much-heralded economic package to cut government spending and lower inflation unveiled by Mrs. Ciller a year ago has largely been a dud. Unemployment is still running at 15 percent, and inflation remains at 130 percent annually. Foreign investment has slowed due to fears about the country's stability after pro-secular Muslim Alawites rioted last month in the country's two largest cities over fundamentalist attacks.

The key, according to Turkish and Western observers, is Ciller. The country's first woman prime minister, a former economics professor, entered office with great fanfare in 1992. But complaints about her inability to build coalitions and enact drastic reforms have led her popularity to plummet in polls.

"She is a one-man show, she doesn't consult, she doesn't like teamwork. She decides and implements," says Mehmet Ali-Birand, a Turkish journalist facing a potential six-month jail term for criticizing the Turkish military. "She could manage this way with the old coalition because her partner was a good man and wouldn't say no, but now she's going to have problems."

Ciller was forced to patch together a new coalition government last month that observers believe will be more difficult for her to control. Turkey's military intervention in northern Iraq, they say, may be a calculated move by Ciller to overcome a public perception that she lacks a clear vision and political agenda. If the operation, which has been hugely popular so far with the Turkish public, is successful, Ciller may have built up enough political support to enact democratic and economic reforms. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.