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144. Memorandum Prepared in the Central Intelligence Agency1

PA M 79–10483

TURKEY’S OCTOBER ELECTIONS

Summary

The fate of Turkish Prime Minister Ecevit’s tottering government hangs in the balance as Turks go to the polls on 14 October to fill 50 Senate and 5 National Assembly seats. No one expects the elections to resolve the fundamental weaknesses of the Turkish political system, however, and Turks are bracing for a prolonged period of instability. [handling restriction not declassified]

Defections and resignations have left Ecevit seven votes short of a majority in the crucial lower house. The opposition, led by Justice Party chief Demirel, has been unable to muster the simple majority required to win a vote of confidence. Demirel, however, stands an excellent chance of winning at least four of the five contested Assembly seats and several additional Senate seats. [handling restriction not declassified]

Whatever the results of the election, neither Ecevit nor Demirel will have enough seats to govern alone. The composition of the next government will thus depend on bargaining behind the scenes. Ecevit may first try to induce enough opposition defections to regain a majority; failing that—and it seems an impossible task—he is likely to seek a coalition with the Islamic-oriented National Salvation Party. Such a government would be inherently unstable—as would any coalition that Demirel could patch together. [handling restriction not declassified]

In any case, the government that emerges—whether led by Ecevit, Demirel, or even by a non-political personality—will be too weak to cope with Turkey’s urgent economic and internal security crises before the national elections scheduled in 1981. The military—Turkey’s most cohesive institution—will closely watch the political maneuvering. If civilian leaders seem unwilling to curtail political ambitions for the sake of national unity, military leaders might feel compelled to exert greater pressure in behalf of a government willing and able to do the job. 2 [handling restriction not declassified]

[Omitted here is the body of the memorandum.]

  1. Source: Central Intelligence Agency, Directorate of Intelligence, Job 82T00267R, Box 2, Turkey’s October Elections. Secret; [handling restriction not declassified]. A note at the bottom of the page reads in part: “This memorandum was prepared by the Western Europe Division of the Office of Political Analysis.”
  2. In telegram 7644 from Ankara, October 15, Spiers described the results of the October 14 election as “a resounding vote of no confidence in the Ecevit government” and predicted that Ecevit might choose to resign shortly while Demirel’s political fortunes had been bolstered. Ecevit resigned as Prime Minister the same day. (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D790472–0194) On November 12, Demirel, head of the Justice Party, became Prime Minister for the sixth time in 14 years.