Former Minister Babacan quits ruling party in blow to Erdogan

Former Minister Babacan quits ruling party in blow to Erdogan

ANKARA: Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Monday felt the first major political aftershock of his ruling party’s defeat in last month’s Istanbul election re-run with the resignation of the former deputy prime minister, Ali Babacan.

The politician’s decision to quit the Justice and Development Party (AKP) and launch a breakaway movement, confirmed predictions of growing divides within the government following the opposition’s victory in the June 23 vote.

In a written public statement, Babacan said: “It has become inevitable to start a new effort for Turkey’s present and future. It is necessary to begin by opening new pages in all fields.”

The 52-year-old former economic “star” of the Turkish government until 2015, was one of the founders of the AKP, and had strong support at home and abroad during his time responsible for the country’s economy.

Dozens of parliamentarians are now rumored to be preparing to resign from the AKP to join the new political movement. The party will reportedly have the support of Abdullah Gul, who was president of Turkey from 2007 until 2014.

“It is striking that Ali Babacan’s resignation from the AKP came on the same morning as another heavy downslide of the Turkish lira linked to the sacking of the Central Bank governor on Saturday due to divergences on the interest rates policy,” Marc Pierini, a visiting scholar at Carnegie Europe, told Arab News.

As an EU ambassador to Turkey, Pierini had multiple interactions with Babacan, and now as a private analyst of Turkey is often in touch with financial circles in the EU and the US.

“The reality, then and now, is that Babacan’s credibility on the world economic and financial stage is unsurpassed,” Pierini said. By contrast, he added, the endless repetition of misguided theories about “low interest rates bringing low inflation” was sinking the Turkish lira yet again.

“At the same time, it is demonstrating that a one-man-rule system in a country with so much international exposure as Turkey — trade, investment, finance, education, and culture — does not work. In other words, a system in which rule of law has disappeared and dissenting voices are not tolerated, cannot lead Turkey to the path of stability and prosperity,” he noted.

Pierini said recent elections in the country, which had resulted in big city municipalities now being governed by opposition candidates, were signs of a profound call for change coming from within Turkey.

It has become inevitable to start a new effort for Turkey’s present and future. It is necessary to begin by opening new pages in all fields.

Ali Babacan, Former deputy prime minister

Having received a bachelor’s degree in industrial engineering, Babacan was awarded a Fulbright scholarship in 1990 and attended the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois, where he gained a master’s degree in marketing, organizational behavior and international business.

He also worked at a Chicago-based company in financial consulting services, before returning to the Turkish capital Ankara.

Karol Wasilewski, an analyst at the Warsaw-based Polish Institute of International Affairs, said Babacan’s party had a chance of succeeding because Erdogan’s leadership had never been fully tested.

“Yet, it doesn’t mean that we can take Babacan’s success for granted as he will have to overcome a challenge connected to his lack of political charisma, and I think for the Turkish electorate this may still be more important than his economic achievements,” he told Arab News.

And analysts say it would be premature to suggest that Babacan could replace Erdogan in the country’s 2023 presidential elections.

“His (Babacan’s) political formation has a chance to take over some conservative voters, assuming Turkish economic troubles continue in the near future. Thus, if we define success in such terms, then yes, he has a chance to succeed,” Wasilewski said.

“I assume Erdogan will try to block him from establishing the new party. We will have to wait for Babacan’s words to become a reality,” he added.

Ankara’s chief public prosecutor recently ruled out a complaint by a former treasury civil servant accusing Babacan of “terrorism” for intentionally supporting the Gulen movement. The prosecutor decided that there was no evidence to warrant an investigation.

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