Turkey: From Handshake To Slugfest

Turkey's short-lived ruling coalition may soon crack up

Less than two months after the rival Motherland and True Path parties struck a much-hailed power-sharing deal to block an Islamic government, renewed feuding between respective party leaders Mesut Yilmaz and Tansu Ciller is crippling the alliance. The two center-right leaders have fought bitterly over key appointments, including that of the top economic advisers.

The final blow to the coalition may have been Parliament's Apr. 24 vote to look into alleged corruption during Ciller's years as Turkey's first female Prime Minister. The motion, sponsored by the pro-Islamic Refah Party and backed by Motherland deputies in a secret vote, sets up a panel to probe charges that Ciller, her husband, and their associates steered more than 30 contracts at the state-owned electricity company, Tedas, to companies they favored. Ciller denies the charges. Parliament will also vote soon on a motion to investigate supposed tampering with the privatization of state shares in auto maker Tofas. Ciller is alleged to have opened sealed bids in her home and handpicked winners.

The probes could kill Ciller's chances of returning to power. She is due to succeed Yilmaz as Premier next January, but a parliamentary deputy on trial for corruption cannot serve as Prime Minister. If Ciller makes good on her threat to bolt the coalition, new elections are a possibility--though the country still hasn't recovered from the last vote, in December. On the other hand, her own True Path party may abandon her. Both parties will also explore deals with Refah. Such an arrangement would bring an Islamic-tinged government to power in a NATO member. The only certainty seems to be that there will be more turmoil and controversy.