Former Erdoğan ally Babacan aims for ‘full reset’ in Turkey with new party

Ali Babacan, the Turkish former deputy prime minister who resigned from President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s ruling party last August, told Fox TV he would apply to establish his long-awaited new political party on Monday and formally launch it on Wednesday.

Babacan, who won plaudits for guiding the economy under the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) until he was sidelined in 2015, told Fox TV presenter İsmail Küçükkaya that Turkey needed a “full reset” after 20 years of Erdoğan’s rule.

“The country needs to completely start anew. In its time, the AKP was the fresh start,” the former deputy prime minister said. “I served well for years, but 20 years has passed, the world has changed, Turkey has changed. The party has drifted far from its founding principles.”

When the AKP’s founding members, including Babacan, set up the party in 2001, Turkey was in turmoil from a decade of fragile coalition governments that had presided over heavy fighting with Kurdish militants throughout the 1990s, deepening social rifts between secularists and Islamists, and a banking crisis that struck in February 2001.

The party won the general election in 2002, benefiting from the country’s high electoral threshold to win a large majority in parliament. The economy boomed over the first decade the AKP spent in power, and it was held up by some as a model for Muslim democracies.

But Babacan told Küçükkaya that the party had abandoned the liberal values that brought it its early success and that voters were only sticking with it out of fear that the alternative could be worse.

“We want a country in which people are able to breathe freely and without fear,” he said. “We need freedom. People aren’t able to talk about problems in Turkey. It isn’t just that journalists are in prison, some are in solitary confinement.”

The former deputy prime minister was one of several former AKP heavyweights who rebelled against the president last year, expressing their dismay at the government’s authoritarian and intolerant style. Another, former prime minister, Ahmet Davutoğlu, quit the party in September to establish the Future Party in December.