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Political turmoil hits Turkey

Dervis is seen as key economic figure contributing to stability  

ISTANBUL, Turkey (CNN) -- Turkey lurched into further political chaos as its Prime Minister Bulent Ecevit fought to hang on to power after a wave of resignations.

Ecevit has appeared increasingly beleaguered as up to 40 deputies and seven ministers have quit this week over demands to hold early elections.

The 77-year-old's ill-health during the past two months have raised questions about his ability to run the country at a critical time when it is following a strict economic policy and aims to secure membership of the European Union.

He was seen to be fighting back on Thursday when he issued a plea to the rebellious deputies to return to government including a concerted move to win back his influential and hugely popular economy minister Kemal Dervis who had quit earlier in the day.

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It appears Ecevit has persuaded Dervis, a former World Bank official in Washington and driving force behind a $16 billion international loan, to withdraw his resignation only hours after submitting it.

He had announced his resignation minutes after financial markets closed on Thursday, but later released a written statement saying, "...with requests from our president and the prime minister, I decided to take my resignation back."

He had been the eighth minister to have resigned since Monday although Dervis did not belong to any political party.

CNN's Jane Arraf said: "The reason why he (Ecevit) was so keen for Dervis to stay is that he is key. He (Dervis) is seen as holding the economy together.

"Perhaps it would have been a major blow if it gone through."

She added: "Despite being 77 and in ill health he (Ecevit) is not going to go down without a fight."

The departure of so many deputies has reduced his Democratic Left party (DSP) to second-string status in the three-party coalition consisting of the DSP, the nationalists and the Motherland Party.

Ecevit, centre, leaves his home on Thursday  

He issued a statement on Thursday blaming a plot for being behind the resignations and urged the rebels to return.

"In recent days some of our friends are serving the purposes of those circles who want to destroy the DSP, they are falling into a trap.

"I call on these friends to unite again under the wings of the white dove," he said, referring to the DSP party symbol."

The defectors were reported to be considering launching a new political party, which would have had ex-foreign minister Ismail Cem and former deputy prime minister Husamettin Ozkan among its number.

Turkey's neighbours and creditors are watching events closely.

The European Union is considering whether to admit Turkey into its fold in future, while Washington and NATO regard the country as a strategic ally.

Arraf added: "Stability has been a concern here, but there is nothing to indicate any instability -- certainly there has been political chaos."

Ecevit founded his party after a 1980 military coup. During his absence the country's stock markets and currency have plunged.

Divisions within the three-party government over reforms that the EU is demanding -- including abolishing the death penalty and granting more rights to minority Kurds -- have helped bring the government to the brink of collapse.


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