Turkey’s former economy minister Babacan criticizes one-man rule

Ali Babacan, Turkey’s former economy minister, says the new party he is founding is a group movement that will encourage a participatory and pluralistic democracy as the country “does not need another one-man party.”

The new party of Babacan, who was also a former deputy prime minister from President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), is expected to challenge them as an opposing political movement.

Speaking to Sirin Payzin from the T24 news portal, Babacan on Thursday outlined that his new political party will protect the rights of people from every faction of society living in Turkey.

“What Turkey needs right now is dialogue, unity, and solidarity rather than marginalization and polarization. Otherwise, the country is likely to witness even harder times in the future,” he said.

Babacan on Thursday noted that the party, which is expected to be formed in early 2020, will be a mainstream one that reflects the structure of Turkey’s population due to having founding members from many different sections of the society.

When asked how he interprets the current situation in Turkey, the former minister said that he, along with other founding members of the new party, feel deep sorrow over how things have developed.

“This country could have been in a much better position in terms of international reputation, economy, law, and education. What we are witnessing right now is a ruling crisis, one should be aware of that,” he said, adding that Turkey needs an overall political revision.

Babacan said an empowered parliamentary system would be a better governance system for Turkish people, who in 2017 narrowly voted in favor of the presidential system, giving Erdogan sweeping powers.

“The presidential system [of governance] has not brought any peace to Turkey in terms of both domestic and international relations of the country. This system is far from producing solutions to any of Turkey’s problems,” he commented.

Referring to Turkey’s current economic situation, Babacan underlined that he and some others had warned the AKP government a few years back that the country would experience some serious financial problems.

“There are currently over 4.5 million unemployed people in Turkey. Youth unemployment rate [including people aged between 15 and 24] hit 26 percent for the first time in recent history and half of Turkey’s university graduates are without a job,” he elaborated.

Addressing the governing AKP and referring to the party’s controversial megaprojects, he added: “You cannot solve problems with construction.”

“If we were to win the election this Sunday, we would fix the economy and public institutions in 30 days,” he stated, adding that they would also tell the judiciary members that they won’t be receiving any more orders from the government.

The former deputy PM also described the Canal Istanbul, a project for an artificial canal in Thrace that President Erdogan calls his dream, as “a polarization project aimed to change Turkey’s agenda.”

“They [the AKP government] need to change the agenda because what’s on the agenda is [high] unemployment [rates]. What Turkey needs isn’t a canal but investment in industrial markets and technology.”

When asked to comment on the imprisonment of former co-chair of pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) Selahattin Demirtas and Osman Kavala, a well-known philanthropist, businessman, and human rights activist, Babacan said that they should face trial without arrest.

Behind bars since November 2016, 46-year-old Demirtas was given nearly five years in jail on terror-related offenses and faces up to 142 years in prison if found guilty of the rest of the charges against him.

The 62-year-old Kavala, who was in November 2017 arrested on charges of attempting to change the Constitutional order and to overthrow the government, faces an aggravated life sentence for allegedly having organized the Gezi Park protests in 2013.

The protests, which were triggered by the AKP government’s plans to raze Istanbul’s central Gezi Park to build a shopping mall, swiftly spread to other cities over what critics described as Erdogan’s increasingly authoritarian rule.

“Pre-trial detention is a practice that should not be commonly used in Turkey. There are now many ways of implementing judicial supervision,” Babacan highlighted.

Pointing out that the AKP government continually violates dissidents’ freedom of expression, he added that the ruling power should listen to their criticism in order to try and understand them.

“Scores of [dissident] columnists and NGO representatives either have been dismissed from their jobs or imprisoned only due to openly stating what they thought the [AKP] government was doing wrong. It’s a shame that they could not even tolerate criticism,” Babacan emphasized.

He also indicated that his party would protect all the Turkish citizens’ freedom of expression, even if some of them speak in ways that he or members of his party would not like.

Babacan’s party can get 18 percent of votes in election: opinion poll

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