Hundreds of thousands resign from Turkey’s ruling AKP in months – former party official

A wave of discontent in Turkey’s ruling party has seen hundreds of thousands of members resign in recent months, an official who left the party this week said during an interview with Alevi-affiliated channel Yol TV.

Some 400,000 members have resigned in recent months and a total of 770,000 have resigned in the last year, according to Fatma Yavuz, a former ranking member of the AKP’s Istanbul Women’s Branch.

“These aren’t definite figures and I’m just saying what I’ve heard. It isn’t an organised movement, all these resignations are individual resignations. But probably, after we pass this phase, they’ll continue in an organised fashion,” she said.

The last count of party membership figures on the relevant court website on July 1 placed AKP membership at 9.9 million people.

Yavuz resigned on Monday amid a period of intraparty strife that on Monday saw President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan seek the expulsion of former heavyweights including Ahmet Davutoğlu, who served as the AKP’s prime minister until being forced to resign in 2016.

Parliamentary Human Rights Commission head Ayhan Sefer Üstün, Istanbul deputy Abdullah Başçı and former deputy vice chairman and Manisa Deputy Selçuk Özdağ are also in line to be dismissed.

Yavuz said her resignation had been a personal decision, and that she wished to show that Davutoğlu was not alone after his expulsion. She said she was now working with the former prime minister’s team on their new political movement.

The four were being expelled from the party for speaking their minds and criticising the AKP’s policies, she said.

Davutoğlu returned to the limelight after the ruling party performed poorly in local elections in March, losing five of Turkey’s most populous provinces including Istanbul and the capital, Ankara.

The loss has been blamed on voters’ dissatisfaction with Turkey’s economy, which is still struggling with the effects of a currency crisis last year.

After the March 31 elections, the former prime minister set forth a blistering critique of the party’s direction, including its alliance with the far-right Nationalist Movement Party. He is expected to launch a new Islamist political party by the end of the year.

Erdoğan has called Davutoğlu and former deputy prime minister Ali Babacan, who is also expected to launch a centrist party with other former AKP heavyweights this year, as “traitors”.

However, commentators in Turkey believe the new parties have the potential to draw a significant number of voters from the AKP, and say they could also deprive it of its parliamentary majority by drawing rebel lawmakers.