Islamist Coalition Loses Majority

ANKARA (Reuter)–Turkey’s first Islamist-led government–reeling from months of attacks by the secularist elite–lost its absolute majority in parliament Friday with the defection of a senior conservative parliamentarian.

Yildirim Aktuna–a member the junior coalition partner True Path Party (DYP)–handed out copies of his resignation letter at a news conference and said he would submit it to party leader Tansu Ciller later in the day.

His decision–long anticipated–left the government of Islamist Prime Minister Necmettin Erbakan clinging to just 275 seats in the 550-member parliament–one short of the majority needed to win a confidence vote. Two seats are vacant.

Erbakan held almost three hours of talks with Ciller late on Friday but the putative partners were unable to agree on True Path proposals for formation of an "election government" to lead the country to early polls.

"We in the DYP have established that going to elections is the only solution," Ciller told reporters after the talks. "We must act together with our partners and our work will continue in the coming days."

Erbakan left without comment to attend what remained of the annual Prime Minister’s Cup football match at a city stadium.

"The (Islamist) coalition partner is attempting to change the basic principles of the republic…and use religion as a political tool," said the dissident Aktuna–a former health minister well-known for his anti-Islamist views.

In a further twist of the knife–Aktuna said four more defections from True Path were in the pipeline–possibly as early as Monday. Four conservative parliamentarians resigned over last weekend.

This latest blow to the coalition–already facing enormous pressure from the secularist armed forces and a court challenge to Erbakan’s Islam-based Welfare Party–set the stage for tough bargaining between the coalition leaders.

The Istanbul Stock Exchange–which had widely expected Aktuna’s departure–barely fluttered on the news. It later closed up 4.32 percent ahead of the Erbakan-Ciller meeting in active trade fueled by liquidity–brokers said.

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