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Erdogan faces rare rebellion in his party as economy weakens


TURKISH President Recep Tayyip Erdogan was confronted with a rare sign of rebellion within the governing party as former allies attacked his leadership following a sharp deterioration in the economy and stinging losses in local elections last month.

Ahmet Davutoglu, who was once Mr Erdogan's handpicked successor at the helm of the ruling AK Party, said it "must face the reality of decreasing public support" due to "arrogant" policies.

The former prime minister's written statement on Monday avoided any personal criticism of Mr Erdogan, though it criticised policies under the president, from the management of the economy to curbing of basic liberties and the pressure on free speech.

"We can't manage the economic crisis that's in play by denying its existence," said Mr Davutoglu, who is still an AKP member, though no longer in parliament. "A governance crisis lies at the root of the economic crisis that we are living in."

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The broadside underscores the turmoil in Turkey as Mr Erdogan tries to keep control of the political narrative and smother any sign of opposition.

In power for much of the past two decades, the Turkish president and his party are in uncharted territory after unprecedented losses in large cities. The economy is on a knife edge because of a plunge in the currency and the looming threat of more US sanctions.

Mr Davutoglu warned against drifting away from free market economics and said the AKP's electoral alliance with ultra-nationalists is making the governing party a hostage to a smaller political group. Turkey's pro-government media gave no air time to Mr Davutoglu's call for reform.

In criticising Mr Erdogan, Mr Davutoglu faces a leader who has triumphed over powerful opponents and survived a coup attempt in 2016. Mr Erdogan, 65, has repeatedly warned members of his party not to commit "treason" and he has shown no sign of tolerance to any sign of dissent within the party in the past.

Nihat Ali Ozcan, a strategist at the Ankara-based Economic Policy Research Foundation of Turkey, said Mr Davutoglu was doomed to fail. "Davutoglu certainly does not have the capacity or influence either over the party or AK Party supporters to challenge Erdogan's rule," he said by phone. "Erdogan still calls the shots over the party and is likely to do so." BLOOMBERG

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