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Ex-President of Turkey, former Erdogan allies to form new rival party

Former President of Turkey Abdullah Gul in Amman, Jordan on 16 November 2016 [Salah Malkawi/Anadolu Agency]
Former President of Turkey Abdullah Gul in Amman, Jordan on 16 November 2016 [Salah Malkawi/Anadolu Agency]

Former President of Turkey Abdullah Gul and former Deputy Prime Minister Ali Babacan have split from their leading party’s base in order to form a new party following its crushing defeat in Istanbul on Sunday.

An adviser close to Babacan revealed that “Babacan and Gul will most likely form the party in the fall,” according to Arabi 21, which cited a source familiar with the issue.

The new party’s policies will likely resemble those of the early years of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s ruling AKP (Justice and Development Party), which blended religiously-rooted principles with democratic governance and a liberal market approach – a blend which attained widespread popular support.

The former allies to Erdogan have allegedly been considering the establishment of the party for the past six months, but the idea was reinvigorated following the AKP’s dramatic loss of Istanbul in the city’s mayoral elections.

The loss sent shockwaves around the world and attracted the attention of supporters and critics alike. Though the election related to a single city and its local matters, in reality it drew in wider political, cultural and foreign policy factors and has been seen as a blow to the AKP’s fate in Turkey more broadly.

READ: Turkey-US ties based on strategic partnership: Erdogan

Details such as the new party’s name, how it will be funded, or the exact plans it will implement have not yet been clarified. All that is known for certain is that the two founders have been holding meetings with politicians, parliamentarians and academics who currently belong to the AKP in a bid to win them over.

If the new party manages to establish itself and attract AKP deserters, it is unlikely the ruling party would suffer significantly in the near future. However, the primary concern is the voting base upon which the AKP relies; the majority of its base consists of conservative and religious voters within Turkey, which account for roughly half the population and inhabit mostly the south of the country and the region of central Anatolia.

If the party successfully establishes itself, there is significant potential for it to break the monopoly the AKP currently holds on these conservative voters due to their similar policies.

The move comes amid increased discontent with Erdogan’s party in the past few years of its rule, which has overseen a downward-spiralling economy, military ventures in Syria, a tense foreign policy with the United States and its allies, an increase in authoritarian tendencies, and a refugee crisis consisting of around four million Syrian refugees residing in the country.

READ: Turkey announces $10 million for UNRWA

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