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Former AKP premier challenging Erdogan by forming rival party

Turkey’s former Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu has officially applied to form a new political party, which is expected to rival  Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s ruling party, Turkish media reported on Thursday.

The former PM took the expected step after months of preparations together with 154 founding members of the party, which will reportedly be called the Future Party (FP), Gelecek Partisi in Turkish.

The delegation, which lodged the set-up application for the breakaway party in the interior ministry, included former heavyweight figures from the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), Ayhan Sefer Ustun, Selcuk Ozdag, Feramuz Ustun, Izzettin Kucuk, Nedim Yamali, and Yesim Karadag.

Davutoglu is expected to make the official announcement of the formation at a news conference at Ankara’s Bilkent Hotel on Friday, according to media reports.

The FP has some prominent figures as founding members, including journalist Etyen Mahcupyan, former AKP Istanbul head Selim Temurci, the Alevi Cultural Association chair Genel Başkanı Dogan Demir, former Higher Education Board (YOK) chair Yusuf Ziya Ozcan and Nihal Olcok.

Olcok, the widow of Erol Olcok, who was a close friend to Erdogan and killed with his son on the night of July 15 during a coup attempt in 2016, had raised some criticism against the president’s AKP.

The list of the founding members consists of only 31 women who are mostly former AKP seniors.

The FP’s stated political stance recalls the principles of Motherland Party (ANAP), former President Turgut Ozal’s ruling party in the 1980s and 1990s, which tried to combine liberalism, nationalism, conservatism and social democracy, according to daily SoL.

Last Saturday, Davutoglu called on the AKP seniors to declare their assets in reaction to fraud allegations by  Erdogan. Thus, Davutoglu’s up-to-now careful criticism of Erdogan’s one-man rule had turned into severe corruption accusations.

Erdogan accused Davutoglu of bank fraud through financial dealings for Istanbul Sehir University (ISU). Davutoglu was one of the founders of the ISU, which is struggling to repay a loan totaling 417 million lira ($72 million). The state-owned Halkbank took the university to court in an attempt to recoup the loan. This led to the ISU assets being frozen.

Davutoglu first served as an advisor to Erdogan during his terms as foreign minister and prime minister between 2014 and 2016.

The ex-PM later fell out with Erdogan and resigned from his post in 2016 shortly after a declaration called “the Pelican file” by an influential think tank close to Erdogan. The Pelicanists had listed Davutoglu’s dissent points with the president.

Davutoglu started criticizing the Erdogan regime openly since April following the local election that saw Erdogan’s AKP lose control of the country’s many cities, including Istanbul and Ankara.

Davutoglu finally resigned from the AKP in September, two months after former Deputy Prime Minister Ali Babacan.

Babacan has formed a party that will join Turkey’s political landscape within weeks, according to a source close to the politician.

In October, Babacan said in his first televised interview after his resignation that Turkey was in a “dark tunnel” and warned of the dangers of “one-man rule.”

The two Erdogan allies-turned-rivals are taking the stage while Erdogan’s AKP grapples with an economic downturn and high unemployment.

In a recent survey by the private pollster PIAR, which questioned public opinion about two AKP-breakaway parties, as many as 7.7 percents of those surveyed said they would cast their votes for Babacan’s probable party, with 3.4 percent supporting Davutoglu in a possible parliamentary election in Turkey.

Davutoglu’s main obstacle in his new career will be his “turning a blind eye to the democratic backsliding that happened in the country partly under his watch,” Berk Esen, an academician from Bilkent University, told Al-Monitor.

“The fact that now he is challenging Erdogan, it seems for many people disingenuous,” the academic added.

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