Islamist leader Necmettin Erbakan and former premier Tansu Ciller once again on 25 June deferred a final decision on forming a conservative, Islamist-dominated coalition government. They were scheduled to meet again two days later, but the veteran Islamist politician insists on taking the premiership.

The political crisis dragged on as Ciller engaged in two weeks of discussions with Erbakan and his Welfare Party (Refah), the largest grouping in a hung parliament.

Observers said the prospect of an Islamistled partnership had only served to fuel already strong dissent within her True Path Party (DYP) at her about-turn on dealing with the Islamists.

Unless she comes to terms with Erbakan, Ciller might be cast into the political wilderness, facing eventual indictments in the supreme court from parliamentary corruption probes originally orchestrated by the Islamists themselves, said the observers.

Six leading DYP MPs defected to other parties when Refah swung the vote on 19 June against yet another probe, this time into Ciller’s withdrawals from a security slush fund. Five joined the Motherland Party (ANAP), led by caretaker Premier Mesut Yilmaz, the DYP’s partner in a short-lived coalition which collapsed in early June due largely to the corruption probes and other scandals involving the former premier.

The defections have made ANAP the second largest party, ahead of the DYP, putting Yilmaz next in line for a mandate from President Demirel to form a government should Islamist attempts fail. If nothing emerged from the 27 June talks, Erbakan was widely expected to return his mandate to Demirel soon afterwards.

Ciller also failed to make any progress in talks with the two, smaller left-wing groupings in parliament, the Democratic Left Party (DSP), led by former premier Bulent Ecevit, and the Republican Peoples Party (CHP), led by Deniz Baykal. These centred on a revival of the DYP-ANAP coalition, perhaps including one or both of the left-wing parties.

Demirel himself has warned he will use his constitutional powers to dissolve parliament if no viable formula is forthcoming by 22 July. He would then form a caretaker administration to take the country into general elections, probably in October.