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AUGUST 1, 2002

Turkey calls elections

We suggested last week that the plans for a Grand Prix in Turkey might be affected by political issues and that appears to have happened with the Turkish parliament voting for new elections to be held in November, well before the next scheduled elections in April 2004.

The current government is led by Prime Minister Bulent Ecevit of the DSP but in recent weeks almost half of the deputies quit the party because of Ecevit's failure to achieve very much. Many of the defectors have joined the New Turkey Party under the former Foreign Minister Ismail Cem. Other ministers in the current administration are expected to join this new political grouping. The party is pro-European and may agree to back the idea of a Grand Prix in Turkey.

The problem is that there are no guarantees that the left will win the election with the True Path Party a strong rival. This is headed by Tansu Ciller, who was Turkey's first ever woman Prime Minister in the 1990s. Ciller has made mistakes in the past and may find that the electorate is not willing to trust her because of links with Islamic parties in the past. The AK Party is perhaps an even bigger challenger under another former Prime Minister Necmettin Erbakan although some see this as a dangerous option because of his previous connections with Islamic militants.

There are a variety of other parties which could be part of the new government, which is likely to be a coalition, and there are no guarantees that Grand Prix racing is going to rank highly on their list of priorities.