Municipality borders to be redrawn in new bill

Municipality borders to be redrawn in new bill

ANKARA - Hürriyet Daily News
Municipality borders to be redrawn in new bill

The western province of Denizli is among the 13 districts that are planned to be called ‘metropolitan municipality.’ DHA photo

A government-backed draft bill allowing the establishment of 13 new greater metropolitan municipalities in addition to the current 16 will redraw the boundaries of municipalities in favor of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), in a bid to gain advantage in the upcoming local polls.

The mayors of Eskişehir, Antalya and Mersin, elected from the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) in 2009, would be elected from the AKP, according to projections based on 2011 election results if the boundaries of the metropolitan municipalities are extended. Manisa and Balıkesir, where the mayors were elected from the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) in 2009, would also be governed by the AKP with the extended boundaries.

AKP’s ‘strong areas’
Under the planned changes, cities where the population exceeds 750,000 people will gain the status of “metropolitan municipality.” In addition, the boundaries of metropolitan municipalities 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.

According to the draft bill, new districts will be formed in metropolitan municipalities and 52 non-metropolitan cities. A total of 1,582 towns with populations of less than 2,000 will cease to exist as separate legal entities, while 18,200 villages will be turned into districts.

Ten of the current 16 metropolitan municipalities are governed by mayors elected from the AKP, while the CHP holds 4 and the MHP and the Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) each hold one. When the 2011 election results are taken into consideration, the AKP would have gained 22 of the 29 metropolitan municipalities if an election under the new law had been held. The CHP would gain four and the BDP would gain three metropolitan municipalities.

Parliament’s Internal Affairs Commission passed the draft bill and submitted it to the General Assembly for discussion late on Oct. 21. The government is planning to pass the law as soon as possible as the party considers it very important.

The draft bill came under fire as the CHP and MHP both signaled that they would try their best to block the debates in Parliament’s General Assembly in a bid to delay the adoption of the bill.

“We will exercise our every right from internal regulations to prevent [the bill] from being passed at the General Assembly,” the MHP’s Mustafa Kalaycı said last week during debates at the commission.

However, the AKP is planning to pass the bill within a week after debates at the General Assembly start on Nov. 5.

Social Economic Political Research Foundation (TESAV) chair Erol Tuncer, meanwhile, said the draft bill has not been discussed enough by the public. “Civil society associations and political parties should have broadly discussed the bill, which includes major reforms. But this didn’t happen due to the ruling party’s imposing mentality,” Tuncer told the Hürriyet Daily News.