A former minister whose plans to form a new party are seen as a serious threat to Turkey’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) has been accused of aiding a terrorist organisation, according to Turkish press reports.
Ali Babacan, a founding member of the AKP whose high-profile roles include treasury minister and deputy prime minister in charge of the economy, has been accused in a criminal complaint of “knowingly and willingly” aiding the outlawed Gülen religious movement.
The complaint was filed by a former subordinate of Babacan’s at the treasury, Ali Çevik, said Turkish press reports.
The AKP says it was the Gülen movement that masterminded the coup attempt in July 2016, and over 100,000 public officials have been dismissed or faced charges since then for alleged links to the group.
But for years after the AKP’s election victory in 2002, the party was on good terms with the movement. Gülenists nested in the judiciary and police force are believed to have been behind trials, based on falsified evidence, of the ruling party’s secularist opponents.
It was one of these trials – the Izmir Military Intelligence case – that the criminal complaints says Babacan assisted the Gülen movement in orchestrating.
The complaint says the former minister surrounded himself with Gülenists at the treasury, and calls him the only minister whose institutions played a role in the Izmir Military Intelligence trial.
The timing of the criminal complaint is significant. Babacan, who had kept a relatively low profile since being sidelined in 2015, in favour of loyalists to President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, broke cover in June to discuss the formation of a new, centrist liberal party that is seen as having the potential to prise dozens of deputies away from the ruling coalition and deprive it of its parliamentary majority.
The former minister is widely praised for his command of Turkey’s economy, which performed well over the first decade of AKP rule. Having served as chief negotiator for EU accession, Babacan is known for his positive outlook on relations with the west, and he has made mending ties with Turkey’s western allies a leading policy for the planned party.
Yet it is Babacan, the complaint says, whose “long years of incorrect, foreign-dependent economic policies” led to Turkey’s current economic woes.
Turkey’s high inflation, high unemployment and weak lira performance are widely viewed as the result of unorthodox economic policies and structural problems. The Turkish government has blamed them on foreign speculators.
Recent Turkish press reports have said Babacan plans to establish the new political party with former president Abdullah Gül, another founding member of the AKP, this autumn. Former prime minister Ahmet Davutoğlu is another high-profile defector from the ruling party expected to form a separate party around the same time.