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Monday, 22 July, 2002, 13:11 GMT 14:11 UK
Turkish parliament session fails
Bulent Ecevit
Bulent Ecevit says early elections could be dangerous
The Turkish parliament was recalled from summer recess at the request of two opposition parties on Monday but failed to reach a quorum.

The parties represented in the coalition government boycotted the session, at which opposition deputies had hoped to vote on a date for new elections.

A pro-Islamic party had also threatened to introduce a censure motion against the government.

Ismail Cem
Ismail Cem announced his new party on Monday
The government has agreed to hold elections in November, but Prime Minister Bulent Ecevit appeared to backtrack over the weekend, suggesting that early elections could damage the country's economic recovery.

They would also be dangerous, he suggested, because Islamist and pro-Kurdish parties could do well - an outcome likely to cause tensions with the secular military leadership.

On Monday, however, he was rebuffed by a key coalition partner - Devlet Bahceli of the Nationalist Action Party (MHP) - who said his party would withdraw from government if elections were delayed beyond 3 November.

The failed session came after former Foreign Minister, Ismail Cem, a new arrival in the opposition ranks, was formally elected leader of a new party, the New Turkey party.

His resignation 11 days ago was a serious blow to Mr Ecevit, whose Economy Minister, Kemal Dervis, has also joined the New Turkey party, while remaining in government.

It came amid a flood of defections from Mr Ecevit's Democratic Left Party (DSP), which continued on Monday, with the departure of one more deputy, reducing the government's support in parliament to 270 of 550 seats.

There have now been a total of 64 defections over the past two weeks, cutting the DSP's parliamentary faction in half.

The mass resignations were prompted by an internal coalition dispute over EU-backed democracy reforms, and the 77-year-old veteran leader's refusal to resign despite long absences due to ill health.

The MHP is now the largest group in the 550-seat parliament.

At least 184 deputies have to be present for parliament to have a quorum to meet.

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The BBC's Jonny Dymond
"Over the weekend the prime minister hinted he might have changed his mind about early polls"

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18 Jul 02 | Europe
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