Turkey's 'Old Wolves' win a share of power

HUGH POPE

Istanbul

Tansu Ciller has done it again, snatching victory from the jaws of political defeat and forming a minority government likely to see Turkey through to early parliamentary elections next year.

But Turkey's first woman prime minister was the first to admit that she had paid a high price to keep her post, a price that Western diplomats fear may damage the country's long-term prospects of rapprochement with Europe and hopes for economic stability under the latest IMF-imposed austerity plan.

"When I tell people about the events of the last days, they'll go into shock,'' Mrs Ciller told the Sabah newspaper. ''I have come through an unbelievable game, I'm sorry to say."

Small scraps of political favour, it seems, were no longer enough to keep the old wolves of Turkish politics at bay. To muster the necessary parliamentary support, Mrs Ciller was forced to invite them to feast on what is left of Turkey's dysfunctional body politic. Bargaining reportedly involved not only policy commitments and ministries but also bureaucratic appointments and thousands of civil service jobs.

The 30-strong True Path Party cabinet will not take power before a vote of confidence next week, which it should get if Mrs Ciller resolves a strike by 350,000 public sector workers that has paralysed ports, railways and the sugar beet industry since 20 September.

But the political turnaround is already striking. The 1991 parliament that produced a centre-right coalition with Social Democrats promising to "turn prison walls into glass" has delivered one of the oldest, most right-wing and narrowly nationalist administrations.

The crisis started two weeks ago when Mrs Ciller, 49, was forced to resign after the newly-elected Social Democrat leader, Deniz Baykal, walked out of her government. A natural successor coalition with the Motherland Party leader, Mesut Yilmaz, her equally youthful rival for the future leadership of Turkey's centre-right, collapsed in a storm of personal insults.

Since then the patriarchs have emerged to wield behind-the-scenes power: President Suleyman Demirel, 72; the left-wing former prime minister Bulent Ecevit, 69; the Islamist leader Necmettin Erbakan, 69; and the right-wing leader Alparslan Turkes, 78, whose political career began with agitation in 1944 to bring neutral Turkey into the Second World War on Germany's side.

Their re-emergence is extraordinary. These men's blinkered personal feuding in the Seventies led the country into terrorism, economic collapse and the 1980 military coup. All four share a fearful view that the world is plotting to cheat Turkey and split it between Turks and Kurds. They voice suspicion of an important customs union agreement with the European Union scheduled to take effect on 1 January

The European Parliament is due to vote on 14 December to ratify the free trade deal, but has demanded reforms, including the lifting of Article 8 of the anti-terrorism law, chiefly used to imprison dissident writers on the Kurdish problem, and the release of six former Kurdish members of parliament.

Mrs Ciller has vowed that her priority is to rush through the reforms, as strong as her determination to ensure that Monday's decision in Azerbaijan on oil pipeline routes out of new Caspian Sea fields is equally favourable to options wanted by Russia and Turkey.

The initial signs are that US support will help her out on Caucasian and even central Asian pipelines, but it will be another matter to enact domestic human rights reforms in the face of an old guard whose mindsets were cast in the Forties. Mr Turkes, sometimes known as ''the Chief Wolf'', now holds the balance of power as he lurks on the edge of the government campfire. He sometimes speaks in favour of Customs Union, but is vague when asked if he has dropped his objections to lifting Article 8. On the problem of Turkey's 12 million Kurds, about one in five of the population, Mr Turkes refuses to consider anything but a military strategy that has only escalated a Kurdish insurgency that broke out in 1984 and has killed more than 17,000 people.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Arts and Entertainment
Sheeran arrives at the 56th annual Grammy Awards earlier this year
musicYes, that would be Ed Sheeran, according to the BBC
Arts and Entertainment
AKB48 perform during one of their daily concerts at Tokyo’s Akihabara theatre
musicJapan's AKB48 are one of the world’s most-successful pop acts
News
Ian Thorpe has thanked his supporters after the athlete said in an interview that he is gay
people
News
The headstone of jazz great Miles Davis at Woodlawn Cemetery in New York
news
Arts and Entertainment
Brendan O'Carroll has brought out his female alter-ego Agnes Brown for Mrs Brown's Boys D'Movie
filmComedy holds its place at top of the UK box office
News
newsBear sweltering in zoo that reaches temperatures of 40 degrees
Arts and Entertainment
Professor Kathy Willis will showcase plants from the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew
radioPlants: From Roots to Riches has been two years in the making
Arts and Entertainment
TV The follow-up documentary that has got locals worried
Arts and Entertainment
Eminem's daughter Hailie has graduated from high school
music
Arts and Entertainment
Original Netflix series such as Orange Is The New Black are to benefit from a 'substantial' increase in investment
TVHoax announcement had caused outrage
Life and Style
Swimsuit, £245, by Agent Provocateur
fashion

