Brother of Late Turk President Resigns from Party

ANKARA (Reuters)–The brother of late Turkish president Turgut Ozal on Wednesday resigned from the ruling Motherland Party in an apparent protest at the government’s secularist education plans.

Korkut Ozal–younger brother of the Motherland founder who led Turkey’s transformation into a market economy–said in a brief written statement he intended to become an independent deputy. He did not give a reason for his move.

Parliamentary sources said the Istanbul MP resigned in a row over the party’s initiative to push through secularist education reforms bitterly opposed by Islamists and many conservatives.

They said further resignations from Motherland were possible in response to the schooling bill–which is expected to come before parliament on Thursday.

Motherland leader and Prime Minister Mesut Yilmaz has given priority to the reforms which call for the extension of state education to eight years from five currently. The bill would entail the effective closure of many Islamic schools.

The reforms are backed by the country’s secular military on the grounds that rising Islamic radicalism is being fed by the religious schools.

The Islamist Welfare Party–which lost power earlier this year under pressure from the secular establishment–held up the bill in the commission stages.

Islamists and religious school graduates have protested against the plan in demonstrations on the streets of Istanbul and Ankara.

Motherland was founded by Turgut Ozal in 1983 and dominated Turkish politics for the rest of the decade. Turgut Ozal became president in 1989 and died of heart failure in 1993.

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