New Allies Push Turkey Premier to the Right


This country's new minority government has forced Prime Minister Tansu Ciller to make a sharp turn to the right, diplomats said Friday, warning that nationalists now sharing power may try to sabotage plans for a vital customs union with Europe.

Ciller's Cabinet, which met for the first time Friday, is drawn from the most conservative elements of her True Path Party. She will also rely on support in Parliament from the small parties of Turkey's far right and other nationalist forces.

"It's a short-term success for Mrs. Ciller, but she's paid for it with long-term sacrifices," one Western diplomat said in the Turkish capital, Ankara.

Promises of support and extra spending for the allied small parties in the run-up to elections next year will push the budget well over the limits of Turkey's austerity program, which is supervised by the International Monetary Fund, the diplomat said.

Ciller admitted to a Turkish newspaper that people would be shocked if they knew the political bargaining she has conducted since her former Social Democrat partners walked out two weeks ago on a 4-year-old coalition originally committed to human rights and reform. Political sources say hundreds of bureaucratic appointments and civil service jobs will now change hands.

The Cabinet is expected to squeeze through a parliamentary vote of confidence Oct. 15 as long as Ciller manages to end a strike by 330,000 public sector workers that has paralyzed ports, railways and sugar mills since Sept. 20.

But the Cabinet includes so many right-wing ministers that Claudia Roth, who leads Greens Party lawmakers in the European Parliament, said she doubts Ciller will be able to bring about human rights reforms. The reforms are the assembly's price for ratifying a Jan. 1 free-trade deal between Turkey and the European Union.


"The new government is a coalition against Turkish democratization. All that can be expected of this government is strengthening of the 'dirty war' [against Kurdish rebels fighting for autonomy in southeast Turkey], the exile of people from their lands and a rise in torture," Roth said.

"If, as we fear, the democratic reforms collapse, the Greens in the European Parliament will not allow Turkey into a customs union with Europe," she said.

The United States has strongly backed the customs union, which would improve access for Turkish exports to Europe and bring cheaper imports to the Turkish people.

Ciller's aides say the deal is crucial to her political success. But some Turkish commentators believe that the fringe alliance she now depends on is deeply suspicious of closer links to Europe.

Nationalists from both the left and right wings have insisted that Europe wants to cheat Turkey and split the country between Turks and the 12-million-strong ethnic Kurdish minority.

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