Babacan loses key ally Gül as he forms new Turkish political party

Turkish former Deputy Prime Minister Ali Babacan is establishing a new political party in Turkey without the backing of key ally ex-President Abdullah Gül after a fallout at the weekend.

Babacan is forming the party on Wednesday, but a decision to proceed without Gül and his political heavyweights, who were intimately involved in planning, potentially weakens the initiative considerable, sources involved in the movement told Ahval.

Arguments over tactics led to the split between Babacan and Gül, the sources said. Babacan wanted to draw recruits from the opposition Republican People’s Party and Good Party, but Gül and his allies objected strongly during discussions, saying the movement should focus on securing defections from the governing Justice and Development Party (AKP), according to the sources.

Gül is extremely angered and frustrated by the arguments and Babacan’s ensuing decision to proceed regardless, the sources said. The split may be good news for Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, who has been battling rising public opposition to his rule that led him to lose control of Turkey’s three largest cities in local elections last year.

Among figures missing from the party’s list of founders were Gül loyalists, such as former Deputy Prime Minister Beşir Atalay, Namik Tan, who served as Turkish ambassador to the United States, and Osman Can, a prominent former Constitutional Court rapporteur, according to an official list seen by Ahval.

The founders include Birol Aydemir, known as Babacan’s closest confidant in the new group. Aydemir served as head of the Turkish Statistical Institute between 2011 and 2016. Other key figures were ex-Justice Minister Sadullah Ergin, former Treasury Undersecretary İbrahim Çanakçı, ex-Industry Minister Nihat Ergün and İdris Şahin, a former justice minister.

Babacan, who resigned from Erdoğan’s ruling party last August, told Fox TV he was applying to establish his long-awaited political party on Monday and formally launch it on Wednesday.

Babacan won plaudits for guiding the economy under the AKP until he was sidelined in 2015. He told Fox TV on Monday that the country needed a “full reset” after two decades of Erdoğan’s rule, citing economic mismanagement and a democratic decline.

The former deputy prime minister was one of several former AKP heavyweights who rebelled against Erdoğan last year, expressing their dismay at his government’s authoritarian and intolerant style. Another, former prime minister, Ahmet Davutoğlu, quit the AKP to establish the Future Party in December.