New Turkish Government Takes Over
ANKARA, Turkey (AP) _ Turkey’s sixth prime minister in three years took power Monday, leading a pro-secular Cabinet that has vowed to withstand the country’s powerful Islamic political forces.
President Suleyman Demirel approved of the new government, ending a six-week leadership crisis.
Veteran politician Bulent Ecevit assembled a minority government composed of his small Democratic Left Party and three independent parties. With pledges of support from two center-right parties, the government should easily win Sunday’s confidence vote in the 550-member Parliament.
Ecevit said his government would concentrate on curing Turkey’s economic ills, including a steep rise in unemployment and chronic inflation.
But the country’s pro-secular establishment was united in the hope that Ecevit, a staunch supporter of modern Turkey’s secular principles, would help limit the influence of the Islamic Virtue party ahead of national elections April 18. Ecevit insisted on excluding Islamic Virtue, Turkey’s largest party, from his Cabinet.
Ecevit, 73, reportedly has the crucial support of the military, a bulwark against conservative Islamic political influence in this overwhelmingly Muslim country.
The armed forces pressured an Islamic-led government out of power two years ago and appear determined to keep Islamic Virtue from power. Generals have spoken out several times in recent weeks against the rise of the Islamic movement.
Under pressure from center-right True Path leader Tansu Ciller, Ecevit was forced to make one concession to the Islamic camp and remove his education minister, whose secular reforms angered some conservative religious voters. Mrs. Ciller was apparently trying to woo away religious votes that would likely go to Islamic Virtue.
But the new education minister, Metin Bostancioglu, has ruled out any change of policy.
No changes are expected in either foreign or economic policy, with the reappointment of Foreign Minister Ismail Cem and of Finance Minister Zekeriya Temizel.
``The market has confidence in Temizel,″ said Mehmet Akkent, a stock market analyst. Under Temizel, Turkey succeeded in reducing wholesale inflation from 97 percent to 56 percent last year.
Ecevit was deputy prime minister in the previous government, which collapsed in a corruption scandal. He served as premier three times in the 1970s.
While prime minister in 1974, he oversaw Turkey’s invasion of Cyprus, and he continues to support the breakaway Turkish Cypriot government.
He also was instrumental in Turkey’s suspension of relations with the European Union last year after the EU refused to include Ankara on a short list of membership candidates.
Ecevit is a former journalist and poet whose works have been translated into several languages.