And Babacan starts his new political party…

In the statement that Ali Babacan made today, he has made it clear that by saying “we have begun working with our friends”, that he has started to form his new party. Ruşen Çakır analyses Babacan’s latest statement and evaluates the chances that the new party has.

Broadcast date: 8 August 2019
Click CC in the bottom right corner for English subtitles

Translation: Melissa Clissold / Subtitles: Egemen Gök

Hello, good day. Today I had a conversation with someone I know from Ali Babacan’s team and I told them that they need to start talking to the media, and of course to Medyascope. Because Ahmet Davutoğlu has himself started to talk and members of his team have also begun speaking. Yesterday I did a broadcast with AKP’s former Istanbul provincial head Selim Temurci, Fırat Fıstık did a broadcast with Selçuk Özdağ, and other media organs – especially on social media – are talking to people from Davutoğlu’s team. Now I believe that Babacan and his team also need to start talking. I said this, and he told me to wait a bit and afterwards Ali Babacan’s statement appeared – a single page explanation. Ali Babacan has now announced that they have begun to form their new party. He does not say “party”, but he says: 

“We believe that in order to overcome the problems that Turkey is facing, we have started working together with our friends on extremely important issues.”

In the last few days, it was rumoured that Davutoğlu and Babacan had given up on forming new parties; there were speculations that they were leaning towards giving up. This didn’t seem realistic to me to be honest; especially Davutoğlu, after the President visited Bosphorus Global, which is identified with Pelikan, there was no possibility that Davutoğlu could stay in the Justice and Development Party (AKP). And it didn’t seem that there were many reasons for Ali Babacan to give up either – plus we know that he is supported by Abdullah Gül and that a lot of people who have carried out high-ranking roles in different periods of the AKP are working together with him; but still the speculations came about, and maybe with the disturbance that these speculations caused, Ali Babacan decided to make a statement. He had made his latest statement on July 8; so, he made this new explanation a month afterwards. 

I believe that this one-page statement has a certain meaning to it. Especially, despite the fact that it is a short statement, we can see that certain concepts have been chosen specifically. First of all, he talks about participation, pluralism and shared wisdom. These were concepts that were discussed a lot within the fractions that were alienated within the AKP after Erdoğan held the powers of the AKP and the government solely in his hands. So, this is a dialogue against the one-man management…these are important aspects, these have been stressed specifically. Another aspect is of course the final paragraph which is one sentence, towards the end, we see the fundamental arguments there: aiming towards high standards with regards to human rights and freedoms – and this is one of the most important concepts that has come up from the one-man AKP era onwards.

Turkey is very seriously taking steps backwards every day when it comes to human rights and freedoms. He has stated “to work towards advanced democracy.” We know that Turkey has stopped being a democratic country for a very long time. We also know that the ruling powers have stopped talking about “advanced democracy.” There is a stress here on working towards advanced democracy. “To defend the principle of the superiority of law in an uncompromising manner” – again one of the most fundamental aspects of the latest period is that Turkey has truly distanced itself from being a state of law. The judiciary and the operations – the operations are Erdoğan himself – are somewhat extensions of the ruling powers. Another aspect – it is of course the most expected aspect from Babacan – he says “to apply an economic policy that takes reputable institutions and rules as a basis.”

The most fundamental institution here is probably the Central Bank; if we remember the fact that the head of the Central Bank was removed from his position, we can see that he stresses this point clearly. “To put forward strong will in order to protect the environment” – and this is a popular topic in the latest days: Mount Ida – and not just Mount Ida; there is Hasankeyf, other places too, Munzur as well. There are very serious complaints regarding the environment coming from all across Turkey. We can see that the public do not want “investments” in certain public or private areas that have been given permission by the government.

I think that it is meaningful that Babacan has put this in his statement. And here he states that “all of these have become very important once more for our country.” The reason why this statement is important is because they are embracing a certain period of the AKP, but are claiming that they have steered off course after a certain period. There is a discussion regarding returning back to a superiority of law, fundamental rights and freedoms, advanced democracy and environment. Of course, the most important aspect of the sentence “We want our society to be free, prosperous and where people live together in happiness and peace” is the stress on peace; there is no other reference. But there is no direct reference to polarisation in Turkey or to the Kurdish problem; but it may be necessary to evaluate peace in these terms. There are special emphasises on young people etc…

Now this party – he does not say party but we now know that it will be a party – will be formed with the principle of participation and Ali Babacan said:

“After the explanation I made last month, a lot of citizens have declared the fact that they want to contribute to this process.”

It’s interesting, I gave a broadcast here on the “Details of Babacan’s party”, there may some who remember. After that broadcast a lot of people, certain viewers, different people generally from well-educated, middle-high class backgrounds sent me messages. They stated that they want to “work together with this party” yet “we don’t know how to reach them.” I’ve seen it with my own eyes, they probably have received quite a few applications. He states that “We aim to create a large team that has authority in the shortest amount of time.”

As far as I know, the impression I get from those people that I have talked with from within the party is that they won’t be waiting much longer and that after Eid there will be a lot going on. They may form this party in September-October. There is still a lot of discretion regarding the names; but we know this: those who are past members of the AKP are almost certain, but who will be the new people within these parties? Or who will they be able to draw towards them who do not have a past in AKP – there is a stress on people being from all walks of society. 

This is going to be a very important aspect. On one side we see Babacan, who has he taken with him from the AKP? The names we know are Sadullah Ergin, Nihan Ergün, Beşir Atalay, we strongly predict that Mehmet Şimşek will be there too; but these names do not create any sort of excitement alone; of course, Abdullah Gül exists too. Even if he is not the party founder, he will somewhat be the sponsor. But who are the new people who have just entered politics or have been involved in politics elsewhere, those people who are defined as being at “zero kilometres”. This sparks a lot of curiosity. Because this party is claiming to be a centre, popular party. 

