Ruling party rebel Babacan could end Erdoğan's government

Ali Babacan, the former deputy prime minister and a founder of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), is set to launch a new political movement to rival his former colleagues in the party. His televised interview on Tuesday showed that he has the potential to change the playing field of Turkish politics.

The former ruling party heavyweight, who helped guide the country’s economic policy until he was sidelined in 2015, is certainly no revolutionary. But if you believe that the reason behind Turkey's current problems is Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and his AKP, then Babacan's movement is one to be reckoned with.

Babacan is not only a political figure with the potential to end the Erdoğan era, but also someone who can dissuade Turkey from withdrawing into itself.

It is vital for conservatives, secular Alevis, Kurds and Turks who believe that the country must reconcile with the world, particularly with Europe and the West, to come together. This movement should be taken seriously by any who see the importance of ending AKP rule and bringing back a powerful and functional parliamentary system.

During his interview with HaberTürk on Tuesday, Babacan discussed what he saw as Turkey’s most pressing political needs: The separation of powers, an independent judiciary that evokes trust and respect, a strong economy, a return from a one-man regime to a parliamentary system, and the embrace of European Union ideals.

Turkey has been going through a nightmare period in which it has strayed from each of these principles. All those who value these principles and human rights must come together to end this ordeal. However, the contradictions in the country's political system make this difficult, especially the Kurdish question.

Kurds make up Turkey’s largest ethnic minority, and many of them support the political movement that aims to secure minority rights and a degree of autonomy. But Turkey’s mainstream parties, including the main opposition coalition, are heavily influenced by nationalist ideologies that see this movement as inimical to Turkish interests.

The truth is that the Republican People's Party (CHP), the main political group representing Turkey’s secular opposition, is an extension of the state and is being directed by shadowy groups within the state.

It is possible to see the fingerprints of the deep state – covert circles that wield great influence over the political authority – in the top cadres of the CHP. The issues that MPs discuss and how they talk are determined by these power centres.

It is almost impossible for the CHP to turn into a civil party. As a regime-founding party whose initial organisation precedes the founding of the republic in 1923, the CHP will always stay within the red lines of the state, regardless of who is in power.

Thus, even if the AKP falls and the CHP comes to power, it will not solve Turkey's largest problems. It will only change the names of those who profit from the system.

Of course, the CHP's voter base is not the same as the party itself. When the party’s candidate won the latest local elections in Istanbul, it delivered a huge personal blow to Erdoğan, who rose to prominence as the city’s mayor between 1994 and 1998.

This showed that the party's base was mature enough to engage with everyone, including the Kurds, based on democratic principles. The opposition’s victories came in large part thanks to support from the pro-Kurdish Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP), which was only possible by virtue of the CHP base.

However, the current structure of Turkish politics does not allow for lasting changes that would make the CHP more inclusive. Babacan's statement that the solution of Turkey’s economic problems lies in changes to the country’s political parties acknowledged this reality.

Yet the current situation in Turkey is a source of hope as well as pessimism. In a country whose politics, law, economy, morality, institutions and rules have collapsed, there is an opportunity to rebuild these institutions from scratch on firmer grounds.

During the interview, Babacan showed that he was a politician who could make good use of this opportunity. He spoke clearly and systematically, and showed the importance he attributes to the party, its bodies and rules.

Extricating Turkey from its current dark period requires a firm focus on democracy, the rule of law, the separation of powers, the fight against corruption and the reconstruction of the country’s shattered institutions. Turkey must also turn back to the West, though it is essential not to sever ties with the East in the meantime.

This is a time when we must support people who stand against Erdoğan in a principled manner. Babacan showed that he has the potential to pioneer such a movement by emphasising the rules rather than his own personality.
The opinions expressed in this column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Ahval.