The 1991 elections brought a coalition between the centre right and the social democratic party to power. It tried to prevent Turkey from taking yet another plunge into economic and political instability which has punctuated post-war Turkish history. Its aim was to adopt economic policies attaching more importance to redistribution and relying on the participation of a wider range of social actors. This paper deals with the question whether this endeavour was bound to fail from the outset or not. The contention is that it was not. 'Imperatives of international competition' do not impede redistributive policies although they make them more diffi- cult. However, Turkey was in an unusually advantageous situation for confronting them. Moreover, increasing social and political discontent and the related surge in Islamic political activity made the influential private business groups actively support a policy shift. But the government failed to seize this support early which made its later demand that business share the costs of redistribution appear as the consequence of government incompetence. The policies therefore foundered on the obstuction of busi- nessmen, who took government incompetence as a convenient excuse for withdrawing their support. The chance to adopt new economic policies and find new ways of dealing with Turkey's social and political deavages has been forgone.