Former Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Ali Babacan has said he is planning to form a “mainstream” political party by the end of the year to challenge President Recep Tayyip Erdogan‘s ruling Justice and Development (AK) Party.
The 52-year-old made the comments on Tuesday to broadcaster HaberTurk, in his first live interview since leaving the AK Party in July, citing “deep differences”.
“The calendar [for the launch] is the end of the year,” he said, adding that the still-unnamed party would appeal to a wide cross-section of the population.
“It will be a mainstream political movement,” he said.
A founding member of the party that has ruled Turkey since 2002, Babacan first served as economy and then foreign minister before becoming deputy prime minister, a role he held from 2009 to 2015.
Following a failed military coup in 2016, the government carried out purges and detentions targeting members of the civil service, the judiciary, the military and academia that critics say undermine the rule of law and democratic freedoms.
Turkey accuses Fethullah Gulen, a religious leader who lives in exile in the US, and his group of orchestrating the coup attempt which killed approximately 300 people.
The government says the subsequent purges and detentions are aimed at removing Gulen supporters from state institutions and other parts of society.
After an election victory last year, Erdogan also assumed new powers under a constitutional overhaul backed by a narrow majority at a 2017 referendum.
“We have seen that Turkey has entered a dark tunnel, with its problems on every issue growing by the day,” Babacan told HaberTurk. “Consequently, we have begun our efforts to create a new party,” he said.
Babacan largely refrained from directly criticising Erdogan, but repeatedly said that a lack of democracy under “one-man rule” damaged the country.
“There were important principles and values during the foundation of the AK Party, but there has been a significant departure from these principles. This has become a national issue, and we felt a serious responsibility towards our country.”
Babacan, along with Turkey’s former President Abdullah Gul -another founding member of the AK Party and a one-time Erdogan ally – has long been rumoured to be planning a rival party.
Babacan said Gul would not be actively involved in the party, but was working as an adviser or “older brother”.
Former Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu also fell out with Erdogan in 2016 and criticised the AK Party’s economic policy, but Babacan ruled out that he would join the new party.