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Monday, 8 July, 2002, 17:29 GMT 18:29 UK
Analysis: Beginning of end for Ecevit
The now former Turkish Deputy Prime Minister, Husametin Ozkan (left), the Turkish Prime Minister, Bulent Ecevit (centre), and the leader of the rightwing Nationalist Action Party, Devlet Bahceli
Devlet Bahceli (right) made a dramatic U-turn on Sunday


Has Turkey reached the turning point? It certainly feels like it.


This is not the end for Bulent Ecevit's government...But it looks very much like the beginning of the end

The markets - jittery for months - have slipped again. The Turkish lira has fallen to a new all-time low against the dollar.

And - after several senior ministers have resigned from the government - almost all the newspapers are screaming for an election

The immediate cause is a U-turn from Devlet Bahceli, the leader of the rightwing Nationalist Action Party (MHP).

For months Mr Bahceli has stuck to the agreed line of the coalition - of which his party is the second largest member - that elections would be held at the end of the parliamentary term in April 2004.

But then on Sunday came the reversal: Mr Bahceli said "political uncertainty" was harming the economy.

He said, the parliament, currently in recess, should be recalled at the beginning of September and elections called for November.

'When rather than if'

The "political uncertainty" he referred to is the longer term cause of what one economist has described as "chaos" on the markets.

Turkish Prime Minister Bulent Ecevit
Ecevit's public appearances have been painful to watch

The uncertainty is the question of when - and it must be when rather than if - the current Prime Minister Bulent Ecevit will stand down.

Mr Ecevit has been ill for over two months, in and out of hospital, unable to work from his office, missing meeting after meeting and dropping out of planned visits to neighbouring countries.

His appearances have been painful to watch; shambling, stumbling performances which have done the opposite of reassuring his audience.

But until the weekend the coalition has remained firm.

'Deeply unpopular'

Despite the seemingly never-ending calls from opposition parties for an election, coalition leaders had insisted that the government would stay the course.

The reason was simple: because of the dire economic situation the parties of the coalition were deeply unpopular.

Most opinion polls suggest that they would fail to meet even the 10% threshold required to qualify for seats in Parliament.

So brutal self interest kept the lid on a political situation was driving the markets mad.

The Turkish lira has lost 20% of its value over the past two months, and interest rates have jumped another 15%.

The markets concern is twofold: first that the paralysis in the government had halted the reforms needed to fulfil the European Union's preliminary membership criteria; and second, that a new government would not stick to the programme agreed with the International Monetary Fund when the most recent loan of $16 billion was negotiated.

'Beginning of the end'

What changed for the nationalist leader Devlet Bahceli is a matter of some speculation.

Some think there are moves afoot in Ankara to bring a different party into the coalition in place of his MHP.

The call for fresh election might also be thought to play well for Mr Bahceli, making him look less of a government insider, more of an outsider pressing for change.

This is not the end for Bulent Ecevit's government, because with the parliament being in recess there is nobody that can drive him from office.

But it looks very much like the beginning of the end.

A long hot summer of political and economic uncertainty awaits Turkey.


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08 Jul 02 | Europe
25 Jun 02 | Europe
09 Jun 02 | Europe
09 Jun 02 | Business
21 Feb 02 | Business
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