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Thursday, 11 July, 2002, 15:53 GMT 16:53 UK
Analysis: Turkey's political future

With every day that passes the end comes closer - the end of Bulent Ecevit's premiership, the end of the party he and his wife helped found in the early 1980s, the end of the uneasy coalition that has governed Turkey since 1999.

Mr Ecevit - a consummate political survivor - must know the end is near. And yet he has given no reaction to the resignations from his government and the haemorrhaging of support from his political party.

Ismail Cem
Mr Cem could lead a new party
His only statement - relayed through opposition leader Tansu Ciller on Tuesday - has been one of defiance. She said he had told her that he would not resign and would not call early parliamentary elections.

But his hand may well be forced. It is only the fact that parliament is in recess at the moment that has saved him. When the leader of what is now the largest group in parliament, Devlet Bahceli of the Nationalist Action Party, announced that he wanted early elections, Mr Ecevit's fate seemed sealed.

What next?

Attention in Turkey is now turning to what government, led by whom, might follow.

Something is stirring in the centre ground.

On Wednesday the former Deputy Prime Minister Husamettin Ozkan, whose resignation two days earlier set off the crisis, met the Ismail Cem - until Thursday foreign minister, and Kemal Dervis - who, a few hours later, also offered his resignation as finance minister before being persuaded to stay.

Rahsan Ecevit
The party Ecevit founded with wife Rahsan is foundering
All of three are relatively young, all pro-European and hailing from the centre ground of Turkish politics.

Already in the Turkish media they are being described as the "troika". Mr Cem is being spoken of as a potential leader of the group.

But despite the media excitement at the prospect of yet another party being created, the crown will not be given up to Mr Cem without a fight.

Devlet Bahceli, the leader of the right wing Nationalist Action Party, now the largest party in the coalition government, is not the retiring sort.

Fight for the crown

His party stormed into government with a campaign for the execution of captured Kurdish paramilitary leader Abdullah Ocalan. And he has kept up the nationalist rhetoric with attacks on the European Union and a hard-line stance towards sensitive subjects like Kurdish language broadcasting and education.

Mr Bahceli set the political ball rolling on Sunday with a call for early elections. He has kept up the pressure on Mr Ecevit all week by attempting to gather signatures from his deputies to force a recall of parliament - the body which could call an early poll.

PM Ecevit and the military
The Turkish military have intervened in times of crises
Also out and about on the stump has been Tansu Ciller, the charismatic leader of the True Path Party. She modestly put herself forward for the job of prime minister on Wednesday.

But she is tainted in many eyes by her behaviour when last in office in 1997 and the corruption scandals that hang around her party.

Ahead of them all in the polls is Tayyip Erdogan's Justice and Development Party.

It is commonly described as "Islamist" or "pro-Islamic". It has its roots in the Islamic party, Virtue, which was banned by the Turkish courts. Mr Erdogan says it is no longer Islamist, but, instead, calls for freedom of expression and religious belief.

Justice and Development would, opinion polls suggest, be the largest party if there were fresh elections.

The last time a pro-Islamic party was in government, the Turkish military stepped in and eased them out.

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25 Jun 02 | Europe
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