A sword hangs over Turkey's coalition takes uncertain steps



Five months of political uncertainty ended in Turkey yesterday when parliament accepted the programme of a new centre-right coalition cabinet led by Mesut Yilmaz.

In the shifting sands of Turkish politics, however, one uncertainty was only replaced by another. The 257-207 vote in Ankara underlined the fact that this is a minority government, over which 80 abstentions hang like a sword that could cut short its life at any time.

Most of these abstentions are controlled by the veteran Democratic Left Party leader, Bulent Ecevit, who says he is helping the centre-right to power purely because he wants to keep out the pro-Islamic Welfare Party. The pro-Islamists came top with 158 deputies in general elections in December.

Mr Ecevit has already exerted pressure on the uninspiring five-year government programme hurriedly put together by Mr Yilmaz's Motherland Party and his coalition partners, the True Path Party of the outgoing Prime Minister, Tansu Ciller.

He forced the new government, minutes before its programme was to be read out to parliament, to omit a promise to "privatise" the three main social security agencies, crippled by political shenanigans and officially due to run up a deficit of more than pounds 2bn this year.

Mr Ecevit and his right-hand man Mumtaz Soysal are now also in a strong position to keep up the legal and political challenges that have hamstrung Turkey's efforts to privatise loss-making state industries for most of the past decade.

Nevertheless, the coalition protocol is full of worthy vows to privatise public-sector companies and banks, to bring inflation running at 80 per cent down to single figures, to widen the tax base, to freeze government hiring, to move to eight years of compulsory education, to devolve more powers to local government and to pursue full membership of the European Union.

An early test is likely to be the need before 31 March for parliament to renew Operation Provide Comfort II, the Allied 80-plane force, including Royal Air Force Jaguars, which protects the Kurds of northern Iraq.

Western diplomats believe that the force's mandate will be renewed pending a government promise to review its operational parameters. Turkish diplomats see it as the backbone of a policy that must above all protect Turkey from another 1991-style influx of Kurdish refugees. But Mr Ecevit believes that the force is nurturing the seed of an independent Kurdistan that could spread to south-eastern Turkey.

This fear of the Kurds also runs through the government's pusillanimous policy on the 11-year conflict between Kurdish rebel guerrillas and the security forces that has killed 20,000 people. Reflecting the largely right-wing, conservative flavour of the Cabinet, the programme only speaks of "stopping terrorism" and "economic and social measures", talk that has done little to convert Turkey's expensively gained recent military advantage into a lasting peace.

During the parliamentary debate, the new Prime Minister gave an uncharacteristically passionate speech, apologising to the Turkish Kurd author Yashar Kemal and promising to change laws that resulted in a court handing down a 20- month suspended jail sentence for one of his articles.

But the claps from the government benches were decidedly lukewarm, as was the response to Mr Yilmaz's additional apology for the way the Ankara police attacked a peaceful demonstration of teachers seeking union rights.

"At first it seems there is nothing missing from this programme. But there is something that has not been given enough importance . . . democracy," the left-wing newspaper Cumhuriyet said.

Suggested Topics
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
CSKA Moscow celebrate after equalising with a late penalty

Arts and Entertainment
Life and Style
Designer Oscar de la Renta takes a bow after showing his Spring 2015 collection in September, his last show before his death
fashionThe passing of the legendary designer has left a vacancy: couturier to America’s royalty, says fashion editor Alexander Fury
Life and Style

Company reveals $542m investment in start-up building 'a rocket ship for the mind'

Bourgogne wine maker Laboure-Roi vice president Thibault Garin (L) offers the company's 2013 Beaujolais Nouveau wine to the guest in the wine spa at the Hakone Yunessun spa resort facilities in Hakone town, Kanagawa prefecture, some 100-kilometre west of Tokyo
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

IT Project Manager

Competitive: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client based in Chelmsford a...

Business Intelligence Specialist - work from home

£40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: An established and growing IT Consultancy fir...

Business Intelligence Specialist - work from home

£40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: An established and growing IT Consultancy fir...

IT Manager

£40000 - £45000 per annum + pension, healthcare,25 days: Ashdown Group: An est...

Day In a Page

Two super-sized ships have cruised into British waters, but how big can these behemoths get?

Super-sized ships: How big can they get?

Two of the largest vessels in the world cruised into UK waters last week
British doctors on brink of 'cure' for paralysis with spinal cord treatment

British doctors on brink of cure for paralysis

Sufferers can now be offered the possibility of cure thanks to a revolutionary implant of regenerative cells
Let's talk about loss

We need to talk about loss

Secrecy and silence surround stillbirth
Will there be an all-female mission to Mars?

Will there be an all-female mission to Mars?

Women may be better suited to space travel than men are
Oscar Pistorius sentencing: The athlete's wealth and notoriety have provoked a long overdue debate on South African prisons

'They poured water on, then electrified me...'

If Oscar Pistorius is sent to jail, his experience will not be that of other inmates
James Wharton: The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

Life after the Army has brought new battles for the LGBT activist James Wharton
Ebola in the US: Panic over the virus threatens to infect President Obama's midterms

Panic over Ebola threatens to infect the midterms

Just one person has died, yet November's elections may be affected by what Republicans call 'Obama's Katrina', says Rupert Cornwell
Premier League coaches join the RSC to swap the tricks of their trades

Darling, you were fabulous! But offside...

Premier League coaches are joining the RSC to learn acting skills, and in turn they will teach its actors to play football. Nick Clark finds out why
How to dress with authority: Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear

How to dress with authority

Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear
New book on Joy Division's Ian Curtis sheds new light on the life of the late singer

New book on Ian Curtis sheds fresh light on the life of the late singer

'Joy Division were making art... Ian was for real' says author Jon Savage
Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

The Bafta-winner talks Hollywood, being branded a psycho, and how Barbra Streisand is his true inspiration
Tim Minchin, interview: The musician, comedian and world's favourite ginger is on scorching form

Tim Minchin interview

For a no-holds-barred comedian who is scathing about woolly thinking and oppressive religiosity, he is surprisingly gentle in person
Boris Johnson's boozing won't win the puritan vote

Boris's boozing won't win the puritan vote

Many of us Brits still disapprove of conspicuous consumption – it's the way we were raised, says DJ Taylor
Ash frontman Tim Wheeler reveals how he came to terms with his father's dementia

Tim Wheeler: Alzheimer's, memories and my dad

Wheeler's dad suffered from Alzheimer's for three years. When he died, there was only one way the Ash frontman knew how to respond: with a heartfelt solo album