Turkey’s former deputy premier launches party to challenge Erdogan

Former Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Ali Babacan has warned about the dangers of ‘one-man rule’ in the country. (AN photo)
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Updated 12 March 2020

Turkey’s former deputy premier launches party to challenge Erdogan

  • Babacan promises to cure country’s political, economic deficiencies

ANKARA: Turkey’s former deputy prime minister, Ali Babacan, on Wednesday launched a new political party to challenge his ex-ally President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

The 52-year-old former economy minister, who quit the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) in July last year over “deep disagreements” with Erdogan, officially applied to the Turkish Ministry of the Interior to register his party under the name Remedy (Deva).

Since his resignation, Babacan has claimed that Turkey was passing through a “dark tunnel” and has warned about the dangers of “one-man rule” in the country.

Turkey’s economic recession, high unemployment rates, and government loss of management over major cities such as Istanbul and Ankara in last year’s municipal elections, have sparked the formation of new breakaway parties from the AKP.

At the launch event in Ankara, Babacan called for wide-ranging reforms to strengthen the rule of law and democracy.

The mainly young and female profile of the Remedy party’s council not only includes ex-ministers from the AKP but also key names from the business sector, military, and civil society along with managers of multinational companies.

Having presided over Turkey’s economy from 2009 to 2015, Babacan blamed the country’s economic deterioration on its democratic deficit. He also repeated his opposition to the shift from a parliamentary to a presidential system in Turkey, criticized the crackdown on the media, and lamented the Central Bank’s lack of independence.

“Our citizens are worried about their future; human rights violations and curtailing of liberties are making it impossible for our society to breathe. Our women are concerned about living under constant threat. Turkey is such a great country that cannot be restricted to one wisdom and a narrow establishment,” he said.

Political analyst Nezih Onur Kuru, from Koc University in Istanbul, said the democratic, professional and technocrat image of the party’s founders’ council gave Babacan a political advantage.

“Babacan showed a positive performance toward economic development and democratization during his term under the AKP. Therefore, his past records and achievements are very valuable references,” he told Arab News.

In promising a cure for the country’s political and economic deficiencies via his new party, Kuru added that Babacan still had a high brand value at home and abroad. As a politician coming from a conservative and industrialist family, he also has ties with the Turkish business community.

However, Remedy’s success and that of another breakaway party, former Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu’s Future Party, will depend on their approach to Erdogan’s policy style and political alliances.

According to Kuru, the Remedy party will appeal not only to disillusioned AKP voters but also to center and right segments of society and those with no political allegiances.

Babacan’s party program also put emphasis on youth unemployment, which had reached 24 percent according to latest statistics.

Babacan gained a master’s degree from Northwestern University in Chicago between 1990 and 1992 with a Fulbright scholarship from the US. He has also worked as a financial consultant to top executives of major American banks.

To coincide with the launch of Babacan’s new party, Erdogan delivered a speech in which criticized the breakaway parties and said: “Every initiative that is put forward and branded as ‘new’ once again proves the need and demand for the AKP.”

Lebanese MPs fail to reach agreement on draft amnesty law

Updated 42 min 23 sec ago

Lebanese MPs fail to reach agreement on draft amnesty law

  • The Free Patriotic Movement tried to amend the law by excluding “perpetrators of crimes against public funds and terrorist crimes” from the amnesty

BEIRUT: The Lebanese Parliament on Thursday failed to approve a draft law on general amnesty, after tensions rose during a vote and the Future Movement, led by former prime minister Saad Hariri, walked out of the legislative session.

“They want to bring us back to square one,” he said. “Every party has its own arguments, as if they want to score points.”

The Free Patriotic Movement tried to amend the law by excluding “perpetrators of crimes against public funds and terrorist crimes” from the amnesty. Minister of Justice Marie Claude Najm, who is affiliated with the FPM, asked for “amendments to the draft law so that it does not include those accused of tax evasion and violating maritime property.”

The draft law was referred to the parliament despite disagreements between parliamentary committees over the basic issue of who should and should not be included in the amnesty. The former government, led by Hariri, proposed a general amnesty law before it resigned last October in the face of mounting pressure resulting from public protests.

There were a number of protests during the legislative session, some opposing the adoption of the law entirely, while others were directed at specific provisions within it.

The draft law includes an amnesty for about 1,200 Sunni convicts, 700 of whom are Lebanese. Some are accused of killing soldiers in the Lebanese Army, possessing, transporting or using explosives, kidnap and participating in bombings.

It was also covers about 6,000 Lebanese Christians, most of whom fled to Israel following the withdrawal of occupying Israeli soldiers from southern Lebanon in 2000, as well as nearly 30,000 people from the Bekaa region, the majority of whom are from the Shiite community and wanted for drug trafficking, drug abuse, murder, kidnap, robbery and other crimes.

Hezbollah appeared to agree to a pardon for entering Israel, but object to a pardon for anyone who worked or communicated with the enemy or acquired Israeli citizenship.

Before the session, the Lebanese Order of Physicians highlighted overcrowding in Lebanese prisons, and this health risk this poses during COVID-19 pandemic.

“There are 20 prisons for men, four for women and one juvenile prison holding a total of 8,300 inmates, 57 percent of whom are in the Roumieh Central Prison,” the LOP said. It added that 57 percent of prisoners are Lebanese and 23 percent are Syrian, one third have been convicted while the rest are awaiting trial, and the overcrowding is so bad each prisoner has the equivalent of only one square meter of space. The organization described the situation as “a time bomb that must be avoided.”

In other business during the session, as part of anticorruption reforms required as a condition for receiving international economic aid, the Parliament approved a law to increase transparency in the banking sector, with responsibility for this resting with the Investigation Authority of the Lebanese Central Bank and the Anti-Corruption Commission.

It also endorsed a draft law to create a mechanism for top-level appointments in public administrations, centers and institutions. An amendment was added to prevent ministers from changing or adding candidates for the position of director general. The FPM opposed this, while Hezbollah and the Lebanese Forces voted in favor. Hariri accused the FPM of having a “desire to possess the entire country.”

MPs rejected a draft law to allow Lebanon to join the International Organization for Migration because, said MP Gebran Bassil, “it’s unconstitutional and facilitates the accession, integration and settlement process.” Lebanon hosts about 200,000 Palestinian and a million Syrian refugees.

The session sparked a wave of street protests. Some of them, led by the Syrian Social Nationalist Party and the Lebanese Communist Party, opposed the approval of a general amnesty that includes those who fled to Israel.

Protesters burned the Israeli flag in Sidon in protest against a law that “affects Israeli agents who sold their land, fought their people, and plotted against them.” They set up a symbolic gallows on which they wrote: “This is the fate of Zionist agents who fled execution.”

Others, including the families of Muslim detainees, staged demonstrations in support of the amnesty.