Heavy taxes on alcohol ‘unacceptable,’ says ex-AKP heavyweight opposition leader

The leader of the new opposition Democracy and Progress Party (DEVA), Ali Babacan, has criticised the Turkish government’s heavy taxes on alcoholic beverages, warning it causes bootlegging.

Alcohol prices in the country are three times that of neighbouring nations and heavy taxation is leading to smuggling, the former deputy prime minister told Medyascope TV on Wednesday.

The cost of alcohol and tobacco in Turkey has surged by 22.4 percent in June alone, following government tax increases. 

“The taxes on alcoholic beverages are unacceptable,” Babacan said.

Founded in March, DEVA is the second breakaway from the Islamist Justice and Devleopment Party (AKP), nearly a year after the former minister resigned from the AKP. Babacan is lauded for successfully guiding the economy under the AKP until he was sidelined in 2015.

On Wednesday, Babacan also spoke on a series of issues, spanning from the 2013 corruption probe to snap elections.

The DEVA leader called a corruption case in 2013 “a minor coup attempt against the government”, alleging that several ruling party officials and top businessmen had taken part in a money-laundering scheme to bypass U.S. sanctions on Iran.

The probe led to the resignation of three ministers, and Turkish authorities quickly swept the case under the rug as 350 police officers involved with the investigation were removed from duty by a government decree.

Ankara maintains the probe was carried out on the instructions of former AKP ally Fethullah Gülen, who the Turkish government accuses of orchestrating the July 2016 coup attempt.

“I think it’s beneficial to re-examine those files. There needs to be an objective evaluation of the allegations at the time,” Babacan said.

The DEVA leader said there is no need for snap polls ahead of the scheduled 2023 elections.

The two conditions that would necessitate early elections would be the withdrawal of support from AKP’s junior coalition partner, the Nationalist Movement Party, and “social, political and economic conditions”, Babacan said.

“I don’t think there would be snap polls unless the ruling alliance is forced to,” Babacan said.