Turkey Ex-Prime Ministers Cleared
ANKARA, Turkey (AP) _ The Turkish Parliament has cleared two former prime ministers of corruption in a case seen as a test of Turkey’s campaign to weed out corruption and strengthen its bid to join the European Union.
Some analysts believe that Tansu Ciller, Turkey’s only female prime minister, and Mesut Yilmaz, a member of Turkey’s governing coalition, were able to deflect the charges because of political horsetrading.
Ciller was accused of siphoning $71,000 from a covert intelligence fund in the early 1990s to finance her True Path Party. Only 145 of 550 lawmakers voted to indict her, far short of the 276 necessary.
Parliament later voted against indicting Yilmaz for approving the sale of lucrative mobile phone licenses at artificially low prices. Only 151 deputies voted to indict Yilmaz, while 190 lawmakers rejected the motion.
Yilmaz’s premiership ended in 1998 amid allegations of ties with mobsters.
Parliament must review allegations of wrongdoing by senior officials before sending the cases to the Supreme Court.
Many Turks consider corruption endemic to the political system. The government’s efforts to confront official misconduct gained urgency with the EU’s decision to make Turkey a candidate in December.
``Turkey has proved reluctant to deal with corruption,″ said Bulent Aliriza of the Washington-based Center for Strategic and International Studies. ``It’s significant that the National Assembly is handling alleged corruption in such a public way. This is the kind of thing that will make a difference.″
But that campaign seems to be faltering.
Members of Prime Minister Bulent Ecevit’s party feared the government would collapse if Yilmaz, a key coalition ally, had been indicted. But fighting for Yilmaz may have tarnished Ecevit’s reputation as an honest politician.
Also, legislators loyal to Ciller and Yilmaz abstained from voting against either candidate in what Aliriza described as ``a deniable arrangement.″
The far-right-wing Nationalist Action Party, Yilmaz and Ecevit’s coalition partner, is looking to prosecute Yilmaz. After the voting, Ecevit said he hoped Yilmaz would assume a cabinet post in the coming days. Yilmaz has refrained from entering the cabinet until he is cleared.
The nationalists campaigned promising a clean government and might see their popularity boosted if the government falls.
``The vote reflects politicians’ awareness of the public’s sensitivity to corruption,″ said Ilter Turan of Istanbul Bilgi University. ``But all indications are that it is just a safe political exercise.″