Turkish Prime Minister Resigns

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ISTANBUL: Turkish Prime Minister Mesut Yilmaz resigned Thursday after only three months in office rather than risk a confidence vote in the face of surging opposition from the Islamist Refah Party. Normally, Turkish President Suleyman Demirel would now ask Refah leader Necmettin Erbakan, as head of parliament's second largest party, to form a new government. But TIME's James Wilde reports that Demirel fears a religious party coming to power in what traditionally has been a secular state, and is looking for other candidates. "Demirel is under a lot of pressure not to ask Refah to form a government," says TIME's James Wilde. "And even if he did, it is not clear that Refah will be able to form a coalition with other parties. We are likely to see more uncertainty and political chaos." The ascension of Refah, which seeks to move Turkey away from NATO and the West towards the Arab world, worries many of Turkey's European allies. But the government's recent paralysis in the face of severe economic problems and rising unemployment has spurred many middle class Turks to turn to Refah as an alternative to the secular government. -->