Municipal changes plan comes under criticism in Turkey

Municipal changes plan comes under criticism in Turkey

ANKARA - Hürriyet Daily News
Municipal changes plan comes under criticism in Turkey

RADİKAL graphic

Legal changes which the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) are planning in order to redraw the boundaries of local administrations has raised concern that the opposition could lose some municipalities in the next polls and that municipal services could suffer.

Under the planned changes, the boundaries of metropolitan municipalities in populous regions would extend to the whole province, enabling voters in rural areas, where the AKP has traditionally been stronger, to vote in elections for the metropolitan mayor and administration.

“The AKP is actually seeking to reshape election constituencies in its favor,” Republican People’s Party (CHP) deputy chairman Gökhan Günaydın told the Hürriyet Daily News yesterday.

Administration system

AKP officials have said they are drafting a bill that will overhaul Turkey’s local administration system. Boundaries of metropolitan municipalities will extend to the whole province, and the metropolitan municipality will be responsible for major municipal services such as public transport, urban planning and infrastructure in all districts.

Under the draft, the number of metropolitan municipalities, which are constituted in cities where the population exceeds 750,000 people, is estimated to increase from the current 16 to 29. AKP officials have said the overhaul would ensure that smaller settlements receive better services and more funding, and that urban planning is better coordinated.

The provinces expected to be affected by the planned bill include Hatay, Manisa, Balıkesir, Kahramanmaraş, Aydın, Denizli, Şanlıurfa, Trabzon, Malatya, Van, Muğla, Tekirdağ and Mardin. It is not known yet when the AKP will submit the draft to Parliament. The next local elections are scheduled for March 2014.

Critics maintain that the changes would be counter-productive because metropolitan administrations would fail to take proper services to remote parts of the provinces.

He said vast rural areas would be included in the boundaries of metropolitan municipalities.
“Pasture areas will probably be zoned for housing in some places. That would harm farming and stockbreeding as well.”

He argued that the planned changes also flout calls for the strengthening of local administrations and would instead lead to more centralization. “The main objective of this move would serve the political goals of the AKP,” Günaydın said, adding that the CHP had unconfirmed information that the AKP could also move to reshape constituencies where it had failed to win in parliamentary elections.