Ankara Mayor Gökçek denies resignation rumors

Ankara Mayor Gökçek denies resignation rumors

Ankara Mayor Gökçek denies resignation rumors

Ankara Mayor Melih Gökçek has dismissed rumors that he will resign from his position, saying they are part of a “perception operation” targeting his staunch support for President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.

“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,” Gökçek told daily Milat on Oct. 3.

He was speaking after reports suggesting that his resignation is on the way amid ongoing restructuring in the local administrations of ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) and the resignation of other AKP mayors.

President Erdoğan said on Oct. 3 that Gökçek’s resignation is not on the agenda “at the moment,” without categorically denying the possibility in the future.

“There is no such thing at the moment. But that does not mean it will not happen in the future,” he told reporters.

Erdoğan hinted that the recent resignations, including of former Istanbul Mayor Kadir Topbaş, were part of the AKP’s preparations ahead of the 2019 elections, and Gökçek said “supporting Recep Tayyip Erdoğan is the duty of every member of the ummah [Islamic community].”

“The honorable Erdoğan is not just the leader of Turkey, he is the leader of the ummah [Islamic community]. So those who want to raise unrest are in a futile effort,” he added.

AKP spokesperson Mahir Ünal also rejected claims about the resignation of long-time mayor of the Turkish capital.

“Media reports about the resignation of Ankara Mayor Melih Gökçek do not reflect the truth,” Ünal said on Oct. 03.

Erdoğan has in recent months repeatedly said the ruling party is suffering from “metal fatigue” and needs substantial change. The mayors of Istanbul and Düzce have recently resigned and there is ongoing speculation about who will be next in line.

Five more mayors

 At the latest gathering of the AKP’s Central Decision Making and Executive Council (MKYK), members discussed the mayors who will leave their posts, party sources told daily Hürriyet.

At the meeting, Erdoğan told MKYK members that five more mayors would resign before the 2019 elections, according to the sources.

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.

“We will review and update all our provincial organizations in cities, districts, and villages, because there is a fatigue that we must avoid. We have to get ready for the 2019 elections with more dynamic and hardworking teams,” Erdoğan had told his AKP lawmakers in his first address since returning as the party’s chairman on May 30.