Ciller Calls for Elections

ANKARA (Reuter)–Turkey’s deputy prime minister–Tansu Ciller–saw her parliamentary support dwindle further with the resignation of two parliamentarians Friday and called for elections to solve the country’s deepening government crisis.

The two members of parliament quit her True Path Party (DYP) to serve on the opposition benches–leaving the Islamist-led government with 278 parliamentarians in parliament against 269 in opposition.

A senior True Path deputy said more resignations could follow. "I don’t want to name names–but there could be one or two more," parliamentarian Cihan Pacaci told Reuters. "Our friends can make sudden decisions. Their morale is low and they are very much influenced by the media."

The mainstream media–backing the secularist establishment–have attacked the government–including their erstwhile darling Ciller–ever since it was formed last June–saying it poses a great danger to the country’s secularist make-up.

The media have often pronounced the government dead and the DYP defunct–and regularly predicted that the powerful secularist military would mount a fourth coup since 1960 to dislodge Islamist Prime Minster Necmettin Erbakan’s cabinet.

Erbakan’s Islam-based Welfare Party is facing a case in the constitutional court that could lead to its closure on grounds that it threatens Turkey’s official secularism.

The conservative wing of the alliance suffered a further setback earlier by the resignation of a former close Ciller aide–Necmettin Cevheri–from his position as party deputy chairman. Cevheri remains in the government.

Erbakan’s alliance with Ciller’s conservatives this week survived a censure motion in parliament by just six votes. He was helped by six parliamentarians from a small right-wing Islamist party.

The two DYP deputies who resigned were part of a dissident contingent–some of whom voted with the opposition in the censure vote.

Anatolian news agency said deputy Samil Ayrim quit the DYP after he had been quoted in the Turkish press as saying he would step down.

Deputy Hikmet Aydin–who did not give a reason for his resignation–joined the opposition Motherland Party.

Intense pressure from the army for Erbakan to crack down on Islamist activists has opened up serious cracks in the 11-month-old coalition. Press reports talk of huge "transfer fees" offered to entice defections from one or the other camp.

Three conservative ministers quit the cabinet ahead of Tuesday’s vote–and even Erbakan’s well-disciplined Welfare Party lost an parliamentarian to opposition conservatives earlier this week.

But despite the government’s dwindling support–the fractured opposition has so far failed to dislodge it or propose a viable alternative.

Ciller said elections could solve the mess.

"We can see a road leading to elections. The solution is the people–your decision," she told a meeting of businessmen.

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