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Western Press Review: Turkey Returns To Secular Leadership -- For Now

  • Don Hill
  • Dora Slaba



Prague, 3 July 1997 (RFE/RL) -- Western press commentators examine Monday's change in Turkey's government from the Islamist-leaning leadership of Necmettin Erbakan to the secularist, military backed leadership of Mesut Yilmaz.

NEW YORK TIMES: Parliament has turned against Ciller

In a news analysis, Stephen Kinzer reported yesterday that former premier Tansu Ciller, who seemed to have been in line to recapture the prime ministership, has been brought low. He wrote: "Monday, Mrs. Ciller was forced to watch as her bitter rival, Mesut Yilmaz, became prime minister instead. She also faces the possibility that the Turkish Parliament may lift her immunity from prosecution and send corruption charges against her to the Supreme Court for investigation."

Kinzer said: "Yilmaz was able to form his government only because he won the support of more than two dozen members of Parliament from Mrs. Ciller's True Path Party. (They) have turned against her and now want to help bring her down. Some of them have predicted that the party either will continue losing members or will be torn by an internal rebellion against her leadership."

He wrote: "Leading Turkish newspapers reported Tuesday that prosecutors plan to summon Mrs. Ciller for questioning about stock manipulation, smuggling and ties to organized crime." Kinzer added: "This complex of problems marks a sharp turn in fortune for a (woman and her husband) that once seemed to have all Turkey at their feet. When Mrs. Ciller became Turkey's first woman prime minister in 1993, she was acclaimed at home and abroad. Since then, however, her reputation has plunged."

Suddeutsche Zeitung: Yilmaz faces rocky path ahead

Commenting yesterday, Tomas Avenarius wrote that the path ahead looks rocky for Yilmaz. Avenarius wrote: "You don't have to be Sigmund Freund to realize that Mesut Yilmaz must be feeling quite satisfied at the moment. His archrival, the equally ambitious and allegedly corrupt Tansu Ciller, has drawn the short straw in the battle for power and could even land up in court. So the new Turkish prime minister is Yilmaz. The honest but dull leader of the Motherland Party received his promotion from the president after the government headed by Islamist Necmettin Erbakan and his worse half, Mrs. Ciller, once seen as the party's salvation, fell due to her lust for power. Yilmaz's victory has an obvious flaw. If he survives the vote of confidence in parliament, he will head a minority government."

Avenarius concluded: "Fresh elections could clear things up in Turkish politics, but these are not planned. If the secular parties behave in their normal corrupt way until the next elections, today's loser, Erbakan, could become the big winner."

LE FIGARO: Military suspects Islamists of plan to take over power

Special correspondent Claude Lorieux commented yesterday that the military in Turkey considers moderation in protecting secularism to be a vice. Lorieux wrote in the French newspaper: "In Turkey the choice for the future military officers -- and to a large extent for the country as a whole -- is based not only on good school or university grades. Turkish recruiting sergeants used to track and eliminate leftists and Kurd separatists. Today, a candidate suspected of being active in the Islamic movement or even of having studied in a religious college has no chance to be admitted in military schools for officers or sergeants. Some of these schools now ask students to present pictures of their parents, says a militant newspaper. If dad has a beard and mom wears the chador, he automatically will be suspected."

He wrote: "Something else is important: The military suspects the Islamic Welfare Party to have a long term plan to take over power. Being a defender of secularity and Kemalism they are strongly opposed to this. They want to know whom they are admitting into their community. So, every extreme is eliminated. Extremely."

WASHINGTON POST: Collaboration necessary for democracy

Kelly Couturier wrote Tuesday in a news analysis that disarray among Ciller's allies permitted Yilmaz to triumph, at least temporarily. She wrote: "President Suleyman Demirel formally approved a new and resolutely secular government coalition Monday. (It) replaces an Islamic-led government brought down 12 days ago after months of military pressure."

And concluded: "Erbakan, who was critical of the president's choice of Yilmaz rather than Ciller to form the new government, was conciliatory after formally handing over the premiership. 'Thank God Turkey is a country that is governed by democracy,' the outgoing prime minister was quoted as saying. 'In a democracy, we can easily change (government) posts. What is essential is to work in collaboration for the good of the country.' "

TIMES OF LONDON: Political maneuvering expected ahead

Writing in a news analysis Tuesday, Andrew Finkel in Istanbul reported that a political maneuver is likely to be an early item of business for Yilmaz and his supporters. He said: "While the new administration is bound to reassure the military, it remains debatable whether it can provide a long-term solution to the nation's chronic political instability. Many see one of its first tasks is to amend the electoral system of proportional representation. A system of transferable votes, some analysts believe, would neuter the Welfare Party, which came first in a December 1995 election despite receiving fewer than 22 per cent of votes."

LE MONDE: Yilmaz is bearer of hope

In the French newspaper Le Monde yesterday, Nicole Pope summarized: "For the present Mesut Yilmaz is the bearer of hope of those opposed to any participation of islamists in the government, and a majority of Turks seem ready to accord him confidence. At least for the present."
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