Erdoğan hints at Ankara mayor’s resignation: ‘Some friends should show courtesy’
Fikret Bila - ANKARA
The much-speculated resignation of Ankara Mayor Melih Gökçek was hinted at by President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan again on Oct. 12, telling reporters that the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) is working to “restructure for the 2019 elections” and “cannot afford to waste time.”
“Some of our friends should not feel discomfort about this. On the contrary, if our management has made such a decision then they will show the courtesy that our Istanbul Mayor [Kadir Topbaş] showed, and in that way strengthen our movement,” Erdoğan said, referring the resignation of Topbaş on Sept. 22.
“We hope we will do some meetings this week then we will make the final decision. Because time is passing against our benefit and we cannot afford to waste time,” he added.
His comments came after recent reports suggesting that the AKP administration has demanded the resignation of the long-standing Gökçek and other AKP mayors as a part of preparations for local, parliamentary and presidential elections in 2019.
Gökçek, who has been in his post for 23 years, dismissed the rumors after a meeting with Erdoğan on Oct. 3, saying they are a part of a “perception operation” targeting his staunch support for the president.
“We will not give credit to attempts by malignant forces to raise a fuss. They aim to create a perception operation about everything you say,” he told a daily newspaper at the time.
Speaking of the unexpected meeting he had with the president on Oct. 2, which was interpreted as meaning that his resignation is on the way, Gökçek said the meeting was simply about recent construction projects.
Erdoğan also said the meeting had intended to discuss construction projects, but added that “on this occasion the topic was brought to the table.”
“As I said before, the issue is not just about [Gökçek]. There is a broader will for change in some parts of our party,” he said, repeating earlier comments that the AKP is experiencing what he calls “metal fatigue.”
“This is a decision that was taken by our Central Decision and Executive Board [MKYK] because our friends particularly want our party management to show a will for a change in places where this is necessary for the March 2019 [local] elections,” Erdoğan said.
He was also questioned about criticisms that an elected official should not be overthrown by a party authority.
“Yes, one who has come [to their post] with an election should go with an election, but they [some mayoralties] do not come by an independent election and go by an independent election. Of course, they came to office with a pre-election preparation of a political will,” he said.
“You may serve as a mayor for 20 years, 23 years or 24 years. A mayor may serve for three terms. There is no such thing as staying in office forever,” Erdoğan added.
It has been reported that the AKP has decided for the resignation of five more mayors, and while Erdoğan said the mayors of Düzce and Niğde did “not insist” on not resigning, there are “problems” in the municipal administrations of Bursa, Ankara and Balıkesir.
Topbaş on Sept. 22 announced that he was stepping down from his post as Istanbul mayor, which he had held for the past 13 years. The resignation reportedly followed disputes in the municipality administration, after Topbaş handed back five previously agreed zoning amendments on the grounds that they would damage the municipal council. The amendments were then approved once again without changes with the votes of AKP council members.
Topbaş’s son-in-law, Ömer Faruk Kavurmacı, had earlier been detained and then released on suspicion of business links to U.S.-based Islamic preacher Fethullah Gülen. The network of Gülen, a former close ally of the AKP government, is thought to be the mastermind of last year’s coup attempt.
Mehmet Keleş, the AKP mayor of the northern province of Düzce, also resigned on Oct. 2. Keleş’s son-in-law, Emre Kurt, was arrested in August over alleged links to the Gülen network.
Some 884 of Turkey’s 1,397 mayoralties are currently under AKP rule.