TURKEY: Erbakan steps aside

27 June 1997

Necmettin Erbakan, the leader of the Welfare Party (Refah), finally resigned on 18 June, making way for Deputy Prime and Foreign Affairs Minister Tansu Ciller to lead a renewed coalition into early elections.

However, the decision of the Islamist leader to bow to the inevitable, after months of pressure from the military establishment, does not herald a solution to Turkey's political crisis. There remains uncertainty about whether a new coalition will be able to survive until elections, expected within three months, and there is no guarantee that the elections themselves will result in more coherent government.

Erbakan stepped down after assurances of sufficient support for a renewed election coalition under Ciller's leadership from her True Path Party (DYP), and externally from the small, ultra right Grand Union Party (BBP), which has eight seats. The renewed coalition would have to secure an overall majority in a mandatory confidence vote in the 550-seat parliament, but as of 18 June, the prospective coalition was just one

vote short.

Following Erbakan's resignation, President Demirel was to due to ask one of the three main party leaders to form a new administration. Tradition dictates that he should first ask the leader of the opposition, Mesut Yilmaz of the Motherland Party (ANAP). However, Yilmaz would find it difficult to muster sufficient votes to win a confidence vote, and the main issue in the next few weeks will be whether Ciller will be able to retain the backing of her own party in forming a government to take Turkey through to elections, probably in October.

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