Turkey's leader gets a boost in local elections

March 28, 1994|By Los Angeles Times

ISTANBUL, Turkey -- Prime Minister Tansu Ciller won an unexpected new lease on political life in nationwide municipal elections yesterday, holding off her rivals on the right as well as a challenge from Turkey's rising Islamic fundamentalists.

Early returns, based on 14 percent of the vote, showed Mrs. Ciller's conservative True Path Party with 27 percent of the votes. The main opposition Motherland Party ranked second with 21 percent, the Islamic fundamentalist Welfare Party received 17 percent, and 10 other parties shared the rest of the votes, according to state television. Final results could take days to come out.

Turkey's electorate of 32 million people voted for more than 80,000 local council members and 2,700 town mayors.

With her party's victories, Mrs. Ciller gets a new mandate heading toward the 1996 parliamentary elections. "The result is a greater tactical victory than even Mrs. Ciller expected, a vote for continuation. People have opted for stability," said commentator Gungor Mengi.

The incumbent's success surprised many because Turkey is facing its worst fiscal crisis in more than a decade. International rating agencies have downgraded Turkey's credit-worthiness twice this year in a vote of no confidence. The Turkish lira has lost more than 70 percent of its value, the stock market has slumped and industry is sliding into recession.

The pro-Islam Welfare Party appeared to have capitalized on Turkish anger at the economic mismanagement and the corrupt political classes. It won several mayoral races in rural areas and in the mainly Kurdish southeast. But the party's hopes of winning the great prize of Istanbul were --ed. The city leaned toward the Motherland Party.

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