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Monday, April 19, 1999 Published at 16:52 GMT 17:52 UK


World: Europe

Analysis: Turkey's winners and losers

Democratic Left party supporters look forward to a longer Ecevit term

By Ankara Correspondent Chris Morris

As the counting of votes continues in Turkey's general election, two parties are emerging as the clear winners.


[ image: Bulent Ecevit: Leftist who has embraced nationalism]
Bulent Ecevit: Leftist who has embraced nationalism
The Democratic Left Party led by Prime Minister Bulent Ecevit is holding on to first place, while there has been a dramatic upsurge in support for the extreme right wing Nationalist Action Party or MHP.

The pro-Islamist Virtue Party, which had hoped to win this election, will be bitterly disappointed to be well behind in third place.

The Islamists appear to have suffered as a result of constant pressure from the secular establishment, and internal disputes in the party which emerged clearly over the last few months.

Victory for Turkish nationalism

Over the years, Bulent Ecevit has shed many of his old leftist ideas, but nationalism remains at the core of his political philosophy.

The MHP, meanwhile, makes no secret of its support for rigid nationalist policies.


[ image: MHP headquarters in Istanbul: Big winners]
MHP headquarters in Istanbul: Big winners
The party says it has got rid of its most extreme elements. For many years it was linked with shadowy right-wing death squads.

But its current leader, Devlet Bahceli, has tried to take the MHP further into the mainstream, with spectacular results in this election.

Nevertheless, many people on the left are still extremely suspicious of the MHP, which has strong support among members of the security forces.

It takes a hard line against any sort of Kurdish activism, and it will support no compromise on foreign policy issues such as relations with Greece or Cyprus.

Coalition calculations

The hard bargaining on a new Turkish coalition will begin in earnest once all the results are in, and it could take weeks to form a new government.

The most likely option, though, appears to be a coalition between Mr Ecevit, the MHP and the centre-right Motherland Party.

The MHP will demand a number of high profile ministerial posts, giving the far right a place at the centre of government for the first time in many years.

There are bound to be disagreements, but if negotiations were to be successful the three parties should have a comfortable majority to work with in parliament.

Kurdish questions

Both the Prime Minister and the MHP seem to have benefited from a mood of nationalist pride which emerged in the wake of the capture in February of the Kurdish rebel leader Abdullah Ocalan.


[ image: Hadep is angry about alleged irregularities]
Hadep is angry about alleged irregularities
On the other hand in the mainly-Kurdish south-east of the country the electoral reaction to Mr Ocalan's arrest has been very different.

The pro-Kurdish party Hadep has done well in many districts, despite a campaign of constant police harassment.

Some Hadep officials are worried, however, that they may yet be deprived of victory in a series of local elections in the region.

More than 40 of their election observers were arrested, and reports are emerging of serious irregularities in voting in the south-east.

Just a few weeks before the trial of Abdullah Ocalan is due to begin, these election results seem to have strengthened the divisions between the south-east and the rest of the country.



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