Turkey's defiant PM pressured to quit
Prime Minister Bulent Ecevit came under renewed pressure Sunday, February 25, to quit over Turkey's economic chaos as officials prepared to introduce new measures to relieve financial markets crushed by a severe liquidity squeeze.
The calls came a day after Ecevit declared that he would stay in power to battle the country's second crisis in three months, which saw the lira shed 36.1 percent against the dollar in two traumatic days.
"The government of novices has sunk the ship. The nation no longer wants the government in power, it wants early elections as soon as possible," Hasan Ekinci of the conservative True Path Party charged on Sunday.
The crisis claimed its first victim when Central Bank governor Gazi Ercel submitted his resignation, two months prior to the end of his tenure, press reports said Sunday. There has been no official confirmation of Ercel's resignation.
The main opposition Virtue Party also demanded Ecevit's head over the crisis, which has jeopardized a three-year anti-inflation program backed by a four-billion-dollar loan from the International Monetary Fund (IMF).
"We need a new government. Replacing some ministers and bureaucrats would only be like powdering a dead man's face," the party's parliamentary group chairman Bulent Arinc said.
Business circles, meanwhile, urged a cabinet reshuffle. "If the government does not carry out a serious revision in its line-up, we will face new crises in the coming days," the head of the Istanbul Trade Chamber, Mehmet Yildirim, warned Sunday.
Pressure has been mounting on Ecevit's three-party coalition since Thursday when it abandoned a currency peg central to its ambitious program and floated the Turkish lira in a bid to contain a crash crisis wreaking havoc on the money markets.
But a defiant Ecevit said Saturday that he intended neither to resign nor reshuffle his cabinet, arguing that the country could not afford a government cave-in amid a grave financial crisis. "Rumors spread by certain circles that the government should quit are far from the truth and a change in the cabinet is out of the question," Ecevit said in a statement after meeting his two coalition partners.
Turkish newspapers generally interpreted Ercel's resignation as a sign that the government would make top economy bureaucrats pay for the current financial turmoil.
Turkish markets were thrown into chaos on fears of political instability when Ecevit left a key security meeting Monday after a row with President Ahmet Necdet Sezer over corruption, saying there was a "serious crisis" in the top echelons of state.
After failing to hold their regular weekly talks, the two men will confront each other again at a meeting of the National Security Council on Monday as the country, and especially investors, will welcome a rekindling of harmony.
The battered financial markets will Monday introduce a series of new measures designed to ease the cash crunch which emerged from a key meeting Saturday between Economy Minister Recep Onal and chiefs of the country's 13 banks.
The participants reached a "unanimous decision on the necessary measures to be taken and implemented for the healthy functioning of the Turkish lira and foreign currency markets," said a brief statement issued afterwards. But analysts were unmoved, predicting no improvements in the short term.
Experts say the change in Ankara's monetary policy would result in rising prices, slowing economic growth, increased debt repayments and serious damage to the country's ailing and overcrowded banking sector.
They say the moves will lead to a revision of Turkey's ambitious three-year economic program, which had aimed to slash chronic inflation running at an annual 39 percent at the end of 2000.
An IMF delegation headed by the Fund's Turkey Desk chief Carlo Cottarelli is already in Ankara to discuss changes to the government's economic policies, while a second delegation was due later Sunday to inspect the banking sector. — (AFP, Ankara)
© Agence France Presse 2001
© 2001 Mena Report (www.menareport.com)