TURKEY: Ciller caught in strike squeeze

13 October 1995

Prime Minister Tansu Ciller's efforts to form a new minority government are being hampered by her inability to settle a public sector workers strike over pay. Two weeks after the collapse of Ciller's four-year-old coalition government on 20 September, the prime minister's political options remained limited, while the country faced the prospect of shortages of basic commodities.

Two minority parties, the Democratic Left Party (DSP) and the ultra-nationalist Nationalist Movement Party (MSP), have indicated they might back the premier if the strike by the main trades union confederation Turk-Is were settled first. But there was no sign by early October of a compromise pay agreement that would satisfy the up to 350,000 striking workers.

The government has offered a 5.4 per cent pay increase. Retail inflation at the end of September was 91.3 per cent. Basic commodities such as sugar may soon be in short supply.

The stoppage started the same day as the coalition collapsed over deep policy differences between Ciller and Deniz Baykal, the newly elected leader of the coalition's junior, social democrat Republican Peoples' Party (CHP).

Without the support of the DSP's 10 MPs, the premier would be unable to obtain a vote of confidence for a minority government in the 450 seat house, say analysts. Ciller's conservative True Path Party (DYP) has 182 seats, the main opposition, conservative Motherland Party (ANAP) has 95 seats, the CHP has 60 seats, the Islamist conservative Welfare Party (RP) has 38 seats, the MHP has 17 seats, and the DSP has 10 seats. Apart from 22 vacant seats, the others are distributed among minority parties and independents.

According to analysts, the premier's unattractive options are restricted to:

submitting a minority government based on the DYP for President Suleyman Demirel's approval

re-opening talks with the ANAP or the CHP. Ciller was forced to search for a minority government after talks broke down with Mesut Yilmaz, ANAP's leader, over her refusal to grant him a state ministership for the economy (MEED 6:10:95)

opting for immediate general elections

resigning as premier, but staying at the head of the DYP.

If Ciller cannot form a minority government by early November, or ifails to obtain a parliamentary vote of confidence, Demirel could either:

appoint ANAP leader Mesut Yilmaz, or the DYP's former parliamentary speaker, Husamettin Cindoruk, at the head of a broad-based coalition. Cindoruk has consistently proposed a partnership between the DYP and ANAP. The parties are kept apart mainly by entrenched rivalry between their leaders, despite having broadly similar conservative and free-market policies;

call general elections at the earliest date in mid-December.

The RP's leader, Necmettin Erbakan, says his party is opposed to a minority government, and wants general elections to be held as early as possible. On the basis of recent opinion polls, the RP would probably benefit most from a snap poll, said the analysts.

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