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Erdogan’s ex-ally applies to establish new political party to challenge ruling AKP

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
Turkish veteran politician Ali Babacan

In a challenge to Turkey’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party), a former ally of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has formally commenced the procedure to launch his own political party to.

Ali Babacan says the country needs a “fresh start” to bring about reforms to boost the rule of law and democracy.

The 52-year-old made the announcement in an interview with Turkey’s Fox TV on Monday morning, saying he would apply to establish his long-awaited new political party later in the day and formally launch it on Wednesday.

The Turkish politician, who has been the country’s economy minister (2002 - 2007), foreign minister (2007 - 2009) and deputy prime minister (2009 -2015), co-founded the AK Party in 2001 but in 2015 was sidelined from the party.

In August last year, he announced his resignation, a month after he had said he would do so due to the “deep differences” he had with the party’s direction.

“The country needs to completely start anew. In its time, the AKP was the fresh start. I served well for years, but 20 years has passed, the world has changed, Turkey has changed. The party has drifted far from its founding principles,” Babacan said.

When the AKP was founded, Turkey was weary from a decade of fragile coalition governments that had presided over heavy fighting, throughout the 1990s, with militants of the now-outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) that have been seeking independence since 1984.

The ruling party, led by Erdogan, has long been under fire from human rights groups and opposition politicians for trampling on basic freedoms, jailing critics, and undermining democracy, particularly since a failed 2016 military coup that triggered a never-ending crackdown on dissidents, and perceived putschists and sympathizers.

So far, about 80,000 people have been jailed pending trial and some 150,000 civil servants, military personnel, and others sacked or suspended from their jobs.

Furthermore, the country’s poor economic performance since a 2018 currency crisis has helped decrease support for the incumbent president and its party.

“There is a powerful need to create a more prosperous and livable Turkey and this is not possible with the current political order,” Babacan further said, emphasizing on the importance of democracy, rule of law and human rights.

On Monday, Babacan’s supporters submitted an official request to the Turkish Interior Ministry to establish the new party, whose name will be confirmed at an event on Wednesday.

“We want a country in which people are able to breathe freely and without fear,” Babacan also said.

“We need freedom. People aren’t able to talk about problems in Turkey. It isn’t just that journalists are in prison, some are in solitary confinement.”

Late last year, another one-time close ally of Erdogan, former Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, established the Future Party to challenge the AKP.

However, it seems that the AKP does not perceive these new parties as real threats, at least until now.

Last month, a survey by pollster Metropoll showed limited support for Erdogan’s emerging political rivals. It put support for the Future Party at 1.2 percent and for Babacan’s to-be-established party at 0.8 percent, while it put the AKP support at 40 percent, which shows a decrease from 42.6 percent at a 2018 general election.

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