Turkey's Ciller Switches Gears to Accommodate A Pro-Democracy Party

TURKEY'S parliament will cast a vote for or against another new government next week - and vote on whether to hold early parliamentary elections in December or next spring.

Prime Minister Tansu Ciller made concessions to her former coalition partner that will speed up democratic reforms needed for a customs union agreement with the European Union and help assuage a nationwide strike of about 700,000 public workers.

But her coalition will just be a caretaker government until early parliamentary elections can be held.

Mrs. Ciller put together a new coalition - the second in four weeks - with Deniz Baykal, chairman of the center-left People's Republican Party. He had pulled out of Ciller's government in September, criticizing her for the country's slow pursuit of economic and democratic reforms.

The new deal came after Ciller asked parliament to approve a Dec. 24 election date and she ordered the expulsion of 10 leading members of her True Path Party. The conservative members, including party founder Husamettin Cindoruk, were opposed to Ciller's reforms calling for more minority rights for ethnic Kurds.

But Ciller had to agree to other conditions Mr. Baykal had submitted in September, including speeding up a repeal to the country's antiterrorism law that allows easy detention of dissidents.

A European Parliament vote is scheduled for Dec. 14 on the customs union agreement Turkey is attempting to forge with the European Union that hinges on Turkey granting Kurds more human rights and freedoms.

In another move favoring Baykal, the Istanbul chief of police, Necdet Menzir, resigned early this week. Baykal had wanted him ousted after he publicly criticized the government minister in charge of human rights for being too soft on the separatist Kurds.

Political observers say Baykal is more liberal in advocating more minority rights for Kurds, but staunchly supports the government crackdown on separatist Kurds in southeast Turkey.

Baykal is also calling for pay raises for the country's striking public workers. Ciller, a US-trained economist, has offered the workers up to a 20 percent pay raise, but they have requested a 70 percent hike to make up for the country's 91 percent inflation rate.

BAYKAL also calls for stricter controls on Islamists he believes are a threat to Turkey's secular-run government. The pro-Islamic Welfare Party won municipal elections last March in Istanbul and Ankara, and are seen by political observers to be the country's most popular party now.

Ciller remains hopeful that the customs union agreement she's forged with the EU and the oil pipeline deal from Azerbaijan will get her the votes she needs to continue her reform programs. Ciller's party and the Republican People's Party command a majority in parliament, with 230 of 450 seats. Moreover, the Nationalist Party and other small groups have declared that they will support Ciller.

"Why didn't Mrs. Ciller accept all these conditions from the start?" asked the daily Hurriyet newspaper. "This would have averted the political crisis and the loss of precious time."

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