Ex-Turkish prime minister forms party challenging Erdogan

International

ANKARA, Turkey (AP) — A former Turkish prime minister established a new political party on Thursday, in a move that represents a challenge to President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s ruling party.

Ahmet Davutoglu submitted a formal application to register his breakaway “Future Party” with the Interior Ministry, Cumhuriyet newspaper and other media reported. He is scheduled to announce the party’s creation at a news conference on Friday.

The party is the first of two splinter parties to be founded by former Erdogan allies amid reports of discontent within the ruling party over his authoritarian style of governing. Ali Babacan, a former deputy prime minister, foreign minister and economy minister, has also announced plans for a new party.

The emergence of parties led by Erdogan allies-turned-rivals comes as Erdogan’s government grapples with an economic downturn and high unemployment. His ruling Justice and Development Party, known as the AK Party, lost control of the key cities of Istanbul and Ankara in municipal elections this year.

The two new breakaway parties could attract support of disaffected AK Party voters. Opinion polls conducted before Davutoglu’s party was formed suggested that it has 3.4% popular support while Babacan has nearly 8%, according to media reports.

In an apparent sign of concern within the AK Party, Erdogan last week accused Davutoglu, Babacan and other former allies of defrauding state-owned bank, Halkbank, by allocating loans toward the establishment of Istanbul’s Sehir University, which was founded by Davutoglu.

Davutoglu hit back, calling on parliament to launch investigations into the wealth of Erdogan, his family members as well as current and past high-ranking officials, including himself.

Davutoglu resigned from the AK Party in September, days after the ruling party began proceedings to expel him from the party for breach of discipline after he issued a manifesto critical of Erdogan’s policies.

The politician had served as foreign minister between 2009 and 2014 and later as prime minister until 2016, when he was sacked by Erdogan and replaced by Binali Yildirim, reportedly over his reluctance to support Erdogan’s efforts to increase the powers of the president. Turkey switched to a system that vastly expanded the president’s powers following a referendum in 2017.

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