Splinter parties could detract power from Erdoğan’s ruling AKP – report

Political parties splintered from Turkey’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) could be “game changers” if they took away even a small fraction of AKP’s voter base, said a political expert for the German Institute for International and Security Affairs (SWP).

Former Deputy Prime Minis­ter Ali Babacan and former Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu, both previous senior AKP officials, will use their new parties to compete for the slowly growing “elec­torate that has been disappointed by the AKP”, wrote Dr. Salim Çevik, associate at the Centre for Applied Turkish Studies at SWP.

Babacan’s centre-right Democracy and Progress Party (DEVA), announced on March 11, runs on a platform of technocratic governance with focus on economic management. Davutoğlu’s conservative Future Party, formed in December, is more “ideologically oriented” and aims at more conservative voters, “focusing on the moral shortcomings of the current regime”, according to Çevik.

The analyst said the potential success of the DEVA and the Future Party lies where other opposition groups have failed as they can draw more support from disillusioned AKP supporters due to their conservative-leanings.

“Such voters can oppose (President Recep Tayyip) Erdoğan and defect from the AKP without leaving the conservative camp.” Çevik said. “Sensing the gravity of the threat, Erdoğan is heavily attacking both parties.”

The leader of Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP), Kemal Kılıçdardoğlu, on Thursday said that the CHP would be willing to provide support by way of deputies for DEVA and Future Party should they wish to form a group to enter parliament ahead of the next elections.

Erdoğan’s approval ratings have fallen during a deteriorating economic crisis triggered by the global COVID-19 pandemic, Turkish interventions in northern Syria and Libya and the huge influx of refugees in Turkey.

“Although Erdoğan seems to have received an initial boost of support following the outbreak of the disease, this is more of a global pattern and it is uncertain as to how long this will last,” Çevik stated.

Moreover, un­decided voters now constitute one of the largest voting blocs in a country that the expert says is deeply divided into two almost equal-sized camps between Erdoğan supporters and his dissidents.

Davutoğlu’s strategy to snag support has better chances in the short term, Çevik said, adding however that Babacan is poised for a long game.

“Babacan is remembered as the steward of a successful economic pro­gram, a legacy that becomes ever more pre­cious in the current economic crisis, which he argues is due to deviation from his policies,” he said.

Davutoğlu’s substantial role in increasing Ankara’s involvement in the Middle East, particularly in Syria, and the strife in Turkey’s Kurdish-majority provinces following AKP’s electoral defeat in June 2015 could repel AKP voters away from the Future Party and into Babacan’s camp.