One time during the Welfare Party (RP) period, there was a concept that was debated a lot – the author of this concept was Tanıl Bora: “a popular party with an ideological backbone.” Meaning, the RP, especially during that time, wanted to maintain its ideological backbone but turn into a popular party through the innovative leader Tayyip Erdoğan and his friends. Even if this happened later than wanted, it somewhat happened for the AKP. It protected its ideological backbone but it became a popular party, it brought together people from different backgrounds. 

But afterwards there was no longer any spine or mass popularity; the party is under one-man management, it has the image of a single leader of a sort of family company who does not want to share his power with anyone. Now I see that there is no claim to an ideological backbone here. Especially when they are faced with the question of whether or not they will be working together with Ahmet Davutoğlu, there is a sort of avoidance of the issue, for personal reasons. But also, because Davutoğlu has a very Islamic or neo-Ottoman image. They don’t want these kinds of images; from what I understand they want to create a more popularist party that does not have severe ideological engagements – it would be wrong to say apolitical. But of course, their AKP past won’t leave them easily, they will carry its shadow. And in order to rid themselves of that shadow, they need to find new people.

The most asked question is this: Will this party be successful? When we look at it today, we spoke a little with Hakkı Özdal a moment ago – he does the programme “Two Lines” (İki Satır) here with Bahadır Özgür, he is a writer for Gazete Duvar – we had an opportunity to discuss this at length. There is an aspect that we agree upon: March 31 and June 23 elections showed us there is a serious need for change amongst society. And a lot of the big cities – especially those in the west – passed on to the People’s Republican Party (CHP) in a crushing manner. The CHP either protected its position in places such as İzmir or it managed to gain new places such as Adana Mersin, Istanbul and Ankara. 

This was actually a manifestation of the voters’ need for change within society.  Yet during the time that has passed, we have not seen that the CHP has made a lot of initiatives to meet the needs for this change. Ok this may be the lethargy of summer, or whatever, it could be anything; but we can’t truly say that the CHP or the Good Party (İYİ party) – they just carried out their congress – have met these needs. I believe that they are quite behind in terms of granting the requests of the fractions that want change. Will this movement meet this need? I’m not sure, but in some ways there are some people who are tired of the government but do not believe that the opposition parties truly represent them; this may have some sort of appeal.  

Firstly, I think that it’ll bite off quite a lot from the AKP. Not because of these people; of course, these names will have an impact but not just because of them. In public opinion research polls, we see that the biggest complaints lie in the economy. And the fact that Ali Babacan appears as leading this movement – or because he is seen as the chairman – this will provide a very serious advantage to the new party. This sort of claim, will bring about an expectation that at least “They’ll be able to solve economic problems.” But another aspect – and this was formed again during our conversation with Hakkı – is that this party may become the second party of choice for those who identify with this or that party or people who identify with the AKP, CHP, People’s Democratic Party, in fact even the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), the İYİ Party, and perhaps even the Felicity Party (SP) – one should not underestimate this.

Today the CHP, still does not manage to be the second party of choice for many people. Those who vote for the CHP usually do so anyway or vote for another party on the left of the CHP, but those on the right tend not to vote for the CHP. Only recently, they overcame this in the latest elections with Ekrem İmamoğlu. But if this movement, under the leadership of Ali Babacan manages to bring together people from different backgrounds, from Kurds, from the centre-left, from Alevis, and even Islamists, names that have not been stained – that is important – I’m not sure that they’ll manage to do this – they may be the second party of choice for many people.  

In certain circumstances this is also important: There may not necessarily be representatives from those fractions, but if they state that they will be able to meet their needs in a genuine and convincing manner, that may also work. You may want to solve the Kurt problem in a genuine manner without Kurds; you may want a long-term, peaceful and sustainable solution. And usually for these sorts of problems to be solved, it takes people who are not from those backgrounds to believe and contribute towards it – of course they ask for these rights, and they struggle for these rights too. 

Therefore, the greatest need for Alevis or Kurds in Turkey, are for them to work together with people and form partnerships with people who are not Kurdish or Alevi. Turkey keeps coming to a deadlock because of this. It is for this reason that the initiatives that Erdoğan had made with regards to the Alevis, Romas, Kurds created such an excitement. Of course, a huge disappointment occurred when those initiatives came to an end, and due to those disappointments people are now those who were once bitten are twice shy. If this party truly involves people from other fractions, from minorities such as Alevis or Kurds for example, and women – who have been left behind by the ruling powers – if they can talk about their rights and their expectations, they may be the second party of choice. 

Therefore, the timing of this party, considering the economic, political conditions in Turkey – which are in deep crisis – is actually spot on. But whether or not they will succeed or not is another question. And as journalists we will try to follow this as closely as possible and give the correct answers. But we now see that it has begun, the genie has left the bottle. Erdoğan does not have the possibility to put the genie back in the bottle. Did he want? That is another issue and we must stress that this is going to be pretty difficult for Erdoğan.

Because the goals that are mentioned here are all goals that Erdoğan also agrees with in principle but he cannot bring them to life. Rights and freedoms, advanced democracy, the superiority of law, an economy that is managed in line with reputable institutions and rules, protection of the environment etc…The government has literally failed in class when it comes to these issues. Therefore, things are tough for Erdoğan; I believe that the path for the party that Babacan is forming, planning to form, is in the process of forming is pretty open, maybe not forever, but at least for a while. 

Yes, that’s all I have to say, have a good day.

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