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Monday, May 3, 1999 Published at 08:22 GMT 09:22 UK

World: Europe

Ecevit asked to form government

Mr Ecevit's party wooed voters to emerge top of the April election

Turkey's outgoing Prime Minister, Bulent Ecevit, says he has been formally charged with the task of forming a new government following last month's general elections.

Chris Morris in Ankara: Parliament has got off to a turbulent start
Coming out of a brief meeting with Turkish President Suleyman Demirel, Mr Ecevit said: "President Demirel has given me the duty to set up a government. As of this morning, I will launch efforts for a government."

Mr Ecevit's Democratic Left Party (DSP) emerged strongest in the April poll, winning 22.19% of the votes guaranteeing 136 seats in the 550 seat legislature.


However the DSP leader refused to comment on which possible forms of coalition he will be pursuing, although he did say that it would most probably comprise at least three parties.

"(On Tuesday), I will meet my deputies. Afterwards I will meet the leaders of the other parties," Mr Ecevit said.

Correspondents say the DSP is most likely to seek an alliance with the far-right Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) and the centre-right Motherland Party (ANAP).


The BBC's Chris Morris: "Mr Ecevit has up to 45 days to mend fences and make deals"
Turkish politics has fallen victim to instability over the last four years, during which the country has seen the fall of four governments. Inter-party rivalries have set back efforts to push though social security and financial reform required by the International Monetary Fund to cut Turkey's deficits and bring down inflation.

Conflicts emerged in the new parliament on Sunday, when a newly elected female MP caused uproar by arriving for the swearing-in ceremony wearing an Islamic-style headscarf.

[ image: Merve Kavakci sys she will cover her head in accordance with her beliefs]
Merve Kavakci sys she will cover her head in accordance with her beliefs
The incident prompted Mr Ecevit to accuse the MP, Merve Kavakci of the pro-Islamist Virtue Party, of violating the basic principles of the secular Turkish Republic.

After his meeting with President Demirel, Mr Ecevit said: "When I am putting together a government there will be no deviation from the basic principles of the state, primarily secularism."

The headscarf is an emotive symbol in Turkish political life, seen by secularists as the flag of political Islam threatening to overturn the strictly secular constitution.

Ms Kavakci's Virtue Party lost 33 seats in the election and is not expected to take part in the next cabinet. But it could still emerge as the chief opposition party in parliament, with 111 seats.

Turkey's constitution allows 45 days for the formation of a new government. If the deadline is not met, the president has the authority to form an interim government and declare new elections.

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