Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s AK Party faces more defections after losing 840,000 members in the last year, former loyalists say, compounding its difficulties after two founding members broke ranks aiming to set up rival parties.
Erdogan, modern Turkey’s longest serving leader, has already faced a series of setbacks this year including an economic recession which has eroded AK Party support and defeat for his candidates in mayoral elections in Ankara and Istanbul.
The June loss in Istanbul prompted ex-economy minister Ali Babacan to resign and call for a “new vision” for Turkey. Ex-Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, once Erdogan’s closest ally, also resigned from the party two weeks ago, saying it had lost the ability to solve the country’s problems.
Three former party stalwarts who spoke to Reuters said the AKP would continue to lose members because it had lost touch with its base and its founding principles.
“Virtually every day colleagues who have taken roles in the party since the first day are choosing a new path,” said a former senior official who resigned from the party. He declined to be identified.
“We used to be a party where there was considerable consultation but there is not a trace of that left,” he said. “Many friends want to make a new start in Babacan’s or Davutoglu’s party.”