Turkish Prime Minister Bulent Ecevit rejected Wednesday, April 11, calls for his government to resign over its handling of the country's current economic crisis. But he did not rule out a cabinet reshuffle.
He told parliament: "I believe that presently the search for a new government could open the door to a government crisis. That is why I am staying on duty, and I will stay."
His remarks followed a joint call Tuesday by Turkey's trade chambers for the government to take responsibility for the country's serious financial woes and resign.
The call came against a background of mounting street protests, including mass demonstrations Wednesday in the capital and several other cities.
Asked by reporters whether he would make cabinet changes, Ecevit did not rule one out but said: "This is up to discussions between coalition leaders," Anatolia news agency quoted him saying.
Thousands of furious traders burned placards and hurled stones and metal objects at police in Ankara Wednesday in violent protests against the government's handling of Turkey's severe economic crisis.
The violence erupted when several groups from an estimated 70,000 protesters, rallying in a central Ankara square, attempted to break through a police barricade set up to confine the protests to a specific area.
Security forces, dressed in riot gear, formed a human wall in front of the protesters, came under a hail of stones, sticks and metal objects, prompting them to respond with tear gas canisters and water cannons from armored vehicles deployed nearby.
An AFP reporter at the scene saw several people injured, including an AFP photographer and a policeman, and at least one demonstrator detained.
'Down with the government,' 'No to poverty and corruption,' and 'Open your eyes Turkey,' chanted the protesters as 50 soldiers armed with machine guns watched from few meters away and police helicopters over flew the scene.
Scuffles also broke out between protesters themselves as several groups ignored appeals by rally organizers, the Ankara chamber of tradesmen, to observe order, NTV news channel reported.
In the district of Ulus and the Tunali Hilmi boulevard, two of the capital's main shopping ares, most shops were closed in a show of support for the protests. Meanwhile another 40,000 people gathered in the city of Izmir, calling on the government to resign and for tax payments to be postponed.
Truncheon-wielding police also detained two demonstrators in the Mediterranean city of Mersin, where some 50,000 people marched.
Massive demonstrations have been sweeping Turkey since last week, reflecting growing public frustration with the government's handling of economic turmoil in the country.
Ankara was forced to float the Turkish lira on February 22 in the face of a financial shake-up, triggered by fears of political instability following an unprecedented public row between Prime Minister Bulent Ecevit and President Ahmet Necdet Sezer over ways to fight corruption.
The currency has so far lost some 40 percent of its value against the dollar, pushing prices up. The government has pledged to announce a reform plan by mid-April. — (AFP, Ankara)
© Agence France Presse 2001
© 2001 Mena Report (www.menareport.com)