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Turkey’s Erdogan Facing Unprecedented Political Challenge

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s Justice and Development Party (AKP) is facing what could be its biggest challenge in over a decade, with two former high-ranking officials set to form “breakaway” political factions. The moves by former prime minister Ahmet Davutoglu and former deputy prime minister Ali Babacan are expected to further erode support for the AKP, which earlier this year suffered a major setback when it lost mayoral elections in Ankara and Istanbul. Davutoglu, who resigned from the AKP in September, two months after Babacan, has accused Erdogan of economic mismanagement and curbing civil rights such as freedom of speech. Babacan last month said that Turkey was in a “dark tunnel” and raised concerns over the specter of “one-man rule,” a clear reference to Erdogan. While preliminary polls show the new parties as being capable of bringing in only single-digit support, hypothetical political permutations could enable them, along with other opposition parties, to pose an electoral threat to the AKP and its partners. Rumblings in Ankara suggest that Erdogan is already considering holding early elections (the next national vote is scheduled for 2023) if political and public pressure against him continue to rise.