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Friday, 7 June, 2002, 12:44 GMT 13:44 UK
Analysis: Turkey faces uncertain future
Bulent Ecevit
All eyes are on Mr Ecevit at present

The 77-year-old Turkish Prime Minister Bulent Ecevit has been ill since early May, and has been admitted to hospital twice in that period.

Although not officially confirmed, Mr Ecevit is known to suffer from a muscular-nervous problem, a spinal disorder and a broken rib.

Some want an end to the uncertainty that his illness causes, and a decision to be taken to replace him - quickly.

But Mr Ecevit's coalition allies say that the decision to step down rests solely with the prime minister, his influential wife and the Democratic Left Party (DSP).

The DSP insists there is no need to debate succession yet, and that their leader is firmly in charge.

Iron hand

But calls for his resignation have mounted.

Some critics say the DSP is acting as if it were a religious sect rather than a democratic, political party.

The prime minister's wife, Rahsan Ecevit single-handedly runs the party and the Ecevits are known to have crushed all opposition in the past.

Rahsan Ecevit
Wife Rahsan runs the party

Consequently, there is no obvious replacement.

Some commentators even suggest that the party will break up if Mr Ecevit steps down.

Mr Ecevit is also widely credited with holding together the three-party coalition.

The second biggest party in coalition, the Nationalist Action party, has made it clear that they would not accept anyone other than Mr Ecevit as the prime minister.

The government could find itself in a crisis during what it is seen as a crucial period for Turkey, which has several difficult issues to tackle.

Most importantly, the impasse over Cyprus needs to be resolved.

Turkey is still recovering from a deep economic crisis and a new political crisis would undermine the economic austerity programme.

The undesirables

An early election has been viewed as the least desirable option, but the next general election is not due before 2004.

There are already behind the scenes attempts to find another coalition formula.

Pollsters say that the only party likely to cross the 10% threshold at an early election would be the Islamist Justice and Development Party of Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

The military and the secularists view this with horror.

As in previous elections, there may be attempts to change the electoral law to lower the threshold, but this may result with the pro-Kurdish People's Democracy Party to enter the parliament.

The establishment finds this prospect unacceptable.


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