Former Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu has called on seniors from the ruling party to declare their assets in reaction to fraud allegations by Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
With the fresh row sparked between the two, Davutoglu’s up-to-now careful criticism of Erdogan’s one-man rule has turned into serious corruption accusations.
On Saturday, Erdogan accused ally-turned-rival Davutoglu of defrauding the state-run Halkbank through the private Istanbul Sehir University (ISU).
The former PM was one of the founders of the university which is struggling to repay a loan totaling 417 million lira ($72 million).
“They are trying to defraud Halkbank. They request a loan from the bank. The bank gives them a significant amount, but they fail to pay back,” Erdogan said, targeting the university and Davutoglu without mentioning his name but calling him “that person.”
Previously the bank had taken the university to court trying to recoup the loan. Therefore the university’s assets had been frozen.
The president further claimed that Davutoglu had turned an allocation of the university to a transfer of ownership when he became prime minister.
“The allocation of the university was done by me during my term as prime minister. This person [Davutoglu] then turned the allocation to a transfer of ownership when he became prime minister. As [Davutoglu] made this transfer of ownership, he had [former Deputy Prime Ministers] Ali Babacan and Mehmet Simsek and [former Transportation Minister] Feridun Bilgin with him,” Erdogan said.
All those accused by Erdogan have been currently preparing to launch new breakaway parties in an attempt to challenge his rule.
In response, Davutoglu released a written statement on the same day calling Erdogan’s remarks “incompatible with basic rules of kindness” and “meaningful.”
“My call is clear, if a prime minister [Davutoglu] who devoted himself to serving this country is slandered of being a fraudster, then parliamentary commissions should be established in order to investigate into the assets and the changes in assets of all presidents, prime ministers, ministers in charge of public banks, authorities who served in the privatization high council and their first and second-degree relatives,” Davutoglu argued.
The former PM added that he would not “abstain for a minute” from answering to the commission. He also proposed the transfer of the assets and resources that cannot be explained under objective legal criteria to the Treasury.
“These days will pass and the ISU and its ideals based on freedom of thought will continue to live, no matter the injustices committed against it. What makes a university is not the land or buildings, but the social environment created by [its] academics and students. Those, who assess every land they see in terms of dollars, cannot understand this,” Davutoglu vowed.
Davutoglu first criticized Erdogan openly in April following local elections that saw Erdogan’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) lose control of the country’s many cities, including Istanbul and Ankara.
At the time, Davutoglu called for reform in the party as its decision-making mechanisms had “either been rendered entirely dysfunctional or exist only to justify a single point of view.”
A dozen AKP members including Davutoglu, Babacan and some current lawmakers who are close to the two have quit the party in recent months.
“We have seen many people break away from us and form new parties. If I ask you about them now, you will not even be able to remember their names. Those who take part in this kind of treachery will pay a heavy price,” Erdogan said in July when asked about the resignations from the AKP.
Davutoglu resigned from his PM post in 2016 shortly after a declaration which was later called “the Pelican file”, that listed his dissent points with Erdogan.
The group known as the Pelicanists are widely believed to be centered around the Bosphorus Global think tank to which Erdogan paid a visit in August.
The move was interpreted by many as a sign of the Pelicanists’ continuing influence on the party and its leader.