Turkish ruling party renegades consider presidential bid - columnist

Disgruntled former senior officials in Turkey’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) are considering running erstwhile deputy prime minister Ali Babacan as their candidate in the 2019 presidential race, a former aide to ex-president Abdullah Gül wrote on Thursday.

Turkey is gearing up towards parliamentary and presidential elections next year at which President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan is facing a narrowed majority in opinion polls and apparent splits in the AKP, which has ruled the country since 2002.

“Abdullah (Gül) is now knowingly taking all of the flack himself,” Ahmet Takan quoted a source in Gül’s Istanbul office as saying. “He is preparing Ali Babacan for the presidency.”

The 50-year-old Babacan was long the darling of foreign investors in Turkey before being shuffled out of the cabinet in 2015. However, he came back to the limelight in November 2017 when Iranian-Turkish gold dealer Reza Zarrab told a New York court that Babacan had ordered him to increase the scale and scope of a scheme to undermine U.S. sanctions on Iran in 2013.

Takan also named Cüneyd Zapsu, a businessman and former AKP central committee member, as working closely with Babacan.

Ahmet Davutoğlu, prime minister from 2014 and 2016, has also become more politically active since being sidelined by Erdoğan, Takan said.

“Ahmet Davutoğlu has also come onto the pitch: he has hired a working office in Istanbul, increased the frequency of his visits to Hacı Bayram (a mosque favoured by influential Islamists) in Ankara and is taking the pulse!” he said.