Prime Minister Necmettin Erbakan on 1 June said his coalition government will seek early elections, but set no date. He said the premiership would be transferred to his coalition partner Tansu Ciller in the second half of June. The decision to go for an early poll follows intense pressure from the military on the coalition, which comprises Erbakan’s Welfare Party (Refah) and Ciller’s True Path Party (DYP).

Before the transfer, the coalition parties must agree on the election timetable, an election law has to be drafted and parliament must vote for the elections. The 11-month coalition’s founding protocol provides for the transfer in the event of early elections.

The two leaders had failed to compromise by 4 June on the timing of the elections. Ciller wanted a December date at the earliest, and March 1998 preferably, whereas Erbakan would only concede to 23 November at the latest, according to local press reports.

Erbakan said the two parties would emerge after the elections in a stronger government better able to tackle Turkey’s pressing problems. The coalition had lost its majority in the 555-seat parliament by 4 June, as a result of defections, mainly from the DYP. The small, ultra- right Grand Union Party (BBP) with its seven seats says it will support the coalition in an election government, but has also demanded a high price in terms of cabinet posts.