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Turkey Govt. Heads for Collapse

November 12, 1998

ANKARA, Turkey (AP) _ Turkey’s minority government edged closer to collapse today when a key party defected to the opposition, accusing the premier of mafia links and rigging the sale of a state-run bank.

The leader of the pivotal Republican People’s Party, Deniz Baykal, filed a no-confidence motion today against Prime Minister Mesut Yilmaz, siding with two opposition parties that lodged no-confidence motions Wednesday.

The motions, which accuse Yilmaz of abuse of power and ties to organized crime, were not expected to be debated before next week. Even Yilmaz appears to realize it’s unlikely he can survive such a vote.

``I am a minority government, I cannot resist. If Baykal withdraws support, that is the end of the government,″ Yilmaz said early today on private Kanal D television.

The English-language Turkish Daily News reported today that Yilmaz would resign just before the legislature votes on the motions. He repeatedly has said he will not resign.

A small coalition partner, Democratic Turkey Party, was to announce later today its decision on whether to withdraw from the government.

Pressure for Yilmaz’s resignation built after a businessman linked to the mafia claimed the premier rigged the privatization of a state-run Turkbank by pledging him loans that would ensure his bid was the highest.

Yilmaz has said he wanted to keep the mafia out of the deal and was trying to get the highest price possible from the sale.

Yilmaz came to power in July 1997 after the military pressured an Islamic-led government out of office because of its anti-secular policies. With the Republicans backing and at the military’s urging, Yilmaz since has campaigned against radical Islam and organized crime.

Turkey has witnessed the collapse of three governments since the last elections, held in 1995. It was unclear who would be appointed to replace Yilmaz until elections scheduled for April.

Meanwhile today, police detained the Islamic mayor of Ankara, the capital, on charges of favoring some private firms in municipal contracts, police chief Cevdet Saral told the private NTV television.

Melih Gokcek’s detention, another setback to Turkey’s Islamic movement, follows the conviction of Istanbul’s Islamic Mayor Recep Tayyip Erdogan for reading a stridently anti-secular poem. Erdogan was sentenced in September to 10 months in prison for inciting religious hatred.

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