ANKARA: Another lawmaker from Turkey's ruling party resigned on Tuesday over a high-level corruption scandal, further shaking Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan's grip on power.
Hasan Hami Yildirim had criticised the government for exerting pressure on the judiciary over the graft investigation, which has plunged Turkey into political turmoil just three months ahead of key elections.
A string of public figures including high-profile businessmen and the sons of three ministers were detained on December 17 over allegations of bribery for construction projects as well as illicit money transfers to sanctions-hit Iran.
Five MPs including a former culture minister have resigned from the AKP since the raids, which the government has suggested were instigated by supporters of an influential US-based Turkish cleric.
Erdogan was also forced into a major cabinet reshuffle after the resignation last week of three ministers whose sons were implicated in the probe.
The corruption scandal has exposed a seething feud between the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) and a former ally, influential Muslim cleric Fethullah Gulen, whose supporters hold key positions in the police and the judiciary.
The latest resignation has reduced the number of AKP seats in parliament to 320 out of 550.
The government is set for a key test in March local elections, which will be followed by an August presidential vote and parliamentary elections in 2015.
"It was not an easy decision," Yildirim was quoted as saying by the Hurriyet newspaper.
"I wish that the views and opinions I expressed were taken into consideration but I saw that if I stayed in the party I would have been subject to more criticism and I could not take that."
'Pressure on prosecutor unacceptable'
Yildirim had previously criticised the removal from the probe of Istanbul prosecutor Muammer Akkas who had been set to order a second wave of arrests, reportedly including Erdogan's son.
"Pressure on prosecutor Muammer Akkas is unacceptable. This pressure cannot be legitimised in a state governed by rule of law," Yildirim said on Twitter.
The government removed Akkas from the case last week, accusing him of leaking secret files to the media, with Erdogan describing him as a "disgrace to justice".
Government spokesman Bulent Arinc announced Monday that plans were in the making for legal action against judges and prosecutors accused of wrongdoing or abuse of power.
Erdogan's government has already ordered the sacking of dozens of police chiefs linked to Gulen or who oversaw the December 17 raids, including the powerful head of the Istanbul force.
The row between government and Gulen followers first hit the headlines in November over AKP plans to shut down a network of private schools run by the movement.
Gulenists were once key backers of the AKP, helping it to win three elections in a row since 2002.
Erdogan has vowed to fight what he has described a gang acting as a "state within state" against the government, referring to the Gulen movement.
"This is a mini-coup attempt," Deputy Prime Minister Ali Babacan said in a television interview Tuesday.
But he vowed that the government would "emerge the winner", adding: "We are on top of our job."
The Turkish currency was hit hard by the political turmoil, plunging to record lows against the US dollar last week but the local financial markets have rebounded this week.
The lira was being traded 2.1332 against the dollar on Tuesday after hitting a record low of 2.17 last week.
The Istanbul stock exchange meanwhile was down a slight 0.27 percent after surging 6.4 percent on Monday.
Babacan said the political crisis would not impact the economy, saying the government's growth forecast for 2014 was four percent compared to an estimate of 3.6 percent for this year.
"We have no reason to revise this target," he said, adding that the risks stemming from the political crisis were "temporary".
Arinc had said Monday that the turmoil had cost the economy $100 billion.