Tuesday, Jul 16, 2002
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Meanwhile, the country came a step closer to holding early elections. Parliament was ordered to reconvene from its summer break on Sept. 1 a month earlier than scheduled to vote on whether to hold new national elections, the Anatolia news agency reported.
The recall by Parliament Speaker, Omer Izgi, came at the urging of Turkey's Nationalist Party, which is calling for elections in November. A second party in Mr. Ecevit's coalition is calling for elections even earlier, in September.
The Economy Minister, Kemal Dervis, offered his resignation last week, but was persuaded to stay on to avoid damaging Turkey's fragile economy and an International Monetary Fund-backed recovery programme.
Mr. Dervis has backed legislators who deserted Mr. Ecevit to form a new party. Mr. Dervis's support for the new party has enraged the nationalists who are the largest group in the struggling coalition government.
On Monday, seven more legislators deserted Mr. Ecevit's party, bringing the number of defectors to 53. A mayor in a major Istanbul district also abandoned the party on Monday.
Defections from Mr. Ecevit's party have left the Government with only 281 deputies in the 550-member Parliament, and the squabbling three-party coalition faces a fight for survival. Mr. Ecevit's party, the largest in Parliament before the string of resignations began, dropped to the fourth largest. Mr. Ecevit has repeatedly said that he wants his Government to stay in power until scheduled elections in 2004. But when asked in an interview with CNN whether that was possible, Mr. Ecevit replied, ``It doesn't seem to be feasible.'' He added, however, that he would ``prefer to see the Government continue until the end of its tenure.''
Nationalists in the Government are insisting on Mr. Dervis' departure.
Asked in an interview with the newspaper Milliyet whether his Government would fall if mr. Dervis were forced to resign, he said: ``Of course, it would be obligatory.'' AP
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