Former Turkish PM Davutoglu slams Erdogan's AKP after Istanbul defeat

Ex-Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu. (Reuters/File)
Updated 30 June 2019

Former Turkish PM Davutoglu slams Erdogan's AKP after Istanbul defeat

  • The AKP last week lost the mayor's post in Turkey's biggest city to the main opposition party

ANKARA: A former Turkish prime minister and close ally of President Tayyip Erdogan on Saturday harshly criticised the ruling AK Party after a stinging electoral defeat in Istanbul last week that was widely seen as ominous for Erdogan at national level.
The AKP last week lost the mayor's post in Turkey's biggest city to the main opposition party for the first time in 25 years by a hefty margin, having forced a re-run following an earlier narrow defeat.
Ahmet Davutoglu, who served as prime minister between 2014 and 2016 before falling out with Erdogan, has criticised the president and his policies before.
But his latest comments come as former deputy prime minister Ali Babacan and former president Abdullah Gul, both founding members of the AKP, plan to launch a new rival party this year.
"There used to be a government that realised all its pledges over time," Davutoglu said at an event in the province of Elazig, adding that those who caused a "slide" in the party's principles should "pay the price".
"If we lose an election that we first lost by 13,000 votes again by 800,000 votes, as was the case in Istanbul, the one responsible for this is not a prime minister who delivered a clear parliamentary majority (in last year's general election), but rather those who have caused a serious slide in rhetoric, actions, morals and politics."
During the Istanbul campaign, Erdogan accused the opposition of links to terrorism and highlighted a call by Kurdish militant leader Abdullah Ocalan, jailed on the island prison of Imrali, for a pro-Kurdish party to remain neutral.
Davutoglu was dismissive:
"Saying the elections are valid even if (won) by one vote and then changing your stance; talking about a matter of survival in one election and labelling anyone who thinks otherwise a terrorist but then getting in touch with Imrali in the next vote is a detachment from the public conscience."
Voters appeared to be blaming the AKP for a recession that wiped 30% off the lira's value last year and another 10% this year.
"We are facing economic problems as we did in 2008. Then, there were people at the helm of the economy who understood economy. There was vision," Davutoglu said.
"We cannot get out of this crisis with the mentality of knowing best for everything, belittling, and thinking teamwork is just bringing together your inner circle."
Last year, after winning sweeping powers under a new executive presidential system that Davutoglu called "distorted", Erdogan made his son in-law Berat Albayrak finance minister.
"The AKP is not the party of one person, one family or one group alone," Davutoglu said. "State structure and family ties must absolutely be separated. There must be no first-degree relatives."
Davutoglu had been rumoured to be joining the breakaway party. Last week, a source close to him said he was planning a 'new step', but did not plan to join Gul and Babacan for now.
Instead, he issued what appeared to be a rallying cry to Erdogan's critics within the AKP.
"Today is not the time to be silent. It is not the time to keep the truths we discuss behind closed doors silent in front of the open doors too," he said. "We need a new understanding of politics."


Turkey turns to West amid Idlib escalation

Updated 6 min 36 sec ago

Turkey turns to West amid Idlib escalation

  • Ankara calls for Patriot missile systems to be deployed along border with Syria

ANKARA: The unfolding crisis in Syria’s Idlib province, the last rebel stronghold, is pushing Turkey to improve its relations with the West.
Two Turkish soldiers were killed in Idlib on Thursday in an airstrike by the Syrian regime. The following day, in a phone call with his French and German counterparts, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan called for “concrete action” to prevent a humanitarian crisis in Idlib.
Erdogan “stressed the need to stop the aggression of the regime and its supporters in Idlib, and emphasized the importance of providing strong support through concrete actions to prevent a humanitarian crisis,” his office said.
French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel spoke on Thursday to Russian President Vladimir Putin to express their concern about the humanitarian crisis and to urge an end to the escalating fighting in Idlib.
Ozgur Unluhisarcikli, Ankara office director of the German Marshall Fund of the United States, told Arab News: “Despite many differences between Turkey and EU member states on foreign policy issues ranging from northeast Syria to Libya, they’re stakeholders in preventing a humanitarian disaster in Idlib and a new wave of refugees from Syria to Turkey and Europe.”
He said it would be out of the question for Western countries to send troops to Idlib, but they could provide Turkey with political support and Patriot surface-to-air missile systems close to the border with Syria.
“A declaration of commitment to improving the livelihoods of residents in Idlib after the regime offensive is averted should also be in the mix,” he added.
“A follow-up of the quadripartite meeting between the leaders of France, Germany, Turkey and the UK, this time in Turkey, would be a very good platform for announcing solidarity with Turkey.”
Turkish, French, German and British leaders convened in London last December ahead of a NATO Summit to discuss the Syrian crisis. They agreed to meet at least once a year.
Bassam Barabandi, a former Syrian diplomat and co-founder of People Demand Change Inc., told Arab News: “Nobody considers the humanitarian crisis a top priority right now. The humanitarian tool has become the price of the ongoing struggle among the powers in the region.”
He said any potential summit between Turkey and EU leaders should focus on the refugee issue because of the influx of civilians in Idlib fleeing from Russian-backed bombings toward the Turkish border.
“EU leaders should agree to provide Turkey with more financial assistance to absorb the refugees, and must put more pressure on Russia to stop the Idlib operation,” he added.
“EU countries also should push for a serious political settlement, otherwise every time Russia has a conflict with Turkey, another crisis will come up.”
But Oubai Shahbandar, an Istanbul-based defense analyst, told Arab News: “Macron and Merkel have zero impact on either the balance of power in Syria or the humanitarian catastrophe that’s unfolding in Idlib. I doubt that Macron and Merkel will take any steps to counter Russian aggression in northwest Syria.”
Shahbandar said: “Summits have displayed their futility in achieving anything concrete in preventing Russia, Iran and the Assad regime from continuing their campaign of wholescale massacre in Syria.”
He added: “A bilateral US-Turkey understanding on Idlib will probably prove to be the only viable option in preventing disaster at this point.”
Meanwhile, Ankara has urged the US and other NATO members to deploy Patriots along the Turkish border to thwart any attacks from Syrian territory. No decision has yet been made by Washington. 
Germany withdrew its Patriots from Turkey five years ago. Spain is currently the only European NATO member with Patriots at Turkey’s southern Incirlik air base, which has been used in the past to support the US-led coalition’s operations against Daesh in Syria.