Turkish former finance minister, Ali Babacan, to leave ruling party - Cumhuriyet

The Turkish former finance minister, Ali Babacan, widely credited for guiding the country out of economic crisis in first decade of the millennium is to leave the ruling party, Cumhuriyet newspaper on Wednesday quoted President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan as saying, strengthening speculation that he might found a new party led by senior figures sidelined from power.

Erdoğan and his Justice and Development Party (AKP) lost mayoral elections in five of the six most populous cities, including Istanbul and Ankara, in local polls on March 31 and a rerun of the Istanbul vote on Sunday only extended the opposition margin of victory. 

The defeat has led to increased talk of splits within the AKP between Erdoğan loyalists and old guard party figures who in many cases helped found the party, but who have since been pushed aside as the president has concentrated ever more power in his own hands.

Multiple media reports suggest Babacan is working with another former senior AKP member, the former president, Abdullah Gül, to establish a new centrist liberal party. The reports say Ahmet Davutoğlu, another former senior AKP figure and ex-prime minister, is also leading another initiative after he published a long manifesto on Facebook criticising Erdoğan’s policies.

Babacan headed an experienced economic team that successfully completed a $10 billion standby agreement with the International Monetary Fund in 2008 and has close relations with international financial circles. He was later sidelined by Erdoğan as he opposed the president’s unorthodox economic policies.

Cumhuriyet said that in the meeting with top AKP officials, Erdoğan listed the names of those he said had stabbed the party in the back.

Journalist Kemal Öztürk, the former head of the state-run Anadolu news agency, said on Tuesday that Babacan would announce his decision to cut ties with the AKP within 10 days.

“This is a serious move, a serious breakthrough. It is a breakthrough that will affect the AKP directly,” Öztürk said.  

Columnist Fatih Altaylı said on the Habertürk news site on Wednesday that Babacan had been organising periodic meetings with businessmen and foreign investors for some time. 

Altaylı also said that Babacan and Gül were not planning to form a parliamentary party with members of parliament who would resign from the AKP as they did not want their initiative to be seen as a splinter movement.