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Turkey: Ex-Erdogan ally to form new opposition party

Turkey’s former Deputy Prime Minister Ali Babacan
Turkey’s former Deputy Prime Minister Ali Babacan

Turkey’s former Deputy Prime Minister Ali Babacan has announced plans to form a “mainstream” political party by the end of this year in order to challenge President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) to which he used to belong.

Speaking on Turkish broadcaster HaberTurk in his first live interview since leaving the AKP due to “deep differences”, Babacan stated that “The date [for the launch] is the end of the year.” He added that the party, which is still unnamed, will be aiming to appeal to a wide segment of the population and that “It will be a mainstream political movement” rather than the secular and conservative blocs that the country’s parties usually base their support on.

Babacan, who was one of the founding members of the AKP which has ruled Turkey since 2002, stressed: “We have seen that Turkey has entered a dark tunnel, with its problems on every issue growing by the day…Consequently, we have begun our efforts to create a new party.”

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Having first served as economy minister and then as foreign minister before attaining the position of deputy prime minister from 2009 to 2015, Babacan is one of a growing group of former aides to Erdogan who have begun distancing themselves from the President and party in recent years.

Those figures include former Turkish President Abdullah Gul – another founding member of the AKP –  who has long been attributed to planning the formation of a rival party himself, and the former Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu who fell out with Erdogan in 2016.

Such figures share common concerns such as disagreement with Turkey’s current economic policy, the ongoing mass arrests and purges of military and judiciary members linked to the exiled religious leader Fethullah Gulen who reportedly orchestrated the attempted military coup in 2016, and the changing of the constitution into a presidential system after a 2017 referendum.

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While taking care not to directly criticise Erdogan or attack him personally, Babacan maintains his stance that the president has violated many of the AKP’s founding principles and morals and says that the alleged lack of democracy under “one-man rule” is damaging the country.

“There were important principles and values during the foundation of the AK Party, but there has been a significant departure from these principles. This has become a national issue, and we felt a serious responsibility towards our country,” he insisted.

In response to curiosity regarding the roles of his fellow former-AKP members, Babacan said that Gul would not actively be involved in the new party but that he would be working as an adviser or an “older brother”, while Davutoglu would not be joining it.

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