Ex-Turkish deputy PM forms new party to challenge Erdogan

Ali Babacan

FILE – In this March 1, 2020 file photo, Ali Babacan attends funerals for a Turkish soldier killed in Syria, in Ankara, Turkey. Babacan, who held various high level government positions between 2002-2015, established a new political party on Monday March 9, 2020, the second former ally of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to breakaway from the ruling party and form a new movement to challenge his rule.(AP Photo/Burhan Ozbilici, File)

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ANKARA, Turkey (AP) — A one-time Turkish deputy prime minister established a new political party on Monday — the second former ally of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to break away from the ruling party and form a new movement to challenge his rule.

Ali Babacan, who held the positions of deputy premier, economy minister and foreign minister under various ruling party governments between 2002-2015, formally registered his party with Turkey’s Interior Ministry, the state-run Anadolu Agency.

The move comes months after former Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu established a similar splinter party last year.

Both politicians, who were once among Erdogan’s closest allies, have criticized a new presidential system that came into effect in 2018, abolished the office of the prime minister and vastly increased Erdogan’s powers. Both men have advocated a return to a parliamentary system and reverse Turkey’s democratic backsliding.

The two breakaway parties could potentially chip away at Erdogan’s support base, encumbering his chances of re-election in the 2023 presidential election.

Erdogan, who has been in power for 17 years, was reelected in 2018 with the backing of a nationalist party. The president’s party lost control of the cities of Ankara and Istanbul in local elections last year.

In an interview with Turkey’s Fox TV early on Monday, Babacan cited restoring media freedoms and the independence of Turkey’s court’s among his party’s priorities.

“We need to establish a Turkey that sits of the foundations of universal values,” Babacan said. “It is not possible for Turkey to achieve prosperity with the current style of politics.”

Babacan has said he would announce the long-awaited party’s name at a news conference on Wednesday. Media reports have said the party would be known as DEVA, which translate as “cure” or “remedy.”

Babacan has the support of former President Abdullah Gul and other ministers who have broken away from Erdogan’s Justice and Development, or AK Party, in the past few years.

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