A strong showing in the opinion polls by the Islamist Welfare Party (RP) is increasing the pressure on Prime Minister Tansu Ciller as the country approaches general elections on 24 December. The Supreme Electoral Board gave the go ahead for the December poll on 21 November, although it also accepted the annulment of two key clauses in the election law which would have benefited Ciller’s True Path Party (DYP).

One of Ciller’s key weapons in her campaign against the Islamists is a customs union with the EU. Ciller has warned that failure by European parliament to approve the trade deal with Turkey would boost the Islamists, who could represent the decision as an example of the West’s rejection of Turkey. However, it now seems increasingly likely that European members of parliament will give it approval when it votes in early December. On 22 November, UK Prime Minister John Major reflected the growing support for the deal by urging the European parliament to vote in favour of the customs union.

Two recent opinion polls carried out by political parties suggest it will be a closely fought race as the DYP and RP are tied for support at around 25 per cent.