Turkey’s Ciller Urges Elections After Crisis

ANKARA (Reuters)–Opposition party leader and former prime minister Tansu Ciller said on Wednesday Turkey’s government had lost the confidence of the people and should resign–paving the way for new elections.

"Now is the time for elections. Now is the time to start all over again," Ciller said in an interview with Reuters and NPR.

Turkish Prime Minister Bulent Ecevit faces mounting public anger since a row with the president last week sparked a full-scale financial crisis. Turkey was forced to abandon its control over the currency last Thursday and has since seen the lira lose a quarter of its value against the dollar.

An IMF-backed disinflation program lies in tatters–its main instrument–the currency peg–abandoned–leaving Turks to face the prospect of price hikes and economic hardship.

"The people have lost confidence and the new program that needs to be initiated needs to be started with confidence from abroad and from inside," said Ciller–who became Turkey’s first ever woman prime minister in 1993.

Ciller’s calls contrast with the prevailing view among political and market analysts who say Ecevit’s popularity may have taken a blow but the chaos that would follow if he resigned would hammer the final nail in the coffin of the economy.

"A new program needs to be set up for Turkey with the collaboration of the international institutions but with the recognition that this program has failed," she said.

The crisis was triggered by a row between Ecevit and President Ahmet Necdet Sezer when the latter questioned the prime minister’s commitment to fighting corruption.

But Ciller said the seeds of the problem were sown long before due to delays in key reforms such as privatization.

"The government had gotten so incompetent with affairs and so weak–and the people so poor–that it was not sustainable and the smallest shake of any kind… made the whole thing tumble."

Ciller said that corruption had reached an unprecedented scale and she blamed the government for turning a blind eye.

"We always had a lot of claims that there was a lot of corruption going on in the government sector and there probably was–but never at this level," she said.

A 1996 government involving Ciller’s conservative True Path party fell after only sixth months over corruption allegations brought against her by rival Mesut Yilmaz.

She later formed a government alliance with an Islamist party that helped her vote down the graft charges in parliament.

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