Erdogan Ally Breaks Away, Blasts ‘Leader Cult’

ANKARA, Turkey (AFP) — A former premier and onetime ally of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan launched a new party on Friday, saying it would stand against “cult of the leader” politics.

Ahmet Davutoglu, who was prime minister between 2014 to 2016 and chairman of Erdogan’s ruling party, formally presented the Future Party (Gelecek Partisi in Turkish) at a ceremony in Ankara.

Turkish strongman Recep Tayyip Erdogan. (AP Photo/Ali Unal)

“As a party, we reject a style of politics where there is a cult of the leader and passive personnel,” Davutoglu said, standing beneath a banner featuring the revered founder of the Turkish republic, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk.

Davutoglu, 60, did not mention Erdogan by name during his nearly hour-long speech, but criticized the sweeping powers he assumed under constitutional changes last year.

“It won’t be possible to have a democratic society with the system continuing like this,” said Davutoglu, who resigned from the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) in September.

Analysts say Davutoglu is seeking to peel away conservative Muslim voters from the ruling AKP, and while few expect him to attract more than a fraction of the electorate, it could be enough to cause problems for Erdogan.

Davutoglu said his party would stand for minority rights, the rule of law, freedom of the press and an independent judiciary —a swipe at the deterioration of civil rights during Erdogan’s 16-year rule.

Once a close ally of Erdogan, the two men fell out over a number of issues, notably the changes to the constitution, and he was forced to resign as premier in May 2016.

He is not the only former Erdogan ally challenging the president. Former economy minister Ali Babacan is expected to launch his party later this month.

Davutoglu served as foreign minister during a particularly rocky period in Turkey’s international relations in the early 2010s.

He has been fiercely criticized as the architect of Ankara’s efforts to take a more assertive stance across the Middle East — backing the Muslim Brotherhood and its allies in several countries, and supporting rebels in Syria — which has left Turkey with few friends in the region.

© Agence France-Presse

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