The coalition government appears to be coming apart at the seams as party leader Tansu Ciller, under pressure from a series of corruption allegations, called for the resignation of her coalition partner, Prime Minister Mesut Yilmaz.

‘Yilmaz should hand over his mandate immediately. There is a need for a majority government to be formed immediately,’ Ciller told a meeting of her True Path Party (DYP) on 22 May. Her call triggered a 4.5 per cent fall in the stock exchange index and a drop in the lira, both of which have been undermined for weeks by uncertainty about the government’s future.

The coalition was formed by the DYP and Yilmaz’s Motherland Party (ANAP) in March to keep the Welfare Party (Refah) out of power after the Islamists won a majority in elections. But the government quickly became bogged down in quarrelling between the two party leaders.

Ciller’s own position has been weakened by a series of corruption allegations brought in parliament by Refah and backed by ANAP. The DYP has hit back with motions calling for investigation into Yilmaz’s actions during a brief period in office during 1991.

The DYP and Refah voted together on 22 May on postponing a debate on charges of graft, suggesting that Ciller hopes to play the Islamists off against her coalition rivals.

Two ministers of state, both from the DYP, said they were handing in their resignations for Ciller to use as a lever in any political manoeuvrings.

If the government collapses, Refah could try to form a partnership with either the DYP or ANAP – as it tried and failed to do before the present coalition. Another possibility is for ANAP, the DYP and one of the two leftist parties in parliament to form an alliance.

Refah is also making political capital out of a controversial military pact between the Turkish armed forces and Israel which has brought strong criticism from Arab governments. ‘We are working on it. This has to be corrected,’ the party was quoted by a newspaper on 22 May as saying. A lone gunman tried unsuccessfully to kill President Demirel on 19 May in protest at the pact.

The Interior Ministry says no links have been found between the gunman and organised groups.