Istanbul blizzard morphs into political debate
A powerful snowstorm that crippled Turkey’s largest city has become the subject of a heated political debate, with officials from the ruling Justice and Developed Party (AKP) accusing Istanbul Mayor Ekrem İmamoğlu of failing to respond to the crisis properly.
Thousands of people were stranded on the roads in the city with a population of more than 15 million, planes were grounded, and private cars - though briefly - and motor couriers were banned from traffic.
İmamoğlu, from the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP), faced backlash after he was spotted at a fish restaurant during the height of the blizzard.
“Necessary precautions were not taken and those responsible for this failure are obvious…This is a complete incompetency,” said President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, commenting on the situation in Istanbul in an interview on private broadcaster NTV on Jan. 26.
The president said that when he was the mayor in Istanbul, he would work around the clock at the crisis center when such disasters occurred, in a criticism directed at İmamoğlu.
“What happened in the city is far beyond weakness in administrative capacity. Apparently, there were no coordinated efforts,” said Ömer Çelik, spokesman for the AKP.
Bülent Turan, the AKP’s deputy group chair, noted that officials made warnings days ahead about the snowstorm. “But after the blizzard hit, the megacity turned into a mega-village,” Turan scolded.
In the face of the criticism, İmamoğlu earlier said that it was normal for him to take a one or two hours of break, noting that his aides were on duty.
The mayor noted that he dined with British Ambassador to Ankara Dominick Chilcott, who traveled to Istanbul for this event that was planned days ago.
“It would be unrealistic to think that such a huge city would not have any problems during a snowstorm. I apologize to our residents who suffered,” he said.
Meanwhile, CHP leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu on Jan. 25 defended İmamoğlu and Ankara Mayor Mansur Yavaş on Twitter, claiming that they face a smear campaign.