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The BBC's Chris Morris
"The President is convinced he is in the right"
 real 56k

Monday, 21 August, 2000, 17:49 GMT 18:49 UK
Turkish president defies government
President Sezer (far left) and PM Ecevit (right)
President Sezer (left) is refusing to go along with PM Ecevit (right)
Turkish President Ahmet Necdet Sezer has for the second time vetoed a government decree which would allow the dismissal of thousands of public employees suspected of Islamist or separatist leanings.

The government had re-submitted the draft document without alterations, despite the president's initial rejection earlier this month.

The constitution clearly stipulates that any disciplinary action must be embodied in a law and cannot be issued through decrees

President Sezer
Prime Minister Bulent Ecevit said the president had no right to do what he is doing, and accused Mr Sezer of hindering Turkey's fight against radical Islamist groups.

Mr Sezer argues that mass sackings in the civil service should not take place without due parliamentary process. The proposed decree has been bitterly criticised as undemocratic by opposition leaders and trades unions.

Mr Sezer's refusal to sign put him on a on a collision course with Turkey's powerful military leaders who strongly support the decree, and were behind the removal of Turkey's first Islamist government in 1997.

Impeachment prospect

According to the Turkish media, the government may now seek to impeach the newly-elected Mr Sezer, who is understood to be more sensitive than his predecessors to human rights concerns.

PM Ecevit and the military
Ecevit (foreground) has the backing of the military
The president, a former judge who took office as a political novice in May, insists that the decree is unconstitutional.

A change in the law should be legislated in parliament he says, not by cabinet decree.

But most observers believe the government would struggle to win a parliamentary majority for such a controversial bill.

Fighting the Islamists

Prime Minister Ecevit has said the president cannot reject a decree twice, and that Turkey is facing a crisis.

"The president's stance makes it harder for the state to do its duty and to defend the constitutional order," Mr Ecevit said on Monday.

Islamists, along with separatist Kurds, are identified by the government and military as serious threats to Turkish stability.

Mr Ecevit says the president's stance will hamper state efforts to prevent "anti-secular" militants from infiltrating the state.

"This has led to a regrettable and worrisome situation in the state structure," Mr Ecevit said.

The prime minister is to meet his coalition allies on Tuesday to plan his next move. He said that it was too early to discuss possible impeachment moves against Mr Sezer.

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See also:

01 Apr 99 | Middle East
Turkish police seize 400 Islamists
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