Secularist coalition takes reins in Turkey
June 30, 1997
Web posted at: 12:22 p.m. EDT (1622 GMT)
ANKARA, Turkey (CNN) -- Secularist Mesut Yilmaz was appointed
by the president Monday to succeed Necmettin Erbakan as
Turkish prime minister. Yilmaz officially took over the post
from a smiling Erbakan in a brief ceremony later in the day.
As the two men shook hands, the curtain came down on Turkey's
first Islamist-led government. Yilmaz becomes the head of a
coalition government replacing Erbakan's, which had
repeatedly angered Turkey's military with its pro-religious
Turkey is officially secular, and the military considers
itself the guardian of secularism, the basic principle of
Yilmaz's coalition faces a confidence vote in the next two
Erbakan resigned two weeks ago in an attempted power swap,
hoping junior coalition partner Tansu Ciller would take over
his post. Turkish President Suleyman Demirel blocked the
attempt, asking Yilmaz to form a government rather than
Demirel approved Yilmaz's cabinet on Monday. The new
coalition government brings together members of Turkey's
right and left.
Yilmaz named former prime minister Bulent Ecevit as one of
his two deputy prime ministers. Ecevit is a staunch
secularist best known abroad as the man who ordered Turkish
troops to invade Cyprus in 1974 following a Greek Cypriot
Former journalist Ismail Cem, a member of Ecevit's Democratic
Left Party, was named as foreign minister, the post Ciller
held until this week.
Although the coalition has support from both ends of the
political spectrum, it is a minority three-party coalition
and will depend on support from others. Yilmaz will know
where he stands almost immediately: A parliamentary
confidence vote must be held in early July.
Under Turkish parliamentary procedure, Yilmaz or one of his
cabinet members must read out the government's program in
parliament and officially apply for a confidence vote by next
Monday. The parliament will debate the government's newly
debated policies for two days, then break for another full
day before the confidence vote is held.
Yilmaz has been boosted by a wave of defections from a
conservative faction allied to Erbakan's Islam-based Welfare
Party and now has around 12 more parliament members on paper
than his opponents in the 550-member national assembly.
Reuters contributed to this report.
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