Two prominent figures from Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s Justice and Development Party (AKP), are planning to form a rival political party this fall, Reuters reported, citing an adviser close to Babacan on Thursday.
Behind the plans to launch a new political group to challenge Erdogan are two founding members of AKP, former Deputy Prime Minister Ali Babacan and former President Abdullah Gul.
According to Reuters, Babacan and Gul’s move could further erode support for the country’s long-time leader, Erdogan, after a stinging electoral defeat in Istanbul.
Main opposition’s Ekrem Imamoglu won Sunday’s Istanbul mayoral rerun with greater margin due to the public’s reaction to the annulment of the March 31 vote by the Supreme Electoral Council (YSK), which was a major setback for Erdogan who has ruled for 16 years.
The defeat encouraged the critics within the ruling party, who have hinted at plans to launch a rival party for years because of dissatisfaction over Erdogan’s increasing power over the party and government.
A few more percentage points of decrease in its votes could be deeply damaging for AKP, which already relies on an alliance with nationalists for its parliamentary majority after having lost significant support due to the economic recession, unemployment, and inflation.
The adviser also said that the policies of the new party would mirror the early years of the ruling AKP when it was formed in 2001, combining an Islamist-rooted outlook with a pro-Western, democratic and liberal market approach.
The process of establishing a rival party, which has been considered by the two politicians for nearly six months, gained momentum after AKP’s defeat in Turkey’s major cities in the March vote, according to another adviser who told Reuters and who is familiar with the plans of the new party.
Although the adviser did not comment on how this new party would be funded, he informed Reuters that preparations for it included meetings with current AKP parliamentarians, other politicians and academics.
Without providing names, the adviser close to Babacan expressed that he expected “a few surprising and important supporters,” emphasizing that there was also, support from AKP members of parliament for the breakaway group.
Former Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, a senior AKP figure who has been openly critical of the party, is also planning a new step but won’t be joining Gul and Babacan for now, a source close to him told Reuters.
“Babacan is a strong and respected figure. Of course, the AK Party will be affected by the new party, but we are able to lose some AK Party supporters like some other parties,” an AKP official, who asked not to be named, commented.
“We need to return to a policy where we can govern the state, but still be with the people,” the official further stated, adding that the party must accept responsibility for the results of the Istanbul rerun.
After serving as the economic and foreign minister in the first years of the ruling AKP, Babacan became deputy prime minister and held office between 2009 and 2015.
Gul was president of Turkey from 2007 until 2014, when Erdogan, who was the prime minister at the time took charge.