Turkish Premier urges opposition to back death penalty abolition
Turkish Prime Minister Bulent Ecevit called on the opposition Wednesday to support his bid to abolish the death penalty, a key demand for EU membership that has deadlocked his three-way coalition government.
Ecevit issued the appeal in a written statement in wake of growing concerns that a government rift over key reforms required under Turkey's bid to join the EU, coupled with Ecevit's ill health, was paralyzing the government and threatening political and economic turmoil.
The far-right Nationalist Action Party (MHP), which is against the abolition of the death penalty and the granting of minority freedoms to the country's Kurds, has threatened to quit the ruling coalition if the two other partners habitually seek opposition support for crucial reforms, AFP said.
Turkey has had a moritorium on judicial killings since 1984, and in October amended the constitution to outlaw executions except in wartime or for terrorism.
But, the EU has insisted that Ankara completely ban the death penalty and also allow schools to teach in the Kurdish language.
However, Ecevit said on Wednesday that MHP leader Devlet Bahceli did not oppose his center-left Democratic Left Party and the third coalition partner, the center-right Motherland Party, is establishing "a dialogue with the other parties on the death penalty issue."
He expressed hope that "a compromise on the subject could be easily reached" with the two pro-Islamic opposition parties in parliament, which have expressed support for the reform, though on certain conditions.
Ecevit also appealed to the third opposition party, the center-right True Path Party (DYP), to back the reform.
DYP leader Tansu Ciller, who is normally pro-EU, has refrained from taking a clear stand on the issue while fervently advocating early elections in an apparent hope to earn political gains from the government's weakness.
Ecevit warned however that scrapping capital punishment would not be a strong enough signal to Brussels that Ankara is committed to improve its democracy, and that moves to legalize education and broadcasts in the Kurdish language would also be required.
"But I think that a compromise over these will not be difficult," he said. Turkey, the laggard among the 13 EU hopefuls, has a self-imposed target to get a date for the opening of its accession talks by the end of the year.
However, its reform drive has come to a standstill due to MHP resistance and political maneuverings by the opposition, which hopes to capitalize on government divisions, aggravated by Ecevit's ill health.
Ecevit said Wednesday his health was improving and doctors have decided not to visit him on a daily basis as they have done since he was released from a second hospitalization on May 27. (Albawaba.com)
© 2002 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com)