Clashes mar local elections debate

Clashes mar local elections debate

Clashes mar local elections debate

The debates on new municipal borders at the Parliament witness harsh exchanges as the Interior Minister Şahin (C) fiercely responds opposition’s criticism. DAILY NEWS photo, Selahattin SÖNMEZ

Bickering between ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) and opposition lawmakers this week marred ongoing debates in Parliament on a draft law on the country’s municipal structure with opposition lawmakers criticizing the content of the draft and the way the AKP rushed it.

The most common argument by opposition deputies is that the bill, which stipulates the establishment of new metropolitan cities, would pave the way for federalism in Turkey. The AKP is also accused of changing the boundaries of some districts to gain advantage in local elections.

The debate over the bill in Parliament has led to verbal and physical confrontations between ruling and opposition party members.

 “Do you want to found ‘the United States of Turkey’? You have to watch your step. You cannot bear this responsibility,” Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) deputy Yusuf Halaçoğlu said late Nov. 8 during parliamentary debates.

The draft bill came under fire as lawmakers from the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) as well as the MHP argued that the extension of metropolitan municipality borders to the whole province would pave the way for federalism, indicating that mayors in those cities would resemble “state governors.”

According to the draft bill cities where the population exceeds 750,000 people would gain “metropolitan municipality” status. In addition, the boundaries of metropolitan municipalities would extend to the whole province.

“This law will divide Turkey into federal structures as part of a presidential system. This bill is a demand of those who seek to reshape the Middle East. The PKK [outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party] and its leader also favor this bill,” the MHP’s Bülent Belen said.

The MHP was also angry about the way the draft was introduced by the ruling AKP.

“You prepared a report on a six-article draft law, opened it to debate in committee, then transform it into a 37-article draft and bring to Parliament,” Mehmet Şandır, deputy parliamentary group leader of the MHP, told the General Assembly on Nov. 7. “You should take the draft back to the committee; this is wrong.”

CHP deputy parliamentary group chair Muharrem İnce criticized the AKP for changing municipal boundaries to advance itself in local elections.

The boundaries of Istanbul’s Sarıyer and Ankara’s Yenimahalle districts were changed by AKP proposals, İnce said. “When the AKP cannot win elections in some municipalities, then legal probes against [elected] mayors are launched. Then they redraw boundaries to obtain more municipalities where they were defeated in election ballots.”

He also claimed that the bill would lead to autonomy or federalism in Turkey. Referring to secret talks that took place in the Norwegian capital of Oslo between the government and the PKK, İnce said, “This law does not fit the Constitution, however, it fits the Oslo process. This law is an outcome of the Oslo process.”