ISTANBUL, TURKEY —
Turkey’s AK Party has witnessed unprecedented economic growth in its more than decade-long rule. Its pro-business policies increasingly are coming under question, however, amid police raids against leading businesses and what is seen as the demotion of a key pro-business figure within the party.
This month’s AKP congress saw the removal of Ali Babacan from the party’s all powerful management committee.
As economy minister, Babacan is widely considered the architect behind Turkey’s economic success, in which growth has more than doubled under the party's rule. Babacan is reported to have differed with President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's advocacy of unorthodox financial policies.
In what was widely seen as a last-minute move to calm international investors and maintain the AKP’s pro-business credentials, Babacan was selected as a parliamentary candidate in the November election; but what remains unclear is how much influence he will have going forward.
Separately, police are increasingly targeting businesses, including those linked to Islamic cleric Fetullah Gulen, who once was a close ally of Erdogan, but now is a bitter rival.
Istar Gozaydin, a professor from Gediz University in Izmir and an expert on Islamist movements in Turkey, warns that the increasing raids against companies will have political and economic consequences.
"Those groups that created entrepreneurship all over the world, and they were very much the supporters of this new system represented by AKP, obviously AKP is losing that support and I do not know how it will be able to compensate it," said Gozaydin.
The AK Party advocacy of pro-business policies distinguished it from previous Islamist parties in Turkey, helping the party broaden its support beyond religious voters. With economic prosperity, the party ensured continued electoral success.
Observers now warn that with doubts over AKP pro-business credentials coinciding with a slowing economy, the party could pay a heavy price in the November general election.