Ecevit’s Ally Threatens to Quit Over Polls

ANKARA (Reuters)–Turkish Prime Minister Bulent Ecevit’s rightist coalition partners said on Monday they would quit his government–a move ripe with dangers for the nation’s ailing economy–if polls were not held as agreed on November 3.

Ecevit called again at the weekend for delaying a November election–which pushed down financial markets on Monday–but his political friends and foes were focusing on the early vote.

Former Foreign Minister Ismail Cem on Monday launched a new center-left pro-reform party to fight the elections which he also said must go ahead in November in the crisis-hit NATO country. "Turkey is running out of time," he told the party.

Nationalist Action Party (MHP) Deputy Prime Minister Devlet Bahceli–reacting to Ecevit’s call for polls to be put off to next year–said this would inflict great damage on an economy in its worst recession since 1945. Ecevit had agreed only last week with two coalition partners on November polls.

"A development like this would invite a crisis situation," Bahceli told a news conference in parliament.

"If elections are postponed past November 3 or if conditions develop that make it effectively impossible–it’s clear it will no longer be possible for the MHP to have the responsibility of continuing as part of this government," he said.

With 127 seats the MHP is the biggest party in parliament since around half of Ecevit’s deputies resigned. Its departure could disrupt growing market belief in a smooth transition to November polls–easing of pressure on government debt yields and–possibly–progress in needed EU-inspired rights reforms.

The collapse of the three-party government would also be viewed with concern in Washington–which sees Turkey–bordering Iraq–as a key ally in its "war on terror."

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