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Babacan's new party vows Turks can tweet without fear of arrest

The former economy tsar pledged to carry out much-needed fiscal reforms, and better relations with allies
“We will realise the so-called fiscal rule that [some] didn’t allow us to do,” Babacan vowed (MEE/DEVA handout)
By Ragip Soylu in Ankara

A former top official from President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's government on Wednesday unveiled his much-anticipated new political party, DEVA, with a programme centred upon fiscal reforms and social freedoms.

Ali Babacan, a former Turkish deputy prime minister who broke ranks with Erdogan last year, presented his Democracy and Progress Party - whose Turkish initials DEVA mean 'remedy' - as a liberal democratic and pro-Western political organisation in his launch speech addressed to supporters and founders of the party in Ankara.   

“The rule of law in our country is always crumpled, justice is wounded,” Babacan said. “Our democracy is weak. Our people cannot raise their voice no matter how high they shout.”

Babacan also unveiled a 132-page-long party programme, which mostly focuses on the restoration of fundamental rights and freedoms, including the press freedom, and education in mother tongues, a central demand by the Kurdish nationalist movement in Turkey.

DEVA's programme also included a call to return to a parliamentary democracy from the current executive presidential system, and promised a new constitution based on strong separation of powers.

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In order to solidify his arguments on freedom of speech, Babacan said that under his rule, young people in Turkey would be able to use social media platforms without fear of arrest.

“You could tweet or like [things] without fear," he said.

Many Turkish citizens are currently being investigated or sentenced for insulting the Turkish president on Twitter in the years since the attempted coup of 2016.

Babacan also built his speech around a call for fiscal reforms in the country.

Under his economic leadership in the 2000s, the country saw immense growth, but he later fell out of Erdogan’s favour due to disagreements on the fundamentals of the free-market economy.

“We will realise the so-called fiscal rule that [some] didn’t allow us to do,” Babacan said in an apparent criticism of Erdogan, who defends his unorthodox economic policies.

DEVA's launch event seemed to have resonated in other parts of Ankara where Erdogan made an address to his colleagues at the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP).

“If you pay attention, [you would see] that every so-called entity that is being presented as “new” only confirms the need for AK Party, and other than that it is useless,” Erdogan said.

On the foreign policy front, DEVA's party programme calls for stronger ties with NATO, the European Union and the United States and committed itself to resolving differences with Turkey’s allies in diplomatic ways.

It also says that the territorial integrity of Syria and Iraq would have utmost importance for a DEVA government in the future.

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