Turkish parties unify against Islamic group Prime minister will cede first year of power

March 04, 1996|By LOS ANGELES TIMES

ISTANBUL, Turkey -- In something of a shotgun marriage, the two leaders of Turkey's rival center-right parties signed a pledge of loyalty yesterday to a new coalition intended to keep a pro-Islamic party from power.

One television news program played an upbeat wedding march as it showed footage of the signing ceremony. The Turkish establishment and its Western allies have also greeted with relief the end of a lengthy search for a new government in this NATO ally straddling Europe and the Middle East.

Under the agreement, caretaker Prime Minister Tansu Ciller of the True Path Party ceded the first year of a rotating premiership to her bitter rival, Motherland Party leader Mesut Yilmaz. The two had failed to put together a coalition immediately after December elections when each refused to let the other be prime minister first.

"I have made this sacrifice because I did not think the [Islamic] Welfare Party would be good for the state. We thought this would be better for political stability," Ms. Ciller said.

Necmettin Erbakan, the leader of the Welfare Party -- which, with 21 percent of the vote in the December elections, came in first but not with enough seats to govern alone -- angrily denounced )) the Yilmaz-Ciller alliance. "This coalition will do nothing but ruin the country. Welfare will come to power -- if not today, then tomorrow," he told his party's executive body.

Many Turks, however, hope that at last the personal rivalries that have plagued the center-right parties are at an end.

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