Ataturk arrows may soon make Demirel quiver

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The Independent Online
THE SLEEPING beauty of the Turkish left, Kemal Ataturk's Republican Populist Party, has awoken after 11 years with a rumble sure to shake the fragile foundations of Turkey's coalition government.

Nearly 12 years after the 1980 military coup that crushed party politics and still weighs heavily on Turkish democracy, more than 1,300 party delegates met in Ankara this week to vote themselves back into existence with a new leader, Deniz Baykal. Their freedom to meet was thanks to one of the few successful reforms of Prime Minister Suleyman Demirel's coalition government. However, Mr Demirel's True Path Party and its coalition partner, the Social Democrat Populist Party, may soon regret their success in pushing the reform through.

Mr Baykal, 54, youthful, clean- shaven and fiercely ambitious, has made no secret of his plan to carve out a new parliamentary group of 20 deputies. That would leave the coalition with a majority of half-a- dozen at most. Diplomats say the centre-right Prime Minister, with his right-wing rivals in disarray and his popularity high despite stalled reforms and near-war with Kurdish rebels, may be considering a pre-emptive general election - he does not have to go to the polls until 1996. But eyes are now on the left, where Mr Baykal is a rare fresh face in the paternalistic world of Turkish politics.

'There is a new leader on the left . . . bringing touches of liberalism to progressiveness. At last there is a start to real renewal,' wrote Hurriyet newspaper's editor, Ertugrul Ozkok. Mr Ozkok noted, however, that no Turk could remain unmoved by the reappearance of the six-arrow symbol of the Republican Populist Party, founded in 1923 as a vehicle for Ataturk's one-party state, and whose emblem hung in his mind 'beside the swastika and the hammer and sickle'.

The six arrows have flown in different directions since then, raising the question of whether the party can really reunite as Mr Baykal wants. 'The party is like a sleeping beauty waking up after a decade . . . but it is just a myth that the prince's kiss alone brings beauty,' wrote the left-wing commentator Mumtaz Soysal. He said it was impossible for reformists like Mr Baykal to reconcile their commitment to free markets with the 1920s platform the arrows represented: revolution, ism, republicanism, secularism, statism, populism and nationalism.

Hangovers from the 1970s still appear on the political stage, most colourfully represented by the ex- Maoist Dogu Perincek, who founds new parties as fast as the government can find excuses to shut them down. But the left-wing intellectuals from the 1970s rarely muddy their hands with day-to- day Turkish politics.

Many on the left became disillusioned by the terrorism of extreme left-wing groups and Kurdish rebels, as well as by 1989's Istanbul demonstrations condemning the 'reactionary' Romanian revolution against Nicolae Ceausescu. Once-dedicated Maoists have drifted into computer programming, business or banking.

Security forces killed 22 Kurdish guerrillas near Mount Ararat in retaliation for a raid earlier this week, it was reported yesterday.