Turkish former PM Davutoğlu ready to launch new party nationwide

A group of politicians gathered around the Turkish former prime minister, Ahmet Davutoğlu, are ready to launch a new political party in 70 of Turkey’s 81 provinces, a source inside the group told Ahval.

Davutoğlu became prime minister when Recep Tayyip Erdoğan was elected president in 2014, but was later sidelined and resigned from office in 2016. Then, after the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) suffered a string of defeats in local elections in March this year, Davutoğlu became a vocal critic of the party and published a long manifesto on Facebook. 

Speculation has since mounted that Davutoğlu was planning to launch a new political party, but he said last month that making such a move would be a last resort. 

However, a senior figure working with Davutoğlu said the new party had already established headquarters in Istanbul and Ankara and was ready to launch in 70 provinces. Davutoğlu would share a new manifesto with the public next month, said the source who declined to be named.

The source, who is still a member of the AKP, said the ruling party had decided to make wholesale changes to personnel in its provincial organisations after the local polls, but had delayed enacting the changes to prevent ousted members joining new political parties that could be established under the leadership of Davutoğlu and former Deputy Prime Minister Ali Babacan. 

Davutoğlu, foreign minister between 2009 and 2014, will embrace the founding principles of the AKP and its Islamist tradition, and formulate policies that will target not only Turkey, but also the wider Muslim community, the source said. But Davutoğlu, who is also known as teacher due to his academic career, wants changes made to the political system. 

“The teacher wants a few things. First, he wants the president and the head of the party to be different people, and to increase the powers of parliament,” the source said, adding that Davutoğlu also wants the AKP to end its alliance with the far-right Nationalist Movement Party (MHP).

Turkey transitioned from a parliamentary to an executive presidential system after national elections in June 2018. With the required vote for the country’s top position raised to 50 percent plus one under the new system, the AKP entered an electoral coalition with the MHP that Davutoğlu has heavily criticised.

Davutoğlu will share a new manifesto in September to voice his demands as a last effort to reach Erdoğan, the source said. 

“But Erdoğan will never accept these,” the source said. 

Erdoğan last week visited the Bosphorus Global think-tank in Istanbul, the headquarters of a group known as the Pelicanists, who are said to be linked to Erdoğan’s son-in-law, Treasury and Finance Minister Berat Albayrak, and are believed to operate through Sabah newspaper and the government-linked think tank SETA.

A document given the name “the Pelican file” and attributed to the group played a crucial role in 2016 before Davutoğlu’s resignation, listing 27 disagreements between the prime minister and the president and portraying Davutoğlu as a figure undermining the AKP. Erdoğan’s visit to Bosphorus Global made it clear the president was with the Pelicanists, the source said. 

No alliance has been made between Davutoğlu and a group acting with Babacan and former President Abdullah Gül to form another party, but efforts had been made to foster dialogue, the source said. 

Another source close to both initiatives said that each had claimed a 5 percent to 10 percent share of voter support in recent opinion polls. 

“As far as I see it, they (Babacan and Gül) will follow policies with a democratic perspective to attract votes from the secular groups,” the second source said. 

“We see that they are trying to develop urban-centred policies and developing solutions for tradesmen, middle class, and the ongoing economic crises,” the source said. 

Meanwhile, Davutoğlu will appeal to Islamist and conservative voters, he said. 

Davutoğlu’s party “may be particularly effective among the new cadres of Islamists and women. In fact, the AKP increased its votes with such an organisational model and came to power. But in time, the nationalist perspective that spread to the party opened the way for an approach that aims only to preserve the status quo,” the second source said.