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    Turkey’s new political parties increase challenge to Erdoğan

    Following months of rumors, Turkey’s former finance minister Ali Babacan finally resigned this week from President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s ruling party and made clear his intention to form a new party to challenge his old boss.

    Babacan and Ahmet Davutoğlu, a former prime minister also reported to be forming a new party, have certainly made mistakes. But this does not mean they are unable to challenge the status quo that has handed Erdoğan the reins of Turkish power.

    Given that the Justice and Development Party (AKP) has a large following among the conservative voters that the parties of Babacan and Davutoğlu will aim to win over, it is unlikely the dissidents will target the president directly. Both Babacan and Davutoğlu have gradually disengaged themselves from Erdoğan and his party and thus been able to avoid directly answering any heated criticism from the president.

    Considering Turkey’s economic troubles, the AKP’s latest electoral results, and Ankara’s increasingly problematic international reputation, all signs suggest “Erdoğanism” is now bankrupt.

    Yet the president and his party still have strong support. New parties thus need to challenge and weaken the ideological attachment between the AKP and its support base. Political loyalty in Turkey is a mixture of economic and ideological dynamics. As a result, many voters resist changing their allegiance despite worsening conditions, and voters who prioritize ideological concerns need new parties close to their political identities.

    Though some AKP voters shifted to the secular main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) in June’s Istanbul mayoral vote, this remains a small number, and such shifts are likely to be greater in urban centers rather than in the ruling party’s rural heartlands. While rural voters are unlikely to switch support to the CHP, new center-right or liberal right-wing parties set up by leaders like Babacan could win over some.

    The chaotic years of post-Cold War politics prove that Turks are not good consensus builders. The best way to protect democracy or prevent one-man rule is to increase the number of political stakeholders. Multi-party politics might have its own problems but is always the best method to ensure checks and balances.

    It is good to have new leaders like Babacan and their new parties. The more parties we have in Turkey, the less power one person can consolidate.

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