Ali Babacan, Turkey’s former economy minister has announced his resignation from President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s Justice and Development Party (AKP) over “deep differences” with the party’s direction saying that Turkey needed a new vision, Reuters reported on Monday.
Once a close ally to Erdogan and a co-founder of the AK Party, Babacan this year plans to form a rival political party together with Turkey’s former President Abdullah Gul, according to people familiar with the matter.
The move to launch a new party to challenge Erdogan could further erode the support for him following a serious electoral defeat in last month’s mayoral election rerun in Istanbul, Reuters said.
Turkey’s secular main opposition candidate for Istanbul mayor’s office received more than 54 percent of the votes against AK Party in the election rerun on June 23, handing Erdogan the biggest electoral loss of his political career.
The AKP’s loss of control in Turkey’s largest city and business hub to its rival by more than 800,000 votes has also encouraged dissidents within the ruling party, who have for years signaled plans to form a new political party.
Babacan on Monday said in a statement that it had become “impossible” to remain a member of the AKP and added that he had submitted his resignation to the party.
“Under the current conditions, Turkey needs a brand new vision for its future. There is a need for correct analyses in every area, newly developed strategies, plans, and programs for our country,” he said, appearing to hint at the new party.
Emphasizing that it had become “inevitable” to start a new effort for Turkey’s present and future, Babacan added: “Many of my colleagues and I feel a great and historic responsibility towards this effort.”
Babacan held forth that he believed Turkey’s problems could only be solved with the efforts of a widely represented team.
“Everyone’s aim is to improve our country’s reputation, increase our people’s prosperity and happiness, and get Turkey to the beautiful future it deserves,” he added.
Babacan highlighted that human rights, advanced democracy and the rule of law were indispensable principles for Turkey.
“I have worked relentlessly for these since the first day I entered politics. God willing, I will continue to do so from now on too,” he vowed.
Gul, who has also been mildly critical of Erdogan for some time, broke ranks with the party and in May expressed his discontent at a decision by Turkey’s election authority to annul the initial Istanbul vote and order the June 23 re-run after subsequent appeals by the AKP.
In the first years of the AKP government, Babacan served as the economy and foreign minister. He then became a deputy prime minister and held the office between 2009 and 2015. Gul served as Turkey’s president from 2007 until 2014, when then prime minister Erdogan moved to the presidency.
Former Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, who fell out with Erdogan in 2016 and has previously criticized policies of his party, slammed AKP’s rhetoric and economic management a week after the Istanbul elections.
He initially had been rumored to be considering getting together with Babacan and Gul’s breakaway party, but then a source close to him said he was not joining them but was planning a “new step” of his own.
So far, president Erdogan denied reported allegations that members of his AKP may be carrying out efforts to launch a new and rival political party, stating that no “active member” in the party will be taking part in such a formation.
Critics say that even a few percentage points of erosion into Erdogan’s support base, which is already decreasing due to the economic recession, unemployment, and inflation, could be deeply damaging for his ruling party that relies on an alliance with nationalists for its parliamentary majority.