Setback to Erdogan as ex-premier leaves party

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The resignation of former Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, as well as several former and current MPs, from the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) has shaken Turkish politics.

The AKP, “which is now under the control of a narrow cadre, no longer has the opportunity to be a cure for the country’s problems,” said Davutoglu, who had recently criticized the party’s policies.

“This administration … will be called to account before the nation. What they want to discharge is not people, but the collective conscience,” he added.

“From this day on, building a new political movement in light of our basic principles is required by our responsibility towards our nation.”

Last week, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said splinter movements from the AKP had been unsuccessful in the past. The country’s next elections are scheduled for 2023.

Davutoglu was mostly known for his policy of “zero problems with neighboring countries,” and for deepening Turkey’s regional engagement. His criticism of the AKP increased after its poor performance in local elections in March.

Splinter movements from the AKP have already emerged in recent months, accelerated by the party’s defeat in Istanbul’s mayoral elections in June.

Former Deputy Prime Minister Ali Babacan resigned from the AKP in July, and expressed his intention to lead a new political movement.

Turkey’s former President Abdullah Gul is expected to support Babacan’s party without formally being part of it.

Increasingly critical over the erosion of the rule of law and economic recession in Turkey, Babacan said the new party will be formed before the end of the year.

According to a recent poll by Ankara-based research company ORC, in a general election 11.6 percent of respondents said they would vote for Babacan’s new party, while 8.5 percent said they would support Davutoglu.

Karol Wasilewski, an analyst at the Polish Institute of International Affairs, said neither Davutoglu nor Babacan present a strong challenge to Erdogan or the AKP.

“Yet they have a chance to be quite important spoilers due to the shape of Turkey’s current political system,” he told Arab News.

“What matters for the opposition bloc is to bring votes for the AKP and its ally the MHP (Nationalist Movement Party) down to 50 percent.”

He said Babacan’s standing in Turkish politics may rise due to the AKP’s economic mismanagement and the collapse of its Syria policy.

“When it comes to Davutoglu, I’m really skeptical as I can’t see any particular field in which he can present himself as a better choice than the AKP,” Wasilewski added.

“I think he’ll try to concentrate on economic, foreign policy and identity issues, but I doubt he’ll be successful. He’s seen by many Turkish voters as an architect of the current foreign policy, and thus its failures.”

Wasilewski said when it comes to the economy, Babacan is more appealing than Davutoglu. The former is known as the main actor behind Turkey’s economic boom for much of the 2000s.

The country currently faces high inflation, soaring unemployment, rising food prices and a recession.

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