Turkish PM boosted by nation-wide polls

Click to follow
Tansu Ciller, Turkey's Prime Minister, threw off her image as a political lame duck yesterday after Turks crowded to vote in nation- wide municipal elections. But the country had little relief from the overshadowing realities of economic crisis, bloodshed in the mainly Kurdish south-east and a new bout of terrorism that wounded three European tourists.

Early returns showed Mrs Ciller's conservative True Path Party won 27.6 per cent of the first 667,000 of a maximum 32 million votes counted for municipal councils, the most party-oriented vote.

'People were looking for a way to get the ship off the rocks, looking for a captain,' said Gungor Mengi, a commentator. 'The result is a tactical victory for Mrs Ciller, a vote for continuation. People have opted for stability.'

There was no victory for the arthritic political system, however. Disgust with corrupt politicians meant none of the 13 parties in the race appeared about to win more than 30 per cent of the vote. In mayoral races, most voters chose personalities and not ideologies.

In the biggest city, Istanbul, the centre-right Motherland party was ahead, Izmir was going to the True Path and the Social Democrats seemed about to take the capital, Ankara. The pro-Islamic Welfare Party won many towns in central Anatolia and in south-east Turkey, where they did especially well due to Kurdish nationalist boycotts.

Mrs Ciller looks set to do marginally better than the True Path did when it took power in 1991. Her Social Democrat coalition partner did slightly worse, but commentators said they had probably won a mandate by default to continue in office until the next parliamentary elections in 1996.

Turkey's first woman prime minister certainly plans to go on. All expect a new army crackdown on Kurdish rebels and an austerity programme to get the economy back on track. Newspapers predict huge price rises, VAT hikes, budget cuts and speedier privatisation.

A German, a Spanish and a Dutch tourist were wounded in Istanbul when a bomb exploded at noon yesterday at the gate of the former Byzantine cathedral of Haghia Sophia.

Telephone callers to newspapers claimed the Kurdistan Workers' Party had planted the bomb. But Kurdish sources said the rebels had neither admitted nor denied

restarting last year's terrorist campaign to damage Turkey's tourist income.

The government said about 60 guerrillas and two soldiers were killed over the weekend.