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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Islamists Move to Exploit Turkish Coalition Chaos

ANKARA -- Turkey's strong Islamist opposition has stepped up pressure on the pro-Western coalition to quit after a court ruling cast doubt on the government's constitutional right to its hold on power.

"Work on forming a new government should begin without wasting any time," Musa Demirci, deputy chairman of the Islam-based Welfare Party, or RP, told a news conference Wednesday.

The constitutional court on Tuesday ruled in favor of a Welfare appeal to annul the March confidence vote that approved the minority coalition, throwing Prime Minister Mesut Yilmaz's conservative administration into confusion.

Turkish coalition partner and former premier Tansu Ciller said Wednesday a new confidence vote was needed in the government. "There is a need to refresh the vote," Ciller told a meeting of her True Path Party, or DYP.

Parliament speaker Mustafa Kalemli, a member of Yilmaz's party, tried to calm fears that the government was hamstrung. "There is no legal vacuum regarding the vote of confidence," he said after meeting the head of the constitutional court.

But members of Ciller's wing of the coalition called on Yilmaz to resign.

RP leader Necmettin Erbakan said the government was illegal and urged the battered secularist parties to join him in a new ruling alliance.

The government has already been hit by fierce infighting over a growing list of corruption charges against coalition partner Ciller.

The Islamists narrowly won general elections last year but were denied power by the pro-market alliance between Ciller's party and the Motherland Party, or ANAP, of Yilmaz.

The disputed confidence vote was supposed to have ended five months of political uncertainty sparked by the collapse of Ciller's coalition last September.

But the new coalition parties have squabbled frequently, and the government has been on the verge of collapse for three weeks because of ANAP's support for Islamist-inspired corruption probes against Ciller. The constitutional court decided by nine votes against two to annul the confidence vote but unanimously rejected a Welfare proposal to invalidate the government itself.

Welfare says the coalition needed an absolute majority of those who attended the assembly, in this case 273 "yes" votes to win the original confidence vote. The alliance won by 257 to 207 with 80 abstentions, mostly from a staunchly secularist party.

Speaker Kalemli said after an emergency meeting with Yilmaz and President Suleyman Demirel that there was no need for a new confidence vote.

"The constitutional court's decision is aimed at the future. It is not retroactive," he told reporters in a terse statement. Yilmaz left the meeting without making any comment.

The court is expected to give further details of its decisions in the coming days, to clarify some of the uncertainty.