ANKARA: After resigning from the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) in July 2019, Ali Babacan, a former deputy prime minister in charge of the economy, filed an official request to the Interior Ministry to establish his new party on Monday.
The launch event of the party will be in Ankara on Wednesday.
Turkey’s new party Democracy and Advance Party (DEVA), which faces a mighty challenge ahead, has a thought-provoking list of founding members, a more technocratic tone with many young members, and combines conservative and secular figures around broad goals.
A former close ally of Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan, 53-year-old Babacan has had the support of former President Abdullah Gul during the preparations for establishing the party. However, Gul did not join the party.
The party’s founders’ list comprises people with a high educational profile, mainly with masters’ and PhD degrees, from different business sectors and academia.
Senior figures from the armed forces as well as former ministers from the AKP rule and from Turkish Airlines also drew public attention.
Babacan supports a fully democratic parliamentary system, which Turkey left three years ago for a transit to the presidential system.
During an interview broadcast live on Turkey’s Fox TV on Monday morning, Babacan said that Turkey needed a “fresh start” and urged reforms to strengthen the rule of law, human rights and democracy in the country.
“Nearly 20 years have passed (since the AKP was established). Turkey has changed and sadly the political party of which I was a member began to do things very contrary to its founding principles,” he said.
“There is a great need to create a more prosperous and livable Turkey and this is impossible with the current political order. There is nothing independent in the country, not even the judiciary,” he said.
Babacan’s criticisms of the AKP and Erdogan are also focusing on economic mismanagement, the dangers of “one man rule” and the country’s poor economic indicators since the 2018 currency crisis, which has greatly diminished the party’s electoral support.
In an interview last November, the former minister criticized the fact that “some investors come to Turkey for short-term investments, for two of three months, but refrain from a long-term one” because of the lack of “judicial predictability.”
Babacan was the leading figure behind the Turkish economic boom between 2009 and 2015, and was appreciated by foreign investors at the time.
He also hailed Turkey’s ties with the Arab world during his ministerial term.
He mainly represented the AKP’s liberal faction, with his views in favor of sustaining Turkey’s Western alignment.
Babacan was the leading figure during Turkey’s IMF-backed economic reforms in the early 2000s, before being appointed as chief negotiator with the EU in 2005 during the country’s candidacy process.
In December, Turkey’s former Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu also launched his breakaway Future Party from the ruling AKP.
According to Berk Esen, a political analyst from Bilkent University in Ankara, with the launch of Babacan’s party the more centrist group that had played a major rule in government during the AKP’s first three terms is finally exiting the ruling party.
“This may prove to be a bigger blow to Erdogan than the defection of Davutoglu’s group earlier this year since Babacan has been hailed by many as a very successful technocrat who led the Turkish economy through several years of impressive growth,” he told Arab News.
Last week, Ankara-based pollster Metropoll published a report showing that Erdogan’s approval in Turkey had fallen to 41.1 percent, down from 48 percent in October during the launch of a military operation in northeast Syria.
The same poll company also released another survey last month, showing that support for Davutoglu’s party remains at 1.2 percent, while for Babacan’s new party support is at 0.8 percent. The same poll revealed that public support for the AKP had decreased to 40 percent from 42.6 percent since the 2018 general election.
“Although Davutoglu had an early start, Babacan does not carry heavy political baggage and can appeal both to centrist voters and business circles at the same time. After the party’s founding, Babacan should change the public debate by discussing Turkey’s economic problems,” said political analyst Esen.
According to Esen, Babacan has followed a balanced course so far between being a critic of Erdogan’s monopolization of power and appealing to conservative and centrist voters.
“In active politics, however, he needs to be ready to take on Erdogan directly if he is going to have any chance of appealing
to mass voters and returning Turkey to a parliamentary system,” he said.