Turkey's PM wins first policy victory

THE Turkish parliament yesterday gave a vote of confidence to the government programme of the struggling Prime Minister, Tansu Ciller, and cleared the way to lift a state monopoly on broadcasting.

The cross-party consensus on at least one serious legal reform was an achievement that myopic Turkish politicians have failed to pull off for years. It was a welcome break in the clouds and showed that Turkey's first woman prime minister may yet prove capable of mastering a state that has recently looked adrift in a threatening storm.

The reform programme of Mrs Ciller's conservative True Path Party coalition with the Social Democrats won 247 votes in the 450-seat assembly, well over the 226 necessary. Then, surprisingly, she also won the two-thirds majority needed to lift a constitutional ban on private broadcasting. Much-needed modernisation of the restrictive 1982 constitution imposed by the coup-era generals is at the top of Mrs Ciller's agenda.

Some Turks are reassessing their euphoria over the two-week-old premiership of Mrs Ciller, a US-educated economics professor, partly because of her diplomatic gaffes and grammatical mistakes in speeches.

But hopes remain strong that she may be the best of a generally despised field of politicians in Ankara. Her novel image, her ambition and her risk-taking style may yet cut through Turkey's many Gordian knots: a bloated state sector, over-centralised government, a devastating rash of attacks by Kurdish nationalist rebels and the Islamic fundamentalism blamed for a horrible hotel fire on Friday that killed 36 people in the provincial capital of Sivas.

Inflation at 67 per cent is a major problem, but in Mrs Ciller's favour is an economy growing at 6 per cent a year. Unlike the crippling political and social problems of the 1970s that led to the 1980 coup, there is now a dynamic, broad-based private sector in western and northeastern Turkey. Most people have a stake in it, Kurds, Turks, the middle class, workers and even Islamic fundamentalists.

'Even an Islamic government would not be able to change the fact that more than half of Turkey's trade is with western Europe,' said Savas Akat, an economist and businessman.

Leading article, page 21

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