- The Washington Times - Wednesday, October 31, 2001

ISTANBUL Turkey's coalition government an important ally in the U.S. war on terrorism is facing demands for resignation from parliamentarians and an increasingly hostile media in the face of a persistent economic crisis.
As the Turkish Republic celebrated its 78th birthday yesterday, the economy continued to contract. The currency has lost nearly 150 percent of its value from a year ago, and monthly inflation rates approach 60 percent. At least a quarter of the work force is unemployed, while those with jobs have seen their salaries reduced by half.
A Turkish public schoolteacher now lives on about $300 a month; the average wage is only about half of that. A well-paid accountant for a major hotel has seen his earning power drop from $1,500 a month to less than $900 since February.
The government, led by Prime Minister Bulent Ecevit, is accused of having no solution to the crisis, despite presenting an austere budget for 2002 that would slash government expenditures by 12 percent.
Prominent business leaders and members of the military are beginning to call for parliamentary elections by spring, well ahead of the scheduled date of 2004.
One such call came over the weekend from a respected cross-party analytical group of 30 lawmakers, known as the Dialogue Group.
"Turkey is living through one of the worst economic and social crises of its history. We are breaking global negative statistical records one after the other," said Kamran Inan, a member of parliament from the center-right Motherland Party and a leader of the Dialogue Group.
"We cannot remain indifferent to the problems and expectations of our people," he added, reading a group statement.
Mr. Inan said citizens had lost confidence in the Turkish lira, which was trading at more than 1.6 million to the dollar, and many were forced to go abroad to find work that paid in Western currency. He cautioned that the situation "has started to endanger social peace in our country."

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