CRS Report for Congress
Turkey: Continuity and Change after Elections
Carol Migdalovitz
Specialist in Middle East Politics
Foreign Affairs, Defense, and Trade
The April 18, 1999 election in Turkey reflected growing nationalism, a weakening
of the political center, and a desire for more honest leadership. Prime Minister Bulent
Ecevit of the Democratic-Left Party (DSP) is continuing in office, joined by the
Nationalist Action Party (MHP) and Motherland Party (ANAP). Ecevit and ANAP
leader Mesut Yilmaz have prior government experience. MHP's Devlet Bahceli does
not, and his purported success in moderating the ultra-right MHP is being tested. DSP
and ANAP control ministries of foreign and macroeconomic policy significance, while
MHP holds portfolios important for its ideology and constituents in Turkey's Anatolian
heartland. All agree on overall economic policies needed to reach an agreement with the
International Monetary Fund. The government may last longer than its immediate
predecessors, given its hefty majority, but multi-party coalitions are inherently unstable
and the historic distrust between DSP and MHP could dim its prospects. There are
many issues to engage U.S. and Turkish officials: democratization, human rights, Greece,
Cyprus, pipelines, the European Union, Iraq, and arms transfers. For background, see
CRS Report RS20030 Turkey: Government Update; CRS Report 97-840, Turkey:
Situation Update; and CRS Report 97-462, Turkey's Unfolding Political Crisis. This
report will not be updated.
Background 1
Turkey has experienced unprecedented governmental instability in the 1990s. On
June 9, 1999, parliament gave a vote of confidence to the fifth government in less than
four years. A fragmentation of political parties, stemming more from personality than
policy differences, has produced the frequent changeovers. Moreover, because the
constitution mandates that the powerful military guarantee the political system, politicians

Information in this report is derived from Foreign Broadcast Information Service daily reports1
online, primarily translations of Turkish newspaper articles, television, and radio broadcasts,
Reuters and Associated Press news wires, The New York Times, Washington Post, and Financial
Congressional Research Service ˜ The Library of Congress

feel freer to act out of unalloyed self-interest. Nonetheless, as in many other countries, a
national consensus on the need for economic liberalization and privatization has developed
in recent years, rendering still-used labels of "left" and "right" increasingly unhelpful, if not
meaningless. A comparable consensus exists on nationalism, which has been strengthened
by the European Union's rejection of Turkey for membership candidacy, Balkans conflicts
in areas that were part of the Turkish-ruled Ottoman Empire in the past, the emergence2
of independent Turkic states from the ruins of the Soviet Union, and the 15-year Kurdish
insurgency. Within Turkey, nationalists gained momentum in recent months from Europe's
failure to understand or accept Turkey's view of the Kurdish conflict, and its lack of
cooperation during Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) leader Abdullah Ocalan's flight and
eventual capture.
Election Results

1999 Parliamentary Election Results1

Party Orientation Leader Seats%
Democratic-Left Party (DSP)Center-Left/NationalistBulent Ecevit22.2136
Nationalist Action Party (MHP) Right/NationalistDevlet Bahceli18.0129
Virtue Party (FP)IslamistRecai Kutan15.41112
Motherland Party (ANAP)Center-RightMesut Yilmaz13.286
True Path Party (DYP)Center-RightTansu Ciller12.085
Republican People's Party (CHP)Center-Left Deniz Baykal8.7--3
People's Democracy Party (HADEP)Pro-KurdishMurat Bozlak4.2--4
independents (unaffiliated)3
Other, smaller parties received inconsequential shares of the vote.12
Successor of the Welfare Party (RP). RP and its leader, Necmettin Erbakan, were banned in 1998.3
Resigned after election. Succeeded by Altan Oymen. 4
On April 18, 1999, Turkey held simultaneous national and regional elections. The
outcome surprised many. The center-right parties, ANAP and DYP, experienced
continued declines that had begun in early nineties. The FP, successor to the Welfare Party
(RP), whose leadership of a government in 1996-97 had provoked the secularist military
to intervene in politics, also suffered a setback, reversing the Islamists' growth on the
national stage. However, the Islamists retained mayoral posts in Istanbul, Ankara, and
other municipalities. The nationalist DSP came in first, and the even more nationalistic
MHP, that had not even been represented in the previous parliament, shocked itself and
observers with a second place showing. The CHP, the party of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk,
founder of the Turkish Republic, failed to enter parliament for the first time ever. The pro-
Kurdish HADEP, while also not making a mark nationally, unprecedentedly won six
mayoral races in the southeast, including the regional capital of Diyarbakir.

