ECONOMY

Turk markets drop after Ecevit misses another key meeting

ISTANBUL – Turkish stocks, the lira and bonds all fell yesterday after ailing Prime Minister Bulent Ecevit pulled out of a key meeting of political leaders to tackle divisive EU reforms. The main stock index closed down 3.21 percent at 10,151.02 points after Ecevit’s spokesman said the PM would miss the meeting, which also proceeded without main opposition True Path Party leader Tansu Ciller. «Ecevit cannot attend the summit on the recommendation of doctors,» the PM’s spokesman Cem Avci told reporters outside Ecevit’s private residence in Ankara.Most political party leaders convened at the presidential palace in Ankara and agreed to work to pass reform laws needed to meet EU criteria, according to a statement afterward by the president’s spokesman.But Turkey’s fragile markets were little impressed by the official statement as attention remained focused on the stance of the coalition Nationalist Action Party (MHP). The lira ended at best dollar bids of 1,449,500 from Thursday’s 1,446,000, while the busiest April 9, 2003 bills eased to yield 63.02 percent from 61.12 percent. Pressure to find successor «It’s a very uncertain period now. I think there will be more pressure on him (Ecevit) to just step back and name his successor as soon as possible. We might see some developments toward this in the next couple of weeks and that will be quite positive for the markets,» said Yarkin Cebeci of JPMorgan Chase. The 77-year-old Ecevit’s hospital admission during May and his slow recovery from ailments including a neurological condition and vascular problems have wracked markets amid talk of early polls in the No. 1 debtor country to the International Monetary Fund (IMF). «Monday’s Cabinet meeting and the statements that could follow are gaining in importance,» said Ercan Akinci of Acar Securities. The prime minister has not made a public appearance for 10 days, raising speculation he may be forced to step down.Economy Minister Kemal Dervis has said Turkey’s economy, beset by a deep financial crisis that struck in February 2001, could withstand the shock of possible early polls after Ankara passed a swath of reforms under its $16-billion IMF pact. But some analysts are less certain. «Although I agree with Dervis that the economy is more immune to politics, I think an early election would be quite detrimental, and my main fear is that relations with the EU would halt,» Cebeci said.Turkey was accepted as an official candidate for the European Union in 1999 but relations are dogged by a political impasse on the divided island of Cyprus and fragile relations with neighbor Greece. Ankara has said it hopes to start official membership talks with Brussels by the end of the year but has yet to meet EU standards on human rights and democracy.