AKP’s mayoral candidate vows to elevate Ankara ‘to upper league’
Serkan Demirtaş – ANKARA
Ruling Justice and Development Party’s (AKP) mayoral candidate for Ankara Mehmet Özhaseki has pledged to promote the capital city to an “upper league” with multiple human- and environment-based projects, while also vowing to attract foreign tourists through faith, culture and health tourism.
“Just like there is competition between states, there is also competition between cities. We should be able to ready our city to the future through sensible change,” Özhaseki told Ankara bureau chiefs of newspapers at a meeting on Jan. 16.
Özhaseki, a former mayor of the Central Anatolian province of Kayseri for 21 years and former environment and urban planning minister, will run for Ankara in the upcoming local elections as the joint candidate of the AKP and its partner Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), dubbed the People’s Alliance. His main contender is Mansur Yavaş, the joint candidate of the Republican People’s Party (CHP) and İYİ (Good) Party.
Özhaseki said he has three main principles on urban planning.
He believes cities are living organisms with a very sensitive soul that requires constant care and maintenance. Second, he added, cities, just like states, need to be competitive so that it will never stay behind and follow others. Third, cities should be ruled by local administrations who can take risks, he said.
“Those who take risks can improve cities,” he said, citing his own experience with Kayseri.
'Ankara is our pride'
“Ankara is our pride. It’s the city of our founder, Gazi Mustafa Kemal. It’s not only a bureaucratic city whose population is overwhelmingly made up of civil servants, it’s also a city of industry and a city of students,” Özhaseki said.
“Therefore, Ankara should be promoted to the Champions League in every branch. It can perfectly be a city of tourism with its nature, faith centers, and thermal and health facilities. Ankara can be No. 1 in almost all fields,” he added.
Turkey’s second biggest province, Ankara deserves more than it offers to its residents and is ready to become a living city, the AKP’s candidate said, stressing that a good majority of his projects is human, social and environment-based and only few require construction.
“My promises are nothing to do with populist vows. I am pledging to change our city for the future,” he stated.
Projects under 11 titles
Özhaseki said he has 111 projects planned under 11 main titles, including culture, transportation, urban transformation, environment, children and youth, and smart city.
Establishing a culture path from the Ankara Castle to Atakule for those who want to visit historical sites and museums without a need of hiring a guide, setting up the Children’s Village and libraries open 24/7 for students are among projects Özhaseki is planning to realize if elected.
Expanding the capital city’s subway lines from downtown to Esenboğa Airport in three to four years and undertaking some transportation projects to ease traffic within the city are also priorities he will make if elected for five years.
There are 17 universities with around 200,000 university students in Ankara, Özhaseki stressed, informing they will introduce some measures to make life easier for them, such as reducing the cost of transportation fares and introducing free-of-charge laundry services and early morning soups.
One other big project whose groundbreaking ceremony is expected to be held in the coming months is building a new and modern stadium and sports complex with a 55,000-person capacity. “This will be erected instead of the 19 Mayıs Stadium, which has recently been demolished. It will be one of the most architecturally beautiful stadiums,” he said.
Özhaseki said he had served as minister for two years and therefore has a good experience and network in generating governmental support to the projects he will realize for Ankara. “I am sure my expertise as a former mayor and minister will help me deliver all my promises to Ankara,” he stated.