See CRS Report RS20149, Kosovo: Greek and Turkish Perspective.2

There are many reasons for the changes. The Turkish public may have had a surfeit
of the DYP and ANAP leaders' rivalry and alleged corruption, of the political machinations
of the now former center-left CHP leader, Deniz Baykal, and of the equally manipulative
behavior of the banned RP leader, Necmettin Erbakan. In other words, voters punished
those whom they felt put themselves and their quest for power before the good of the
country. Voters rewarded DSP and MHP leaders who have reputations for honesty and
are fiercely nationalistic in the emotional climate following the capture of Ocalan, an
ensuing surge in domestic terrorism largely attributed to Kurdish terrorists, and the
Kosovo conflict. DSP leader Ecevit benefitted from his strong stand against the PKK and
simply from being Prime Minister when Ocalan was caught. MHP leader Bahceli profited
from his efforts to redefine his ultra-right party as centrist/moderate since taking its helm
in 1997, and from the public's nationalist tilt. In addition, MHP's strong grass roots work,
especially among 5 million first time young voters and the central Anatolian petit
bourgeoisie, paid off, as did its anti-PKK stand and reputation for supporting families of
soldiers who had been killed fighting the PKK. The victors also may have drawn support
from protest voters of 1995, who had then supported Islamists but now decided not to
waste their votes on a party that the military would not allow to participate in government
again. Remaining political distinctions in the new parliament focus mostly on political
Islam and memories of street battles between left and right in the 1970s.
New Government
After the election, Prime Minister Bulent Ecevit replaced his prior single-party
minority government with one of three parties, which together have 352 out of 550 seats
in parliament. Once they agreed to form a government, DSP, MHP, and ANAP appeared
to divide 36 ministerial portfolios easily. This may be attributed to DSP-ANAP's
successful prior governmental collaboration in 1997-98 and to MHP's preference for
seemingly less-powerful, non-controversial, patronage-laden portfolios. The coalition
partners agreed to request parliament to authorize a third deputy prime minister for ANAP
in addition to those from DSP and MHP, and did so promptly. Yilmaz opted not to
participate for the time being in order to appeal corruption charges to the Supreme Court.
Among other portfolios, DSP retained the Foreign and Education Ministries, as well
as the state ministry responsible for Cyprus. MHP received the Defense Ministry, which
ensures it a seat on the National Security Council but is inconsequential given the military's
dominance in that field. MHP also holds portfolios that will enable it to serve its
constituencies and ideology: the Ministries of Agriculture, Industry and Trade, Public
Works, and Transportation, the state ministry responsible for the Turkic republics, and the
Turkish Cooperation and Development Agency (the equivalent of the U.S. Agency for
International Development), which is vital to relations with the former Soviet republics.
ANAP holds the Interior Ministry, the lucrative Ministry of Energy, and the state ministry
responsible for relations with the European Union.
Primary Actors
Prime Minister Bulent Ecevit was born in Istanbul in 1925. He became a Member
of Parliament as a Republican People's Party (CHP) deputy in 1959 and served as Minister
of Labor for a while. In 1966, he was elected Secretary General and, in 1972, General
Chairman of the Party. Ecevit was Prime Minister at the time of Turkey's