Diving in at the deep end is no excuse for shirking the style stakes

News
One Direction star Harry Styles who says he has no plans to follow his pal Cara Delevingne down the catwalk.
peopleManagement confirms rumours singer is going it alone are false
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
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

Reception Teacher

£21588 - £31552 per annum: Randstad Education Chelmsford: YEAR 1 TEACHER - FUL...

Year 1 Teacher

£100 - £120 per day: Randstad Education Chelmsford: Ofsted have said "Good te...

Advertising and Marketing Communications Manager

£52000 - £58000 per annum + benefits, company car: Ashdown Group: Advertising ...

Senior Marketing Executive (B2B/B2C) - London

£32000 - £35000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Senior Marketing Executiv...

Day In a Page

Super Mario crushes the Messi dream as Germany win the 2014 World Cup in Brazil

Super Mario crushes the Messi dream

Germany win the 2014 World Cup in Brazil
Saharan remains may be evidence of the first race war, 13,000 years ago

The first race war, 13,000 years ago?

Saharan remains may be evidence of oldest large-scale armed conflict
Scientists find early warning system for Alzheimer’s

Scientists find early warning system for Alzheimer’s

Researchers hope eye tests can spot ‘biomarkers’ of the disease
Sex, controversy and schoolgirl schtick

Meet Japan's AKB48

Pop, sex and schoolgirl schtick make for controversial success
In pictures: Breathtaking results of this weekend's 'supermoon'

Weekend's 'supermoon' in pictures

The moon appeared bigger and brighter at the weekend
Iraq crisis: How Saudi Arabia helped Isis take over the north of the country

How Saudi Arabia helped Isis take over northern Iraq

A speech by an ex-MI6 boss hints at a plan going back over a decade. In some areas, being Shia is akin to being a Jew in Nazi Germany, says Patrick Cockburn
The evolution of Andy Serkis: First Gollum, then King Kong - now the actor is swinging through the trees in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

The evolution of Andy Serkis

First Gollum, then King Kong - now the actor is swinging through the trees in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
You thought 'Benefits Street' was controversial: Follow-up documentary 'Immigrant Street' has got locals worried

You thought 'Benefits Street' was controversial...

Follow-up documentary 'Immigrant Street' has got locals worried
Refugee children from Central America let down by Washington's high ideals

Refugee children let down by Washington's high ideals

Democrats and Republicans refuse to set aside their differences to cope with the influx of desperate Central Americas, says Rupert Cornwell
Children's books are too white, says Laureate

Children's books are too white, says Laureate

Malorie Blackman appeals for a better ethnic mix of authors and characters and the illustrator Quentin Blake comes to the rescue
Blackest is the new black: Scientists have developed a material so dark that you can't see it...

Blackest is the new black

Scientists have developed a material so dark that you can't see it...
Matthew Barzun: America's diplomatic dude

Matthew Barzun: America's diplomatic dude

The US Ambassador to London holds 'jeans and beer' gigs at his official residence – it's all part of the job, he tells Chris Green
Meet the Quantified Selfers: From heart rates to happiness, there is little this fast-growing, self-tracking community won't monitor

Meet the 'Quantified Selfers'

From heart rates to happiness, there is little this fast-growing, self-tracking community won't monitor
Madani Younis: Five-star reviews are just the opening act for British theatre's first non-white artistic director

Five-star reviews are just the opening act for British theatre's first non-white artistic director

Madani Younis wants the neighbourhood to follow his work as closely as his audiences do
Mrs Brown and her boys: are they having a laugh?

Mrs Brown and her boys: are they having a laugh?

When it comes to national stereotyping, the Irish – among others – know it can pay to play up to outsiders' expectations, says DJ Taylor