197. Information Memorandum From the Officer-in-Charge of Turkish Affairs in the Bureau of Near Eastern and South Asian Affairs (Dillon) to the Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern and South Asian Affairs (Sisco)1


  • Turkish Election Upset Gives Plurality to Left-of-Center Party

In a stunning election upset the left-of-center Republican Peoples Party (RPP) has won a plurality of about 190 of the 450 National Assembly seats in Turkey’s October 14 general elections (official vote tally and distribution of parliamentary seats has yet to be announced). The Justice Party (JP), senior partner in the present coalition government which won majorities in the 1965 and 1969 elections, got about 100 seats less than it did the last time at the polls. Two smaller parties—the religiously oriented National Salvation Party (NSP) and the Democratic Party (DP), both well to the right of the JP, between them gained about JP’s traditional constituency. Representation of the Republican Reliance Party (RRP), the junior coalition partner, was sharply reduced to about ten seats.

Factors in the election outcome included (a) the effective campaign waged by RPP leader Bulent Ecevit; (b) the lackluster campaigning of former Prime Minister and JP leader DEMIREL; (c) initial JP overconfidence resulting in a slow-starting campaign which never got up to speed; (d) serious voter concern over spiralling inflation for which the JP, as a government party, was forced to shoulder some blame.

Coalition or Minority Government Necessary

The results presage a minority or a coalition government, either likely to be quite unstable. In line with traditional practice RPP leader [Page 655] Ecevit will probably be asked to form a government. It will not be an easy task. The RPP would be ideologically uncomfortable with either of the two smaller right wing parties, and JP leader DEMIREL (whose leadership position may now be shaky), has announced his intention to take the party into opposition. If a minority RPP government were to come into power, it would remain there only at the suffrance of parties with which it has sharp policy differences.

Significance for the US

We expect that the USG will be able to continue close and friendly relations with whatever government comes to power. However, the possibility of instability and resultant loss of effectiveness in government might make these relations somewhat more difficult. Moreover, the RPP rank and file and particularly its left wing, has not always been as friendly towards the US as has the JP, and the RPP might therefore be inclined to give a hard look at some aspects of US-Turkish relations, especially in the security field.

  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Files 1970–73, POL 14 TUR. Confidential. Drafted by Nicholas Murphy and sent through Rodger Davies.