Former Turkish prime minister Davutoğlu says new party preparations have started

Ahmet Davutoğlu, a former prime minister of Turkey for the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), told a crowd of supporters on Friday that “work had begun” in relation to his widely expected bid to launch a new political party.

Davutoğlu made statements related to the new party during a speech in his home province of Konya, Turkish left-wing daily Sözcü reported.

“By work, we actually mean we have been working (on the new party) rather than explaining the political situation to the public. What we mean by work is calling out to the people’s deep conscience … We all know very well that it is our nation’s conscience that carries us to power”, Davutoğlu said.

Citing a source involved in the preparations, Ahval reported on Friday that a faction of politicians from the AKP gathered around Davutoğlu had readied itself to launch a new Islamist party in 70 of Turkey’s 81 provinces.

The former prime minister’s group has already established headquarters in Istanbul and Ankara, and was planning to publish a manifesto in September, the source said.

Davutoğlu served as Turkey’s foreign minister for five years from 2009, and was appointed as prime minister when Recep Tayyip Erdoğan vacated the position in 2014 to move to the presidency.

Despite leading the AKP to a majority in the November 2015 parliamentary elections, Davutoğlu was sidelined early the next year after reports emerged of a clash over the direction of the party between him and Erdoğan.

“For three years, it was forbidden to remember my name in this country”, Davutoğlu said, referring to the period since his resignation in 2016.

After news emerged that Davutoğlu and other senior AKP figures were planning to launch two new political parties, Erdoğan harshly rebuked so-called “traitors” in the party, warning them that they would “pay a heavy price”.

“God, don’t let me submit. Don’t make me submit to anyone, not to those who pressure us, threaten us, or tell us we’ll pay the price”, Davutoğlu told the crowd in Konya.

Besides Davutoğlu’s party, a highly regarded former AKP deputy prime minister, Ali Babacan, is said to be forming a second party with former president Abdullah Gül.

While Davutoğlu’s party will follow an Islamist line, the second party is set to appeal to pro-Western liberals, according to reports.

Commentators have said the two parties stand a good chance of depriving Turkey’s ruling coalition of its parliamentary majority by attracting disaffected AKP deputies.