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Former Turkish minister resigns from AKP over 'deep differences' with leadership

Ali Babacan, former economy tzar, said there was a need for a 'brand new vision' for Turkey amid rumours of new party launch
Babacan, then deputy prime minister in charge of the economy, arrives for a G20 press conference in Washington, DC in April 2015 (AFP)

Turkey’s former economy tzar, credited with triggering the country's economic boom in the 2000s, has resigned from the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), saying the party no longer shared his values.

Ali Babacan, a former economy minister and deputy prime minister, made his announcement on Monday in the wake of the AKP defeat in Istanbul's presidential election.

“In recent years, [government] implementations in some areas created deep differences with my principles, values and thoughts,” Babacan said in a press release.

“I had a mental and emotional disassociation [with the party]. There is a need for a brand new vision for Turkey. It is imperative to start a new endeavour for Turkey’s today and tomorrow.”

Rumours had long been circulating about Babacan's possible resignation, particularly since local elections on 31 March in which the government of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan was defeated in major cities including Ankara and Antalya.

Fears over a double-dip recession and a weak Turkish lira have emboldened AKP dissidents such as Babacan, who has been praised for steering Turkey through IMF-backed reforms in the 2000s, to speaking publicly following several economic crises in the country.

Babacan added: "We need to work together and aim to have common sense. We need to begin working on every issue with a blank page.

"This is why it is impossible to maintain my founding membership of AKP - human rights, freedoms, and rule of law are our indispensable principles."

Sources close to the party told Middle East Eye earlier this month that Babacan was moving ahead with former Turkish President Abdullah Gul to forge a new political bloc.

Instead of establishing a new party under his leadership, Gul would support Babacan as his candidate for the next presidential elections. Former Justice Minister Sadullah Ergin and some of their disgruntled AKP officials also work with Babacan.

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Babacan also reportedly attempted to rope in former prime minister Ahmet Davutoglu, who released a scathing statement on government policies in May.

However, individuals familiar with the negotiations said that Gul did not want Davutoglu on board.

“Babacan has been meeting with different sets of politicians across the political spectrum, including business people and foreign investors. He has been readying himself for a while,” a source told MEE.

“He is against the leadership cult in a party. So he wants to create a party based on collective leadership.”

Sources believe Babacan will establish his new political party later this year in the autumn.

Several sources said Erdogan and Babacan met earlier this year where Babacan made clear to the president that he wasn’t happy about the current policies of the government, including the recent economic steps.

“You could stay with us and correct them if you want,” Erdogan told Babacan, according to a source.

But Babacan declined and said he would resign from the party and wanted to inform the president first.