Turkey's former prime minister applies to launch party to rival Erdoğan

(Releads with official application)

A group of politicians led by Turkish former Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu lodged an official application to form a new political party on Thursday after months of preparations, local media reported.

The delegation that visited the Interior Ministry to hand over the application included Ayhan Sefer Üstün, Selçuk Özdağ, Feramuz Üstün, İzzettin Küçük, Nedim Yamalı and Yeşim Karadağ, all formerly heavyweight figures in the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP).

The ministry is now checking the documents provided by the delegation and all 137 founding members of the party, Gazete Duvar said.

The party will be called Gelecek Partisi, or the Future Party, and will seek to combine liberalism, nationalism, conservatism, and social democracy in a revival of a popular ruling party from the 1980s and 1990s, Turkish media reports said this week.

Davutoğlu, who quit the ruling AKP earlier this year due to rising discontent with its policies, rejected a last-minute plea by influential figures from the AKP to call off plans for the new party, Turkish daily SoL reported.

A large number of former AKP members have followed Davutoğlu out of the party this year, according to reports in Turkey’s media, though there is no indication on the number of these who would wish to lend the former prime minister their support.

Davutoğlu plans to combine elements that will appeal to women’s rights advocates, secularist voters, Kurds and other minorities, as well as liberals in a new movement whose founding principles recall the Motherland Party of former President Turgut Özal, SoL said.

But the newspaper predicted that Davutoğlu would stick to his own roots in Turkey’s political Islamist circles and that ultimately the diverse elements in the party would fall away.

Several reports on possible names have emerged since Davutoğlu’s plans for a new party were disclosed earlier this year, with media reporting this week that it would almost certainly be called the Life and Justice Party, Turkish journalist Fatih Altaylı wrote in a column for HaberTürk.

But these reports have been manufactured to keep the new party on the news agenda, Altaylı said, adding that the Future Party is the name decided upon after long discussion by Davutoğlu’s team.

The new party is not expected to garner enough votes to exceed Turkey’s 10 percent electoral threshold, but some say it could attract disillusioned politicians from the ruling party.

A second party planned by an AKP renegade, former Deputy Prime Minister Ali Babacan, is also due to be launched by the year’s end.

Babacan’s party is mooted as a liberal and pro-Western alternative for centrist and discontented AKP voters, and most observers say its potential to win votes far exceeds that of the party planned by Davutoğlu.

Babacan has dismissed speculation that he could join forces with the former prime minister. But Mahmut Övür, a columnist for Sabah, said the two new parties had tried to distance themselves from one another for political reasons, but would ultimately unite in one party.

In the meantime, Davutoğlu, as the more aggressive challenger to Erdoğan, will attack the ruling party head on while Babacan’s party sweeps up votes, Övür said.