Vote Said to Bolster Turkey’s NATO Ties
A green light to reforms that would tie Turkey closer to the United States and its NATO allies in Western Europe burned brightly here Monday in the aftermath of landmark parliamentary elections.
Final returns from Sunday’s voting endorsed the pro-Western free market policies of Prime Minister Turgut Ozal and gave him an overwhelming mandate to extend them for the next five years.
“The people voted for stability,” Ozal said.
Ozal’s broadly based Motherland Party won 36.3% of the vote and 292 of 450 seats in the new Parliament. Center-left Social Democratic opponents won 24.7% and 99 seats, while a conservative grouping headed by former Prime Minister Suleyman Demirel received 19.1% and 59 seats.
Four other parties failed to reach a minimum 10% required for parliamentary representation under a proportional system that made it possible for Ozal to win a greater percentage of seats than he had votes.
Sunday’s turnout by 26 million voters was the freest election in Turkey in a decade. It was also remarkably peaceable in a nation afflicted in the late 1970s by political violence that killed 5,000 people and ruled until four years ago by free-swinging generals.
Observers from the European Communities who came to witness the voting in a country that has formally applied for membership liked what they saw.
“I believe democracy is the living reality in Turkey today,” one British observer told a Turkish reporter in Ankara.
(In Washington, the State Department described Turkey’s weekend parliamentary election as a “renewed demonstration of the longstanding commitment to democracy by the Turkish people,” the Associated Press reported.
(Spokesman Charles Redman added that the United States looks forward to “working with the re-elected government of Prime Minister Ozal.”)
Foreign Policy Goals
Ozal, a shrewd, 60-year-old economist, stressed Turkey’s emerging political maturity as a major selling point in his drive for acceptance as a full economic partner with Western Europe.
He also expects it to carry weight in Washington, where an updated defense agreement awaits congressional approval. Turkey is the eastern-most member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, and its large army is supported by major U.S. air bases and listening posts. Unlike in Spain and in Greece, where the American military presence is under fire, the Turkish bases are not an issue in a country that has a 400-mile border with the Soviet Union.
At a news conference, Ozal invited Demirel’s group, the True Path Party, to merge with his. The differences between the two parties deal more with personalities than with philosophy.
Demirel, one of 55 politicians banned by the military after a 1982 coup and rehabilitated by a referendum last September, made no immediate response.
An economic counterpoint to Ozal’s political opening since coming to power in 1983 has been a policy of rapid modernization that he says will raise Turkey to the level of West European economies by the end of the century.
Massive infrastructural development underwritten by deficit spending and foreign loans, together with economic reforms to encourage the private sector, have given Turkey the highest growth rate in Europe at the cost of a 40% inflation rate.
There was widespread speculation here Monday that to combat inflation Ozal will put on the economic brakes with an austerity program, perhaps including a major devaluation of the Turkish lira.
First, though, he will go to the United States, leaving next week for an overdue medical checkup by doctors in Houston who performed bypass surgery on him earlier this year. Formation of his new government will wait until Ozal’s return, but its policy lines are already manifest.