TURKEY: Pressure mounts on government

06 June 1997

The survival of the government seemed increasingly unlikely ahead of a critical National Security Council meeting on 31 May. The military was expected to demand an acceleration in the implementation of curbs on Islamist activities stipulated at the last meeting at the end of February. The Islamist Welfare Party (Refah) led by Prime Minister Necmettin Erbakan has strongly resisted the curbs, particularly the extension of elementary state education to eight from five years, which would limit the role of private Islamic schools.

However, at a meeting on 26 May of the Higher Military Council, Erbakan was forced to sign an order for the expulsion of 161 officers and non- commissioned officers from the military, most if not all reportedly for displaying Islamic tendencies.

Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Affairs Minister Tansu Ciller on 28 May continued to press Erbakan to hand over leadership of the coalition by the end of June in preparation for early elections. Ciller faces the possibility of further resignations from her True Path Party, following the departure of four deputies and the party's vice-president Necmettin Cevheri since 16 May. They left in protest at the coalition's Islamist leanings. The Motherland Party - the main opposition party led by former premier Mesut Yilmaz - has said it will lodge another censure motion on 3 June. The coalition narrowly escaped a vote of no confidence on 20 May.

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