“Cause the house always wins. Play long enough, you never change the stakes. The house takes you. Unless, when that perfect hand comes along. You bet and you bet big, then you take the house.”

George Clooney played Danny Ocean in Ocean’s Eleven, who was ready to reclaim his losses, Danny said the well-known quote above – in remake of the1960 movie with the same name – that follows a group attempt to rob the Las Vegas Casino. The group leader, Daniel Ocean, brings together his group to take a lot of money from Vegas’ hot casino owner Terry Benedict and something much more precious.

On March 9, 2020, Ali Babacan founded a new political party called the Democracy and Progress Party (acronym DEVA, meaning “remedy” in Turkish), and on March 11, 2020 the party was launched at Bilkent Hotel Ankara, the venue where the governing Justice and Development Party (AK Party) founding ceremony took place 19 years ago. Intended to challenge President Erdogan’s hold on power, Babacan “checked and raised0” the staked by establishing DEVA Party, which seeks to tackle a right, central, and conservative disposition with liberal touches. Quoting from an interview with Sirin Payzın (T24), he wants his party to be a “mainstream party” with a special emphasis on minority rights, a return to the parliamentary system for Turkey, equal trials in courts and legislation, and the restoration of freedom of expression and expression. As is mentioned in the movie quote; Babacan is willing to take the “house” from President Erdoğan, however, the question is “does he have the perfect hand?”

The player: Ali Babacan

Following a top-notch background in education, Ali Babacan entered politics as an AKP co-founder and board member in 2001, and was elected to parliament as deputy for Ankara in the general elections held in 2002. He was named Economy Minister and became the cabinet’s youngest member, then at age 35. In 2005, Prime Minister Erdoğan announced Mr. Babacan’s appointment as chief negotiator for talks with the European Union on Turkey’s accession. From 2002 to 2007, Babacan served as the State Minister responsible for the treasury, from 2007 to 2009 as Minister for Foreign Affairs, and between 2009 and 2015 as Deputy Prime Minister responsible for the economy. Babacan has been involved in the government for 13. He served as an MP from 2015 to 2018. He resigned from the governing AKP in 2019, citing “strong disagreements” over the course of the party on democracy, rule of law and economic policies and aiming at establishing a party before 2020. But, he argued that he was slowed down by many operational issues.

The Bet: Democracy and Progress Party

The 131-page party program was presented to the press, covering 14 titles;’ Freedom, Participant and Pluralist Democracy,” Justice, Law and Judiciary,” Public Administration,” Economy,” Sectoral Policies,” Social Policies,” Women,” Youth,” Sports,” Art and Culture,” Migration Policies,” Environment, Urbanization and Disaster Management,” Security and Defense,” Foreign Policy”

Furthermore, the program focuses on the problems that the current presidential system introduces, such as the separation of powers, and emphasizes the need to recreate a strong parliamentary structure. “We are all tired of the politics of fear, of polemics and conflict,” Babacan said, voicing his opposition to the change from a parliamentary to a presidential regime in Turkey, criticizing the media crackdown and remarking the lack of independence on the part of the Central Bank. Babacan promised his party will try to return parliamentary democracy in Turkey.” We’re not going to let those sorrows get deeper. That’s not the time for losing faith. It’s time to take the responsibility. It is time for democracy and progress. We’re the remedy if you’re looking for a commiseration, “he said.

The party, also, drew attention to mother tongue education in its program by saying “As the Democracy and Progress Party, we find it wrong that mother tongue education has grown into a conflict issue. If our official and common language–Turkish–is properly taught, we find the recognition of our citizens ‘ cultural differences to be a basic human right and a pedagogical necessity. In this respect, we seek to make the necessary arrangements for all of our citizens to use and develop their mother tongues within the framework of the right to mother tongue.

Certainly, due to Mr. Babacan’s background, economic analyses were seen as critical and the program states, “As a party, we believe that the dysfunctional framework of our judicial system, which is far from reliable and predictable, lies at the root of the social instability and economic crisis in our country. We believe that instability and uncertainty will decrease in the stable environment created by law, decisions on production and investment will be taken without fear and with trust, thus speeding up our development process.” The party program points to central bank’s independence and improving the institutional capabilities other regulatory and supervisory bodies. It is also said that TÜIK (Turkish Statistical Institute) should be given greater independence as this would improve the reliability of its statistical results.

A list of 90 founding members including former AKP ministers Nihat Ergün and Sadullah Ergin, former AKP member who recently resigned, Mustafa Yeneroğlu, was also announced in Babacan’s inaugural speech.  It should be remembered that one of the founding members, Ramiz Ongun, had been a three- time candidate for leadership of the far-right MHP (Nationalist Movement Party).

“Action is on you”

Most political observers say that the Turkish public has a large number of floating votes. Yet, this is not only an indication of discontent from the ruling party, but also, showing a despair from the opposition groups regarding finding solutions to current problems. While DEVA party and its leader Babacan claim that the party seeks to embrace all segments of society, it is understood from the party program that it will target primarily the center, center-and conservatives. Many critics also compare the policies of the new party with the ANAP (Motherland Party) of former President Turgut Özal, which claimed to combine and reflect all the divergent leanings from liberalism to conservatism, from nationalism to leftism. After the newly adapted Presidential model in Turkish style, the alliances they sided determine the impact of parties. It is highly likely that Mr. Babacan will position his party against the ruling AKP and that will alter the alliance system on both the opposition and the ruling side. However, it’s necessary to remember that only a 1 percent difference in the votes in the new system would be a game changer.

While the scheduled date for coming elections is 2023 and whether we have an early election or not, in the coming days Mr Babacan and DEVA party will be a prominent figure in Turkish politics. Not only will DEVA Party move pieces in the ruling alliance but it will also change the image or structure within opposition parties. It is estimated that voters from the IYI Party, AKP and some conservative Kurdish voters will be taken by the DEVA Party.

In any case, following local elections in March 2019, the Turkish political arena was given not only a new perception and discourse, but also a restatement of the classic concepts of right or left, democratic, secular, etc.  A new kind of storytelling has started; it reunites people, respects differences and establishes new norms. The distance stance of Mr. Babacan from daily arguments and politics, his emphasis on economics and his reputation in international circles can be seen as an advantage for a new right / center political movement. In his addressing, which was far from Islamic rhetoric, the secular language he used must be noted; the party program also reflected the same preference. Nevertheless, his 13 years of AKP cabinet experience is obviously a burden on his political trip. He has to justify every inch of his political career and act self-critically, and in addition, to clarify his position among the electorate, he has to offer solutions to the immense problems that Turkey faces at both domestic and international levels.

The question is “Are you all-in Mr. Babacan?”

Other highlights from past week

  • Corona virus in Turkey

On Thursday, the Turkish presidency announced that schools and universities would be closed on Monday over concerns about coronavirus outbreaks. Sporting activities will be held but without spectators, and only with special permits will public workers be allowed to leave the country. “The primary and secondary schools are to be closed for a week starting on March 16. Following that the education ministry will continue to teach students for another week via an online platform and televisions,” said Ibrahim Kalin, presidential spokesman. Kalin added that they would close the universities for three weeks.

Until now, there are 18 cases of Corona virus, according to the Minister of Health.