invasion/intervention in Cyprus in 1974, and again briefly in 1977 and 1978. Banned from
politics after the 1980 coup, Ecevit re-entered the arena in 1987, when he took over as
General Chairman of the DSP from his wife Rahsan, who had founded the party and
remains its Deputy Chairman. Ecevit served as Deputy Prime Minister from mid-1997
through 1998. In January 1999, he became Prime Minister of a DSP minority government
that took the country to national elections. Intermittent reports suggest that the 74-year
old Ecevit has health problems. One possible successor is Deputy Prime Minister
Husamettin Ozkan, who conducted much of the coalition negotiations. Ecevit had been
considered a reflexively leftist anti-American. In recent years, however, his appreciation
for Turkey's friendship with the remaining superpower has grown. He supported the
United States and NATO during the Kosovo conflict, and has allowed U.S. use of Turkish
bases for Operation Northern Watch over Iraq.
Deputy Prime Minister Devlet Bahceli was born in 1948 in Osmaniye, east of Adana.
He is a Turkoman. Bahceli was a founder of and activist in the ultra-nationalist Idealist3
youth organizations. In 1987, MHP founder and leader Alparslan Turkes appointed
Bahceli Secretary General of the party. In the mid-1990's, the party began to adopt the
appearance of moderation. In 1994, Bahceli was named deputy party chairman. Turkes
died in 1997. Bahceli won an ensuing power struggle with Turkes' son, Tugrul, reportedly
because of his organizational skills and party activism. He has worked to moderate the
party's extremist image from that of the "grey wolves" thugs (Idealist militias) to a
political player which strives for harmony. Some extremists were purged and others
reportedly left the party with Tugrul after he lost the leadership. Bahceli leads the party
collegially with a coterie of professors. MHP's nationalism traditionally looks toward the
Turkic world, seeking closer ties with Central Asia, and with Turks in Bulgaria, Russia,
and China. MHP views foreign policy through a nationalist prism, supporting ties with
Israel and the United States because they strengthen Turks. It is suspicious of ties with
the EU that could harm Turkey's sovereignty.
Mesut Yilmaz was born in 1947 in Istanbul into a family from the Black Sea region
of Rize. In 1983, he was one of the founders of ANAP and was elected to parliament.
Yilmaz headed ministries in ANAP governments led by the late Turgut Ozal. In 1991, he
was elected party chairman and served as Prime Minister until losing a national election
later that year. In 1996, he briefly served as Prime Minister in a failed coalition with his
political archrival Tansu Ciller of the DYP. In mid-1997, Yilmaz again became Prime
Minister. In November 1998, he resigned after a vote of no confidence prompted by
corruption charges. Yilmaz, who has a reputation for being better at intraparty politics
than at governing, may need to participate in this government to dampen internal party
dissent generated by ANAP's declining share of the vote, and perhaps to position the party
for a merger with DYP, after the possible political demise of Ciller.
Turkey faces many economic challenges. After a strong, 8.3% annual growth rate
in 1997, its economy was harmed in 1998 by the global financial crisis, particularly in
Russia, a key trading partner, when growth slowed to 3.8%. Growth projections for 1999
have been revised downward 0.5% and the budget deficit estimate upward to $22.33

A tribe that speaks a Turkic dialect and has resided in eastern Turkey for centuries.3

billion or about 7% of gross national product. Securing financing from the International
Monetary Fund (IMF) has become more urgent. The government is set to continue the
economic policies of its two immediate predecessors, led by DSP and ANAP: to fight
inflation (which has come down from triple digits to about 50-55% annually), privatize
state enterprises, and reform the banking and social security systems. Parliament already
has passed a law to create a semi-independent supervisory panel for banks and a budget
for the remainder of the year. Priority may then be given to legislation to reform social
security, which pays pensions at a very young age, adding egregiously to budget deficits
and national debt, and to permit international arbitration of business disputes in order to
attract foreign investors, especially for Turkey's many energy projects.
The coalition partners have agreed not to revisit a 1997 law requiring 8 years of
compulsory secular education or prohibitions on women wearing head scarves in public
institutions. These agreements are viewed as MHP concessions to secularism because
it has a religious constituency. However, MHP probably would prefer to avoid changes
which might anger the military. The coalition protocol calls for a repentance law to allow
PKK guerrillas to gain some form of immunity by regretting their actions, but DSP and
MHP disagree about its urgency and substance. MHP seeks transparency in privatizations
and limits on parliamentary immunity to fight corruption. Given the public's concern about
corruption and the IMF's with transparency, DSP and ANAP probably will agree.
Multiparty coalitions are inherently unstable and Turkish governments rarely serve
out their terms. With over 350 seats in parliament, the DSP-MHP-ANAP government
could last longer than its recent predecessors. Turkey needs political stability in order to
implement economic reforms, and the patriotism of DSP and MHP, or their desire to stay
in office, may allow the government to survive. Yet, historic differences and political
ambitions could overtake their good intentions. DSP and MHP adherents fought each
other in the streets in the 1970's. During coalition negotiations in May, Rahsan Ecevit
publicly dredged up her memories of those years, underlining the continuing distrust for
MHP. If DSP-ANAP connivance had deprived MHP of more powerful portfolios, it might
be resentful. Moreover, after a period of governing, MHP may wish to try for first place
in early elections. Should DYP change leaders, however, it could be viewed as a possible
substitute for MHP in a government reconfigured without elections, limiting MHP's room
for maneuver. DYP will not be a potential governing partner as long as Ciller is party
leader, given Yilmaz's antipathy, her ineradicable reputation for corruption, and probable
enduring military opposition due to her role in bringing the Islamists to power in 1996.
Moreover, some political advisers recommend against relegating both MHP and FP to the
opposition simultaneously, fearing a collaboration of "extremists."
Parliament will select a new President in May 2000. The coalition partners may
engage in serious horse-trading before that date. Yilmaz is presumed to have presidential
ambitions, while the intellectual Ecevit ironically does not meet constitutional requirements
for the office because of his lack of a university degree. He may propose another
candidate. MHP's views on the presidential race are unknown.

