AKP redraws Turkey despite opposition ire
ANKARA - Hürriyet Daily News
A draft law on restructuring municipalities, which will tip the scales in favor of the governing party in local elections, has been adopted in Parliament by votes from the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) despite harsh criticisms from the opposition.
The main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) yesterday asked for an appointment with President Abdullah Gül to convey their misgivings over the bill and called on him to veto it.
According to the bill, which was approved early Monday after a 16-hour session in Parliament, 13 cities with populations exceeding 750,000 people will gain “metropolitan municipality” statuses. This will add to the current 16 metropolitan municipalities. The boundaries of metropolitan municipalities have been extended to the whole province.
Opposition parties criticized the AKP for reshaping the election constituencies to gain advantage in the upcoming local polls.
Mayors of Eskişehir, Antalya and Mersin, who were elected from the CHP in 2009 would be elected from the AKP, when 2011 election results are taken into consideration due to the extended boundaries of the metropolitan municipalities.
Manisa and Balıkesir, where mayors were elected from the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) in 2009 would be governed by the AKP, thanks to extended boundaries. The bill also came under fire from the MHP, who argued that extending the borders of metropolitan municipalities to the whole province would pave the way for federalism, indicating that mayors in those cities would resemble “state governors.” Interior Minister İdris Naim Şahin, however, played down the criticism and argued that the bill has nothing to do with such accusations.
“MPs from opposition parties accused us of damaging the unitary structure of Turkey and forming a basis for federal structure. They even blamed us for treason. The facts in this bill have nothing to do with the misgivings for federal structure,” Şahin said in a thank-you speech. Under the bill, metropolitan municipalities and district municipalities in metropolitan cities have been obliged to spend 10 percent of their budgets for infrastructure works for the next 10 years.
Metropolitan municipalities and municipalities with populations of at least 100,000 have been obliged to establish “guest houses” for women and kids. The previous legislation used to state that women’s shelters “could be” established in every municipality with a population of 50,000. Establishing the refuges for women has become mandatory, yet under the name of “guest houses.”
Governors and mayors of metropolitan cities gained the right to obtain diplomatic passports.
Speaking at a press conference yesterday, CHP deputy chair Gökhan Günaydın said the bill had not been discussed in public before it was submitted to Parliament. “We have asked for an appointment with the president. We would like to convey our views on the draft bill to the president. He should receive the opinions of NGOs, universities and all parts of society. He should ... should send the bill back to Parliament for a second debate.”