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Erdogan’s ally launches a party against Erdogan

Ali Babacan - a former Foreign Minister, Deputy Prime Minister & Economy Minister - is an old AKP insider; he hopes to appeal to conservative Muslim voters from the AKP as well as urban Turks badly affected by troubled economy and Erdogan's increasing autocratic rule. Will his party, Diva, prove to be the challenger Turkish opposition is waiting for against a formidable Erdogan?

An erstwhile ally of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan launched a new party on Wednesday with a call for a fresh approach to the economy and democratic rights.

Former economy minister Ali Babacan presented his Democracy and Progress Party — whose Turkish initials DEVA mean ‘remedy’ — at a ceremony in the capital Ankara.

“The time has come for democracy, the time has come for progress in Turkey,” he said.

Critics say Erdogan has steadily eroded civil rights during his 16-year rule and worry about the sweeping powers given to the presidency after a constitutional reform.

Babacan, 52, oversaw Turkey’s boom years when the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) first came to power, serving as economy minister from 2002 to 2007.

He later spent two years as foreign minister and was deputy prime minister between 2009 and 2015.

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Babacan resigned from the AKP in July 2019, citing “deep differences” over policy.

But in his 90-minute speech on Wednesday, he did not once mention Erdogan by name.

There were veiled criticisms, with calls for a new constitution that would ensure the separation of powers and democratic freedoms, along with calls for less polarising rhetoric and an end to the political use of religion.

He also highlighted the pressure on the press and young people “who wish to tweet without fear”.

Since resigning from the AKP, Babacan has said he did not support the constitutional changes approved in a 2017 referendum, which replaced Turkey’s parliamentary democracy with an all-powerful presidency.

Experts say Babacan hopes to appeal to conservative Muslim voters from the AKP as well as people concerned about the economy following the 2018 currency crisis.

Another ex-Erdogan ally, former premier Ahmet Davutoglu, launched his Future Party in December. He had fallen out with Erdogan and resigned as prime minister in May 2016.

Erdogan has criticized Babacan, warning against dividing the “ummah” — using the Arabic word for the Muslim community.

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A Metropoll survey published last month put Davutoglu’s party at 1.2 percent of support compared with 0.8 percent for Babacan’s party before it was established.

AFP with inputs from GVS News Desk