Challenges to Turkey’s ruling AKP gaining momentum – Voice of America

Challengers to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan are gaining momentum as public discontent mounts over his authoritarian rule and economic shortcomings, journalist Dorian Jones reported for the Voice of America on Monday.

Erdoğan has been touring AKP strongholds around the country in recent weeks to shore up support in anticipation of the expected challenge from former AKP heavyweights he now calls traitors.

Dissent has grown among former leading figures in the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) in recent months. Two separate political parties are forming under Ahmet Davutoğlu, a former prime minister, and Ali Babacan, a former deputy prime minister who helped steer Turkey’s economy until 2015.

"I hear the AKP politicians are not happy with the situation, and they are starting to make connections with Ali Babacan," Jones quoted former AKP deputy Osman Can as saying. "They see him as offering the only hope."

Babacan announced his plan to launch his party before 2020 in a rare interview this week, in which he said the AKP had strayed from its founding principles by neglecting human rights, the rule of law and economic transparency.

"We have big problems in Turkey and around Turkey. There is a big need for changing many, many things  - constitutionally, legally - and the judiciary institutions. The new party should be part of the change," Can said.

The ruling party faced a serious blow to its rule in this year’s local elections, losing five of the country’s six most populous provinces including Istanbul and the capital city Ankara.

The losses are seen as a sign that the tide is shifting against the AKP, despite the huge advantages it controls through mastery of state institutions and the country’s main media outlets.

"I think people are fed up with Erdogan's style, his polarising of politics … Basically, people in Turkey realise Turkey should not be this polarised, and people realise this polarisation is being used as a political tool," Jones quoted Istanbul Şehir University academic Mesut Yeğen as saying.

However, the politicians planning the new parties have not escaped their share of criticism for the current state of Turkish politics, and Babacan and Davutoğlu will need to explain their silence in recent years when the AKP took an increasingly authoritarian turn, Yeğen said.