Yilmaz Confident of Forming Anti Islamist Coalition

ANKARA (Reuter)–Turkish prime minister-designate Mesut Yilmaz vowed on Monday not to dash secularist hopes that he can form a secularist coalition and keep the Islamists out of power.

"It is impossible for a compromise government that excludes the (Islamist) Welfare Party not to win a vote of confidence," Yilmaz told a news conference. "There is a general consensus on that," he said.

Istanbul shares closed up a solid eight percent on expectations that free-marketeer Yilmaz could cobble together a coalition from among squabbling secularist parties.

But Yilmaz did not say how he would overcome his lack of parliamentary support against an Islamist-backed alliance that favors Deputy Prime Minister Tansu Ciller as prime minister.

Turkey–a NATO member and a hopeful of joining the European Union–has not had a stable government since before general elections in late 1995 which the Islamists narrowly won.

Yilmaz repeated a call to his fellow conservatives in Ciller’s True Path Party (DYP) to join him in government. "I am holding my hand out again to the DYP," he said.

The Turkish press says Yilmaz is trying to woo True Path back-benchers to abandon their leader Ciller and join the planned secularist alliance.

The pair–bitter rivals–formed an anti-Islamist coalition last year that collapsed after only three months. Ciller then went on to join the Islamists in power.

President Suleyman Demirel last week nominated Yilmaz to put together a government following the resignation of Prime Minister Necmettin Erbakan–an Islamist who quit after months of open criticism from the secularist army about religious activism.

"I believe the friction between the two main right-wing parties has helped the increase in radical movemen’s," Yilmaz said.

He is to meet leaders of four political parties–including Ciller–on Tuesday for talks on setting up a new government.

Ciller has so far poured cold water on peace overtures from Yilmaz at the weekend.

A dissident deputy from Ciller’s faction who resigned on Sunday denied reports he would join Yilmaz’ Motherland Party but said he would back Yilmaz in a vote of confidence.

"I will vote for him," Anatolian news agency quoted representative Haluk Muftuler as saying. He predicted that two or three other parliamentarians were ready to quit True Path in an anti-Islamist protest.

Yilmaz is around a dozen votes short of the simple majority he would need to win a confidence vote in the 550-seat assembly. He has said he will have his cabinet ready by the start of next week.

He is opposed by a 282-member alliance of the Islamists–True Path and a small right-wing party that aims to set up a caretaker government and go for early elections.


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