Former Turkish deputy prime minister Ali Babacan announced his intentions to form a new party in an interview published on Sept. 10 in Turkish daily Karar. The announcement confirmed months of rumors that spread after his recent resignation from AKP, of which he was a founding member.
Babacan resigned from AKP last July, citing deep differences of heart and mind. He was an active member of the party until 2015 when he publicly warned the government, saying “We spend everything on land and concrete without producing anything”. This was the turning point and a sign of his differences of mind with the party, as soon after this statement he quietly resigned from his post as minister and never spoke again, until now.
In the interview Babacan told Karar that AKP had strayed from its founding principles, is no longer working for the good of the country, economy is in spiral, injustice is still prevalent and that he is still trying to form the best possible team before officially forming the party which should be before the end of the year. He also confirmed the support of former president Abdullah Gül, adding Gül will not formally be a part of the new movement. He said other names will be announced soon but not at the moment.
Babacan asserted that Turkey’s economy needs to emerge from a spiral and lower its risk premium by making use of international liquidity. Judiciary erosion and foreign policy mistakes are partly to blame for economic recession, he said. He also talked about a wide range of topics such as, in his words, the “Kurdish problem”, issues Alawites are facing which have always been a weak spot for conservative politics, he criticized the Istanbul re-elections, journalists losing their jobs because they have opposing views and he spoke of arrests of journalists, NGO members and politicians. And most importantly he talked about a party who is at equal distance to every citizen. All of these combined gives us a pretty clear idea about the stance of the party Babacan will be leading in the near future.
“Values like human rights, freedoms, populist democracy and the rule of law are ones that we always defend and believe in. These principles are not a periodic political preference for us. These are our moral and social life ideals. With AKP we wanted to actualize these principles and had great success for a while. Turkey became a very prestigious country globally. Its influence on international relations increased. Overall quality of life in Turkey improved. After all these achievements, the condition in which Turkey is currently in truly saddens us. When we look at why it is in this condition, the main reason is that it has strayed from the practice of these values and principles.” he said.
Babacan’s resignation from AKP in July came a few weeks after the party’s Istanbul mayoral election loss on June 23rd, which was the heaviest defeat in Erdoğan’s career. It had since been rumored that Babacan intended to launch a new political party along with Gül. As a response to rumors Erdoğan said: “those who leave us now will not be allowed to return”.
When asked if he is a younger face representing more experienced politicans such as Abdullah Gül, Babacan responded: “I met Mr. Gül in the 90’s. He was the one who invited me to politics in 2001. He gave strong support to everything we did for the country. He is an honest politician and a valuable statesman. He contributed to big achievements during his term.Mr. Gül currently does not want out style of work and relationship to be misunderstood. I should say this first, we share the same concerns. He fully supports our efforts. We meet once or twice a month. We benefit from his knowledge and experience. He had previously announced he would now return to active politics after his role as a neutral president as he does not think it’s right.”
About his fallout with AKP, he stated: “It’s nothing personal. If I had cared about personal ailments, I would have left the party in 2003, let alone be in minister positions for 13 years. There is no personal resentment or being offended when it comes to country issues. We are talking about 82 million citizens here. One cannot let personal feelings take over. But there might be values that you care deeply about and seeing them crumpled might disturb you. For example we cared deeply about transparency and ethics in public management and policy making. We worked really hard on problems, we wrote new laws, we looked at global examples and when we could not succeed, it was heartbreaking. This was not the dream. We wanted a very different Turkey. We dreamed of a very different attitude and stance. This was a big disappointment not for me but for the country.”
Who is Ali Babacan?
Born in 1967, Babacan graduated from Ankara College ranking first among his class in 1985. He then attended prestigious Middle East Technical University in Ankara and graduated as valedictorian of his class from the Industrial Engineering department in 1989. Winning the Fulbright Scholarship, Babacan went onto receive his MBA from Kellogg School of Management of Northwestern University in Chicago, with majors in marketing, organizational behavior and international business.
After his studies, Babacan worked two years in a financial consulting firm in Chicago before returning to Istanbul to manage his family owned textile company between 1994 and 2002.
Babacan entered politics in 2001 as a founding member of Justice and Development Party (AKP). He was elected to be a member of parliament in the 2002 elections and appointed Minister of Economy, the youngest member of cabinet in history at age 35. He successfully steered the economic reforms program of his predecessor Kemal Derviş, a multiyear plan backed by multi-billion dollar IMF loans, and during his terms as Minister of Economy Turkish economy saw a period of almost miraculous recovery following two severe crises. The country paid off the IMF debt in full by 2013.
He was the Minister of Economy during the 58th and 59th governments, Minister of Foreign Affairs and EU Chief Negotiator for the 60th. He then served as Deputy Prime Minister in the 61st and 62nd government cabinets. After he criticized the government policies and some AK Party figures implicitly criticized Babacan, implying that he is linked with Islamic scholar Fethullah Gülen, he wasn’t appointed to any ministerial position in the last cabinet. He is married and a father of 3 children.