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Ecevit agrees to hold early polls

Ecevit has said he would not be minded to run a minority government
Ecevit has said he would not be minded to run a minority government  

ISTANBUL, Turkey -- Embattled Turkish Prime Minister Bulent Ecevit has agreed with his coalition leaders to hold elections in November.

The news came just hours after the government lost its parliamentary majority with the resignations of six deputies from the Democratic Left party (DSP) on Tuesday.

Ecevit, the nationalist leader Devlet Bahceli and the centre-right Mesut Yilmaz have pencilled in November 3 for the elections.

They must now take the proposal to their parties for confirmation.

Turkey's PM talks about "mini-crisis." (July 15)

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Ecevit had hoped to see the full five-year term through until 2004, but admitted in an interview with CNN on Monday that might not be "feasible" after increasing pressure sparked by the defections.

Nationalists, now the largest group in the government, had called for November 3, while the Motherland Party had pressed for a snap poll in September.

The 59 resignations have left the three-party coalition with 275 seats in the 550-member parliament.

CNN's Jerrold Kessel said the loss of the absolute majority was a "psychological blow" for Ecevit.

"It looks like Ecevit's long and illustrious career will come to an end," Kessel said. "This could be the stepping stone towards that."

Kessel added: "(Losing a majority) is only a psychological barrier because the coalition and the opposition both have 275 seats each."

The coalition did not collapse straight away, partly because parliament is in summer recess, and partly because the opposition does not have a majority to take over.

But the 77-year-old said much of the talk about his bad health, which has fuelled political uncertainty, had been based on "misconceptions," and he expressed optimism about Turkey's political stability.

"I am afraid we will have some turbulence for some time," Ecevit said. "But it won't cause any real harm to Turkey, because democracy has settled down and our economy has started improving after a long period of crisis."

U.S. Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz added to the pressure when he met Ecevit for an hour on Tuesday to seek support for any possible military action on Iraq in its bid to remove President Saddam Hussein. (Full Story)

Ecevit said Turkey's "mini-crisis" would not affect its international relations and standing.


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