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Turkish No-Confidence Motion Fails

March 22, 1999

ANKARA, Turkey (AP) _ Turkey’s government survived a no-confidence vote today brought by a group of lawmakers fighting to keep their jobs.

The opposition came up 40 votes short of the 276 needed to topple the pro-secular, minority government of Premier Bulent Ecevit.

The no-confidence motion was presented by about 100 lawmakers dubbed ``the disgruntled″ after they were dropped from their parties’ lists for re-election. The move was part of their campaign to cancel elections scheduled for April 18.

The Islamic Virtue Party, the largest party in parliament, apparently went along with ``the disgruntled″ in exchange for their support for lifting a ban on politics against former Premier Necmettin Erbakan.

Turkey’s powerful military led the campaign against Erbakan, who presided over Turkey’s first Islamic-led government, forcing him out of power in 1997.

The military staunchly opposes any return to power of the Islamic movement, and had warned last week that a government collapse and cancellation of the elections would lead to chaos.

Virtue also may be supporting ``the disgruntled″ because of the recent rise in public opinion polls of Ecevit’s Democratic Left Party. Virtue appears to be losing its lead to Ecevit, whose popularity soared after Turkish forces captured Kurdish rebel leader Abdullah Ocalan.

Meanwhile, a prosecutor petitioned the courts today to close down Virtue, arguing it was the continuation of Erbakan’s banned Islamic Welfare Party.

Most of Welfare’s members regrouped under Virtue’s banner, and under Turkish law it is illegal to revive a party that has been disbanded by the Constitutional Court.

Prosecutor Nuh Mete Yuksel also argued that many of Virtue’s members were engaged in anti-secular activity.

``These are not valid arguments,″ Virtue leader Recai Kutan said. ``We don’t take them seriously.″

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