U.S.-Turkish Relations
President Clinton has invited Prime Minister Ecevit to visit the United States in
September. There is a long agenda of issues to engage the two leaders. The
Administration would like to see Turkey make substantive progress in democratization and
human rights, particularly since Turkey has not fulfilled prior promises. The
Administration is likely to express appreciation for Turkey's role in NATO air strikes
during the Kosovo conflict, its aid to Kosovar Albanian refugees, and its participation in
Kosovo peacekeeping, as well as for hosting Operation Northern Watch (U.S.-British-
enforced no-fly zone over northern Iraq). The Administration was heartened by Turkey's
cooperation with Greece on humanitarian issues during the Kosovo crisis, and may try to
use it as a foundation for improving strained bilateral relations between the two NATO
members in the Aegean Sea and on Cyprus. Ecevit, however, is more likely to make4
demands than concessions. Turkey recognizes the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus
as an independent state and favors a confederal solution for the island, rather than the
federal solution stipulated in U.N. resolutions. It also insists that Greece end its alleged
support for the PKK, accept a dialogue on Aegean issues, and end obstruction of
Turkey's European Union ambitions. Greece favors a Cyprus federation, denies
supporting the PKK, wants Turkey to take Aegean disputes to the International Court of
Justice, and may not concede much on the EU until Turkey complies.
The Administration seems certain to express continuing support for several of
Turkey's more elusive goals: EU candidacy, construction of an oil pipeline from Baku,
Azerbaijan to the port of Ceyhan in Turkey, and a trans-Caspian gas pipeline from
Turkmenistan to Turkey. Turkey has labeled the two energy projects its highest priorities.
Despite the Administration's backing because it views the pipelines as good for Turkey and
for enhancing the independence of the former Soviet republics, energy companies regard
the pipelines as the most expensive routes for Central Asian energy exports, and some
doubt that they are commercially feasible. Furthermore, Turkey has been unable to attain
EU candidacy partly because it has resisted EU demands to change its Cyprus policy,
improve relations with Greece, and redress human right abuses. Should Ocalan be
executed, Turkish-EU ties could worsen. EU members condemn capital punishment and
sympathize with Turkey's Kurds. Moreover, U.S. support for EU candidacy may mean
less to Ecevit, who appears to regard EU membership as a lower priority than former
For his part, Ecevit may express concern over the U.S. determination to replace
Saddam Hussein. He is not convinced that U.S. policy toward Iraq is realistic and is
worried about the possibility of a precedent-setting Kurdish state in northern Iraq. Ecevit
may convey similar thoughts to Members of Congress, to whom he also may emphasize
the cost Turkey has incurred by maintaining sanctions on Iraq since the Gulf War, and the
detrimental effects that sanctions have had on Iraqi civilians Ecevit also may complain
about what he considers congressional interference in arms purchases and deliveries from
the United States, which arise from congressional concerns about Turkish-Greek relations
and Turkey's violations of the human rights of Kurdish civilians. He may object to what
Turks consider interference in U.S.-Turkish relations by ethnic lobbies.

See CRS Report 97-799, Greece and Turkey: Aegean Issues -- Background and Recent4
Developments, and CRS Issue Brief 89140, Cyprus: Status of U.N. Negotiations.