Kurdish Embassy Attacks: 'Iron lady' pushes forward with reform: Bonn passes buck to regions as new Turkish PM hints at fresh initiatives on the ethnic problem

Click to follow
The Independent Online
RAPIDLY moving to consolidate her power, Turkey's new Prime Minister, Tansu Ciller, yesterday unveiled a cabinet with many new names to implement the country's long-delayed agenda for privatisation and administrative reform.

Mrs Ciller also hinted at new initiatives on the ethnic Kurdish question, which exploded across Europe yesterday with dozens of Kurdish rebel attacks on Turkish embassies, banks and airlines in six countries.

Gone from the cabinet is the old guard of her conservative True Path Party, all long-time companions in arms of Suleyman Demirel, the former True Path leader who moved from the prime ministership to the presidency last month.

The True Path's coalition partner, the Social Democrats, kept their 11 ministries in the 31- seat cabinet unchanged. Erdal Inonu remained as Deputy Prime Minister and Hikmet Cetin as Foreign Minister.

'It's a radical cabinet, but the quality is not so sure. There are contradictory commentaries,' said Ertugrul Ozkok, editor of the national daily Hurriyet. 'It's a big challenge to Mr Demirel. Nearly all of the old guard has been fired.'

If Mr Demirel felt uncomfortable, he said nothing as he approved the cabinet list. Mrs Ciller appears to be risking all on the groundswell of national support that has greeted the arrival in power of the chic, rich, attractive woman who represents much that modern Turkey wants to be.

'The people really want Ciller to be successful. We don't know her very well yet, but she is very decisive. She is playing the iron lady,' said Mr Ozkok, who has been comparing Mrs Ciller's dashing style to that of the late President Turgut Ozal during his reformist years in the early 1980s.

Many criticise Mrs Ciller's ignorance of foreign and domestic policy. But she has appointed a strong and capable diplomat, Volkan Vural, to head an inner circle of advisers she says will be 'half her brain'.

Mrs Ciller also shows undoubted leadership. She won extraordinary powers to legislate her reform programme by decree in a lightning raid on parliament on Thursday, catching the opposition unprepared for a midnight vote. She has also managed to shift public opprobrium on to her main political rival, Mesut Yilmaz of the centre-right Motherland Party, when he torpedoed her attempt in parliament to permit banned private radios to restart broadcasting.

A coalition protocol signed on Thursday basically upheld the previous government programme of 1991, but with the emphasis on Mrs Ciller's priority of privatisation.

Mrs Ciller blames state enterprises that employ 550,000 of Turkey's 60 million people for 70 per cent of a projected budget deficit of 100 trillion lira (pounds 6.25bn), which is about 10 per cent of GNP.

'I don't look at this and take refuge in defeatist talk. I am brave . . . I have no time to lose. Turkey is at a critical point. We are at the wall. We either go over it or we are crushed,' she said.

After the flying start to her prime ministership she may yet trip up over the Kurdish insurgency. But even here, Mrs Ciller is giving hints of an Ozal-like vision different from the blood-and-iron military solution that the Turkish army has tried and failed with over nine years.

She has spoken of the possibility of Kurdish broadcasting, more civilian control of the security forces and even of debate about Kurdish education.