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Ex-Turkish PM pledges return to parliamentary democracy

ANKARA, Turkey (AP) — A former Turkish prime minister who has launched a splinter party to rival President Recep Tayyip Erdogan pledged on Friday a return to a parliamentary democracy and to expand rights and freedoms.

Ahmet Davutoglu made the commitment a day after he formally established the breakaway "The Future Party" — a move analysts say could tear away votes from Erdogan's ruling party. A new presidential system, which came into effect last year and gave Erdogan vast powers, has led to "a fall in democratic standards," Davutoglu told a meeting where he presented his party's manifesto and founding members.

"We advocate a parliamentary system that has been freed of all kinds of tutelage," he said. The party is the first of two splinter parties to be founded by former Erdogan allies amid reports of discontent within the ruling party over his authoritarian style of governing. Ali Babacan, a former deputy prime minister, foreign minister and economy minister, has also announced plans for a new party.

The emergence of parties led by Erdogan allies-turned-rivals comes as Erdogan's government grapples with an economic downturn and high unemployment. His ruling Justice and Development Party, known as the AK Party, lost control of the key cities of Istanbul and Ankara in municipal elections this year.

Opinion polls conducted before Davutoglu's party was formed suggested that it has 3.4% popular support while Babacan has nearly 8%, according to media reports. Davutoglu resigned from the AK Party in September, days after it began proceedings to expel him for breach of discipline after he issued a manifesto critical of Erdogan's policies.

The politician had served as foreign minister between 2009 and 2014 and later as prime minister until 2016, when he was fired by Erdogan, reportedly over his reluctance to support Erdogan's efforts to increase the powers of the president.

Davutoglu is regarded as the architect of Turkey's failed Syria policy, which has led to the arrival of some 3.6 million Syrian refugees.

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