Former allies of Turkey’s Erdogan plan rival party after Istanbul defeat

Former allies of Turkey's Erdogan plan rival party after Istanbul defeat

Two senior figures in Turkish President’s Tayyip Erdogan’s ruling party are planning to launch a rival political group this year, people familiar with the matter said, a move that could further erode support for the country’s long-time leader on the heels of a stinging electoral defeat in Istanbul.

Behind the breakaway plans are former deputy prime minister Ali Babacan and former president Abdullah Gul, both founding members of Erdogan‘s AK Party (AKP), according to two political advisers.

Sunday’s re-run mayoral election delivered the second loss in recent months for the AK Party (AKP) in Turkey’s largest city, a bitter setback for the president who has ruled for 16 years. It has also emboldened critics within his own party who have for years hinted at plans to form a rival party because of dissatisfaction over Erdogan’s increasing powers over the party and government.

With economic recession, unemployment and inflation hurting Turkish voters and eating into the AKP’s support base, any further erosion – even just a few percentage points of voter support – could be deeply damaging for the party, which already relies on an alliance with nationalists for its parliamentary majority.

“Babacan and Gul will most likely form the party in the fall,” said one of the advisers, who is close to Babacan.

The new party’s policies would mirror the early years of the AKP, the adviser added. When the AKP was launched in 2001, it blended an Islamist-rooted outlook with a pro-Western, democratic and liberate market approach which enjoyed broad popular backing.

The two men have been considering establishing the party for around six months, but the process has been given momentum by the AKP’s loss of Turkey’s main cities in the March 31 municipal elections, said the other adviser, who is familiar with the plans for the new party.

He did not say how the party would be funded but said the preparation so far had included meetings with current AKP parliamentarians, other politicians and academics.