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GOVERNMENT & POLITICS
Parliament
Turkey is a parliamentary democracy. The Turkish Grand National Assembly (TGNA), elected by all citizens over 19 years of age, is the direct descendant of the congress assembled by Ataturk during the War of Independence to act as the legitimate voice of the Turkish people in place of the sultan.

President & Prime Minister
The president, elected by the TGNA from among its members, serves for one seven year term and is supposed to be `above politics', and symbolise the nation. He or she is the head of state, with important executive powers and responsibilities. The true head of government, who decides its policies and directions, is the prime minister. However, recent presidents (Ozal and Demirel) have informally expanded the powers of the presidential office and have been accused at times of having used the office with partisan effect. The prime minister is appointed by the president to form a government, and thus is almost always the head of the majority party, or of a likely coalition. The judiciary, though theoretically independent, has in many instances been influenced by current
government policies.

Political Parties
Though the Turks are firm believers in democracy, the tradition of popular rule and responsibility is relatively short. Real multiparty democracy came into being only after WWII (compared to England's tradition of almost 800 years). Turkish democracy has had its ups and downs.

Mid-Century Atatürk's Republican People's Party (CHP) enjoyed one-party rule until after WWII, when multi-party democracy became a reality. In the first elections the CHP lost out to the right-wing Democratic Party (DP), which attempted to control the government as closely as the CHP had before the war by grabbing extra-constitutional power. The Turkish armed forces, entrusted by Atatürk's legacy as guarantors of the Turkish constitution, intervened. After the military intervention of 1960, the Democratic Party was banned, but its party faithful simply formed a successor, the similarly centre-right Justice Party (AP), and did as well in the elections against the centreleft CHP.

1960s
Under the watchful eye of the military, the CHP and AP govermed as a coalition until 1965, when the AP won a parliamentary majority on its own, and its leader, Süleyman Demirel, began his first term as prime minister. He stepped down at the insistence of the military in 1971 as left-right violence and parliamentary deadlock threatened public order.

1970s
In 1973 a revivified CHP under Bülent Ecevit won election and formed a government, but was soon forced into coalition with the small far-right religious National Salvation Party (MSP).

During the 1970s the CHP and AP locked horns in parliament, both having around 40% of the votes. The smaller parties farther out on the political spectrum thus gained inordinate influence - their few votes making the difference between winning ot losing a parliamentary vote. The Islamic fundamentalist MSP, the fascistic Nationalist Action Party (MHP), and the leftist Turkish Workers Party (TIP) top.gif (1600 bytes)all traded their support for control of various government ministries through which to push theit agendas. The result was widespread civil violence and government paralysis.

1980s
The bloodless military coup of September 1980 saw the dissolution of all former political parties and the exclusion from politics of their leaders (especially Ecevit and Demirel). In the elections of 1983, the armed forces supported a new centrist party formed of their supporters, but the new centre-right Motherland Party (ANAP) led by Turgut Özal won. Özal was a financial technocrat and former World Bank economist who had helped the military to revivify the economist after the 1980 intervention. His policies produced a boom in economic development, but also high inflation and charges of corruption. Throughout the decade his policies were challenged by several `new' parties: the Social Democrat Populist Party (SHP), an heir to the CHP; the Democratic Left Party (DSP), another heir to the CHP led secretly by Ecevit, who was still underpolitical exclusion; the True Path Party (DYP), successor to Demirel's Justice Party; and the Prosperity (or Welfare) Paıty (RP), successor to the religious MSP. Late in 1989, Turgut Özal was elected to the presidency. He remained active in ANAP politics, however, running the country through figurehead prime minister Yıldınm Akbulut. This was against at least the spirit if not the letter of the constitution, and raised eyebrows in political and military circles.

1990s
In the hotly contested elections of February 1992 ANAP gained only about a third of the vote, losing the plurality to the durable Süleyman Demirel, back from political exclusion, and his DYP. The centre-right True Path formed an unlikely coalition with the centre-left SHP under Professor Erdal İnönü (son of general, prime minister and president, the late İsmet İnönü) to form a government.Demirel brought a new vigour to the government after almost a decade of Motherland leadership. With Ozal's untimely death due to heart disease in April 1993, Demirel was elected to be the ninth president of the Turkish Republic. In June 1993, President Demirel asked Professor Tansu Çiller, the economics minister, to form a government, thereby making her Turkey's first female prime minister, an anomaly in a parliament which is overwhelmingly male.

Recent Years
Prime Minister Çiller earned high marks from intemational bankers for making progress in privatising Turkey's money-losing state enterprises, leftovers from the statist policies of Atatürk of 60 yeats ago. Despite her modest progress in this, the economy worsened as the government seemed to lack any strong, clearly defined economic plan-and it continued to run huge deficits. Turkey's commercial, industrial, agricultural and tourism sectors boomed producing record profits, but the lira continued to slide in a constant devaluation against harder currencies. In the summer of 1995 Çiller's government lost a vote of confidence in parliament when its coalition partner, upset over the government's unwillingness to raise the minimum wage, withdrew. September and October were one long political crisis as Çiller, now caretaker, attempted to form a new government, ultimately forming a new coalition with Mr Deniz Baykal of the Republican Peoples' Party (CHP) as foreign minister and deputy prime minister to take the country to early elections. The elections of 24 December 1995 were a wake-up call against politics as usual: the upstart religious-right Welfare Party (RP) won a plurality of 23%, which was seen as a protest vote against the ineffective policies and tedious political wrangles of the mainstream Motherland Party (20%) and Çiller's True Path Party (19%). Prof Necmettin Erbakan, the RP leader, was given the mandate to form a coalition, but neither of the other big parties would join him. In March 1996, President Demirel gave the nod to caretaker prime minister Çiller, who formed a coalition with erstwhile bitter political rival Mesut Yilmaz of Motherland. Yilmaz and Ciller plan to alternatetop.gif (1600 bytes) in the prime ministership, with Yilmaz taking the office for the first year, Çiller for the following two years, then Yilmaz again for one year, and after that someone else, should the coalition go to full term


 

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