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'Baby face' political rival puts Erdogan on edge

Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has killed rumors that his ruling party may gamble on snap elections to retain its 18-year grip on power, but he's clearly feeling the heat.
ANKARA, TURKEY - 2020/03/11: Ali Babacan, former Turkish Minister and ally of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, unveiled his new Democracy and Progress Party (DEVA)  after he resigned from Turkey's ruling party Justice and Development Party (AK Party). (Photo by Basin Foto Ajansi/LightRocket via Getty Images)

As Turkey’s frail economy reels from the compounding blows of the global coronavirus pandemic, there is mounting speculation that the Justice and Development Party (AKP) may gamble on snap elections to retain its 18-year grip on power. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan put the kibosh on such rumors over the weekend: “We have three years before us to implement our programs and to rekindle emotional bonds with our people,” he told a virtual gathering of all 81 provincial chapters of the AKP. Under normal circumstances presidential and parliamentary elections are due to be held in 2023, the centennial year of the founding of the modern republic by Kemal Ataturk.

But there is little doubt that the 65-year-old who has towered over Turkish politics for almost three decades is feeling the heat. “Just think about it, some people who I gave jobs to during my premiership are attacking us in different ways. For goodness sake, you are just a minister. Do you think you could take a single step without the approval of the prime minister? Who are you conning?” he groused. Erdogan was alluding to Ali Babacan, his former economy minister who by sticking to IMF strictures in the early years of AKP rule helped steer the Turkish economy to stellar growth, helping in turn to cement his former party’s electoral fortunes. Erdogan clearly felt stung that Babacan was taking the credit for the once booming economy. In doing so, the usually combative Erdogan betrayed signs of fear, reckoned veteran pundit Rusen Cakir in an editorial posted on MedyaScope TV.

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