Pro-Islamic Welfare wins famous victory

Turkish elections: The Army is alarmed as ex-detainee's party upsets the Establishment

In one of the more extraordinary upsets in Turkey's 73-year-old republic, a pro-Islamic party overtook the squabbling secularist establishment to form the biggest faction in the parliament founded by Kemal Ataturk.

The veteran Welfare Party leader, Necmettin Erbakan, yesterday claimed a famous victory as results came in from 24 December's general elections, even though he won with just 21.32 per cent of the vote that brought him 158 deputies in the 550-seat assembly. "The people have chosen the Welfare Party," said the flamboyant Mr Erbakan, 69, flushed with success after years of being mocked in the political wilderness.

The prime minister, Tansu Ciller resigned, though she will stay on as caretaker until President Suleyman Demirel nominates her successor. As Mr Erbakan demanded that he be chosen, he was cheered by supporters watching him on television, some of them young militants in turbans shouting "Allah- u-Akbar (God is Great).

But Mr Erbakan needs a parliamentary majority, or 276 deputies to vote for his government programme. Mr Demirel said last week he will seek such a premier. The hint was directed at Mrs Ciller of the True Path Party and Motherland Party leader Mesut Yilmaz, who were close runners-up in the election.

The army will also be watching closely, having jailed Mr Erbakan for eight months during its last 1980-83 military take-over and charged him with trying to set up an Islamic state. Mr Erbakan was acquitted in 1985.

The officer corps purged dozens of suspected Islamic sympathisers from its ranks this month and is said to be keen that Mrs Ciller and Mr Yilmaz on the centre-right patch up their rivalry and unite to save the republican order.

"The Turkish armed forces are the unwavering guardians of Ataturk's nationalism ... they have adopted a contemporary, democratic, secular world view, and have always stood against zealotry and reaction," the Chief of General Staff, Ismail Hakki Karadayi warned before the elections.

Parliamentary arithmetic will not help the establishment. Mrs Ciller did unexpectedly well, winning about 135 seats with 19.20 per cent of the vote. Mr Yilmaz won 132 seats with 19.66 per cent.

But that does not make 276 votes, even if Mr Yilmaz can overcome years of animosity with "that woman" Mrs Ciller.

They would have to form a government with one or both of the left-wing parties, former premier Bulent Ecevit's Democratic Left Party, which won 75 seats with 14.65 per cent of the vote, or Deniz Baykal's Republican People's Party, which won 50 seats with 10.71 per cent.

Others among the 12 competing parties failed to surmount a 10 per cent national threshold. In a calm election with a big turnout of 85 per cent, the Kurdish nationalist left-wing party HADEP won only 4.17 per cent of the vote, showing that many Kurds, perhaps 20 per cent of the population, prefer mainstream parties.

The Turkish nationalist "Grey Wolves" of the National Action Party also fell short of the threshold, polling just 8.18 per cent.

"We must find a workable government, without prejudice," said Mr Yilmaz yesterday. He did not rule out talks with Mrs Ciller and he said he would talk with Mr Erbakan's Islamists "if they changed their philosophy."

Mr Erbakan, however, clearly hopes that as prime minister-designate it is he who will be persuading conservatives in Mr Yilmaz's party to join him.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Bookkeeper / Office Co-ordinator

£9 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This role is based within a small family run ...

Recruitment Genius: Designer - Print & Digital

£28000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This Design and marketing agenc...

Recruitment Genius: Quantity Surveyor

£46000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This property investment firm are lookin...

Recruitment Genius: Telesales / Telemarketing Executive - OTE £30k / £35k plus

£18000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company specialises provid...

Day In a Page

The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

Netanyahu knows he can get away with anything in America, says Robert Fisk
Head of WWF UK: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

David Nussbaum: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

The head of WWF UK remains sanguine despite the Government’s failure to live up to its pledges on the environment
Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Set in a mythologised 5th-century Britain, ‘The Buried Giant’ is a strange beast
With money, corruption and drugs, this monk fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’

Money, corruption and drugs

The monk who fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’
America's first slavery museum established at Django Unchained plantation - 150 years after slavery outlawed

150 years after it was outlawed...

... America's first slavery museum is established in Louisiana
Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

The first 'American Idol' winner on how she manages to remain her own woman – Jane Austen fascination and all
Tony Oursler on exploring our uneasy relationship with technology with his new show

You won't believe your eyes

Tony Oursler's new show explores our uneasy relationship with technology. He's one of a growing number of artists with that preoccupation
War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn
Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

The shadow Home Secretary on fighting radical Islam, protecting children, and why anyone in Labour who's thinking beyond May must 'sort themselves out'
A bad week for the Greens: Leader Natalie Bennett's 'car crash' radio interview is followed by Brighton council's failure to set a budget due to infighting

It's not easy being Green

After a bad week in which its leader had a public meltdown and its only city council couldn't agree on a budget vote, what next for the alternative party? It's over to Caroline Lucas to find out
Gorillas nearly missed: BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter

Gorillas nearly missed

BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter
Downton Abbey effect sees impoverished Italian nobles inspired to open their doors to paying guests for up to €650 a night

The Downton Abbey effect

Impoverished Italian nobles are opening their doors to paying guests, inspired by the TV drama
China's wild panda numbers have increased by 17% since 2003, new census reveals

China's wild panda numbers on the up

New census reveals 17% since 2003
Barbara Woodward: Britain's first female ambassador to China intends to forge strong links with the growing economic superpower

Our woman in Beijing builds a new relationship

Britain's first female ambassador to China intends to forge strong links with growing economic power
Courage is rare. True humility is even rarer. But the only British soldier to be awarded the Victoria Cross in Afghanistan has both

Courage is rare. True humility is even rarer

Beware of imitations, but the words of the soldier awarded the Victoria Cross were the real thing, says DJ Taylor