This day in history

1998 ‘Corrupt’ Turkish government falls

The government of Turkey has collapsed after losing a no-confidence motion over corruption allegations.

The Turkish assembly voted by an absolute majority – 314 votes to 214 – in favour of an opposition motion of no confidence in the coalition government of Prime Minister Mesut Yilmaz.

Mr Yilmaz has been accused of tampering with the $600m sale of a state bank, and of links with the Turkish mafia.

He has denied the charges, saying he is being brought down by the mafia, and is taking legal action to clear his name.

He warned the country’s economic and foreign policy would suffer as a result.

“If you bring this government down, you will make the gangs laugh,” he said. “Of all governments past and present, ours has been the most determined to go after gangs.”

He was referring to a police crackdown on organised crime which led to the arrest of several prominent mafia bosses over the past few months.

Mr Yilmaz came to power nearly 17 months ago after Turkey’s first pro-Islamic government was forced out of power by the military.

He had acknowledged that he expected to lose the vote of confidence after key coalition partner the People’s Republican Party withdrew its support from his coalition.

This is the fourth administration to collapse since the rightist-led government of Tansu Ciller fell from power in 1995.

Its demise comes as Turkey struggles to overcome annual inflation of 62% and high government debts.

It is also likely to prolong the argument between Turkey and Italy over the extradition of Kurdish rebel leader Abdullah Ocalan, who has applied for political asylum in Rome.

Correspondents say Turkey now faces a further period of political uncertainty as there is no obvious successor as prime minister and no party looks capable of forging a strong parliamentary majority.

The President, Suleyman Demirel, is now holding talks with other factions in parliament to see if any are capable of forming a new government.

They include the largest party in parliament, the pro-Islamist Virtue Party, which is strongly opposed by Turkey’s secular politicians and by the military.

There is strong support for an early election, probably in April next year, but the military is thought to favour postponing any poll until 2000.

Courtesy BBC News

In context

Turkey spent the next six weeks in political limbo after two attempts to form a new coalition – by former Prime Minister Bulent Ecevit and then by independent deputy Yalim Erez – failed.

Then former Prime Minister Tansu Ciller made a political about-turn to support the coalition put together by Bulent Ecevit after all.

Mr Ecevit continued as Turkey’s prime minister until 2002, when growing economic and political turmoil resulted in the resignation of several of his senior ministers.

In November 2002 the Islamist-based Justice and Development Party won a landslide election victory. A change in the constitution was necessary before the party’s leader, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, could become prime minister.

Although his party has Islamist roots Mr Erdogan insists it is committed to secularism.

He has identified EU entry as a top priority and has introduced reforms designed to bring Turkey more closely into line with entry requirements.

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