Turkish voters rebuffed American ally President Turgut Ozal on Sunday, depriving his party of a third term and setting the stage for an opposition coalition government that has vowed to drive him from office.
Mounting returns early today gave a lion's share of seats in the 450-member Turkish Parliament to the conservative True Path Party of four-time former prime minister Suleyman Demirel, but not enough to rule alone.
Ozal's Motherland Party, which had an overwhelming majority in the outgoing Parliament, ran second Sunday under Prime Minister Mesut Yilmaz.
The Social Democratic Populist Party led by Erdal Inonu, the son of a former president, ran a close third. It was followed, in a surprisingly strong showing, by the Islamic fundamentalist Welfare Party headed by Necmettin Erbakan.
With more than a third of nearly 30 million votes counted, True Path had 28%. Motherland got 24%. The Social Democrats had 21%, and the fundamentalists drew 16%. The Democratic Left Party of former Prime Minister Bulent Ecevit trailed badly with a fraction less than the 10% minimum required for parliamentary representation.
With 226 seats required for a majority, the semiofficial Anatolia news agency projected 177 seats for Demirel and 96 for the Social Democrats, his most likely coalition partner. Motherland was projected with more than 120 seats and the fundamentalists with 54.
As president and supposedly above the political fray, Ozal's name was not on the ballot. But he was nonetheless the fulcrum of the election.
Now, in a bitter pill for the stocky internationalist who became a leading pro-American figure during the Persian Gulf crisis, Ozal will be obliged to invite his old foe Demirel to form a government.
"Tomorrow the Motherland Party will cease to exist," the 67-year-old Demirel told crowds in the Black Sea port of Samsun to climax a vigorous eight-week campaign punctuated by sporadic violence but remarkably peaceful in context.
As prime minister, Ozal swept Motherland to a second term in 1987 with 36% of the vote. Yilmaz called Sunday's election a year early, hoping to capitalize on economic relief measures and avoid further erosion of his party's support.
The results closely mirrored pre-election polls, and before voting began most Turkish commentators predicted that Demirel would seek a coalition with the Social Democrats. Any such government would not materially alter either Turkey's free-market economic policy or its pro-Western foreign policy, in the view of most commentators.
Both Demirel and Social Democrat Inonu, 65, said that if they form a joint government they would call for new elections in a year, after making quick economic and constitutional reforms. One of them, they promise, would be a direct presidential election to drive Ozal from office.
The Islamic fundamentalists, who directly challenge Turkey's traditional stand as a secular republic and would reverse Ozal's policies, will be returning to Parliament for the first time since the 1970s.
Radical Kurdish nationalists running as Social Democrats in southeastern Turkey also scored heavily Sunday, winning more than half the vote in some cities and assuring themselves of unprecedented parliamentary representation.
With clear skies and spring-like weather spurring a turnout as heavy as it was orderly, Sunday's election was the third since 1983 when Turkey turned from military to civilian rule under the Motherland, founded that year.
That election turned on the performance and the personality of the dynamic Ozal, who could not resist joining in the reelection campaign of the Motherland this time, despite holding an office the constitution says should be neutral. He opened factories, gave speeches, staged motorcade drive-bys and even hustled for votes in smoky Istanbul coffee shops.
The Motherland tried to distance itself from him, running instead on the image of prime ministerial newcomer Yilmaz, a lean and bespectacled 44-year-old technocrat who told voters he was the only candidate who could effectively lead a young and vigorous country into the next century.
Yilmaz, a close Ozal aide and former culture and foreign minister, became prime minister in June after a Motherland Party congress dismissed Yildirim Akbulut from the party leadership.
In 1989, over the furious protests of his opponents, then-Prime Minister Ozal used Motherland's big parliamentary majority to have himself elected president. Demirel and Inonu say the election was illegal and say they will oust him through constitutional reform. The pugnacious Ozal says he'll stay until his term expires in 1996.
The presidency in Turkey is supposedly a neutral political post, but Ozal took prime ministerial power with him when he changed jobs, leaving Akbulut the butt of endless yes-man jokes.
During the Gulf crisis, Ozal emerged as a tough, decisive and high-profile American ally.
He shut off the export of Iraqi oil through Turkish pipelines, allowed American air strikes from Turkish soil and became one of President Bush's important interlocutors. Before and since he has traveled widely abroad to advertise Turkey's growing international shadow and to advance his dream of seeing Turkey become a member of the European Community.
His foreign policy earned Ozal the enmity of traditionalists at home, but it was economics and what Turks call his family's "dynasty" that generated his broadest and most telling opposition.
Ozal boldly overhauled the state-dominated economy, reversing inward-looking policies and pushing Turkey to high growth and rapid modernization in a free-market system.
Along the way, amid high government budget deficits, there came inflation--around 70% a year now--that jostled and dispirited Turkish workers.
At the same time, his high-living family stepped increasingly into the limelight, opening Ozal to charges of nepotism and corruption.
His wife, Semra, bludgeoned her way into the Motherland leadership in Istanbul. One stockbroker son grew quickly rich. Another son became part owner in a new and popular private television channel in competition with the government network.