Turkey's Erdoğan launches move on Davutoğlu-Babacan

Turkey's Erdoğan launches move on Davutoğlu-Babacan

With a few weeks left for the formation of two new political parties by former Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu and former Economy Minister Ali Babacan, President and Chairman of the Justice and Development Party (AKP) Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has attacked against his former fellows over a discussion on Şehir (City) University.

The university was initiated by Davutoğlu, who himself is a scholar and among the founders of the institution and was opened in 2010 through a ceremony with the participation of Erdoğan, who was the prime minister at that time.

According to the academic circles, the university has shown an outstanding performance since its foundation thanks to the economic and intellectual investments pledged by the AKP governments. Many categorize the university as the primary venue of the conservative intellectual elites with currently 7,000 local and foreign students as well as credible academic cadres.

The reason for the dispute between Erdoğan and his former fellows in dissidence is because that Şehir University failed to pay a loan it had received from Halkbank, and its request to restructure the credit was turned down by one of the country’s largest public banks. The university is nowadays in a state of bankruptcy and cannot even pay the salaries of academics.

In a highly strongly-worded statement over the weekend, Erdoğan accused his former allies of defrauding Halkbank through a governmental decree during Davutoğlu’s prime ministry between 2014 and 2016 when Babacan was serving as the deputy prime minister. He did not give details about how that was possible, but he simply wanted to use this incident as a basis for a political attack on them.

Davutoğlu denied Erdoğan’s accusations through a written statement and called for more transparency on the personal wealth of all presidents, prime ministers and ministers who have served the nation in the past. There was no immediate reply from Babacan who has long been following a very careful line in not directly quarreling with Erdoğan.

Erdoğan’s attack also included former President Abdullah Gül who gave him a call last week to ask a favor for Şehir University. He made sure that there is nothing he will do for the future of the university and hinted that it will go under the control of Marmara University in the coming period.

The likely strategy of Erdoğan is to show these two separate political movements by Davutoğlu and Babacan as unfaithful to the original cause of the AKP-led political Islam in the eyes of public opinion. This campaign would see even harsher accusations against these two men and their future political parties which are planned to be announced in the coming weeks before the end of the year.

The coming period will observe a more expanded opposition line with the formation of two new political parties. It’s uncertain whether these new parties will be merged with the existing opposition alliance or will form a third alliance. In any case, Erdoğan’s AKP will be in a more defensive position against the growing oppositional voices with questions to where this new climate would lead Turkey.