İstanbul, Ankara mayors complain of lack of state funds

İstanbul, Ankara mayors complain of lack of state funds

As was expected, Tuesday parliamentary group meetings of all the political parties have been taken up with an ongoing multiparty row over fake news on a secret visit by a prominent Republican People’s Party (CHP) figure – Muharrem İnce - to President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan to seek support for a potential leadership at the main opposition party.

Both İnce and Erdoğan have categorically denied the story while Rahmi Turan –the origin of this speculation- has apologized to both men in his column at the daily Sözcü yesterday.

For obvious reasons, however, the media and public opinion continue to discuss the plot as it provides fresh ammunition to the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) for its attacks on the main opposition party.

In this context, President Erdoğan’s lengthy address to his AKP group had two main targets: He first slammed CHP leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu and his team for orchestrating a plot against their own man. He repeated his demand for an apology from the CHP leadership. He also denied Kılıçdaroğlu’s claims that the National Intelligence Organization (MIT) was instructed to spy on the main opposition.

President Erdoğan’s next targets were CHP’s Istanbul and Ankara mayors, Ekrem İmamoğlu and Mansur Yavaş respectively, who have taken Turkey’s two largest metropoles from the AKP after 25 years.

In a first move since they have taken office, Erdoğan deliberately targeted them by arguing that mismanagement in these two cities will likely cause water shortages and other problems. “The news we are hearing doesn’t bode well. If the weather conditions do not change,

Istanbul will suffer from water shortages in three months. The same is valid for Ankara,” Erdoğan stressed.

Quite interesting was to observe that President Erdoğan was bringing this into the fore as a political issue rather than an environmental outcome due to a dry autumn and winter with concerns that it could lead to possible water shortages and sewage problems.

He intended to depict these two mayors as unsuccessful and not able to deliver the basic needs of the 16 million people in Istanbul and 5 million in Ankara.

“They became unbalanced after they won a few municipalities. As you see, they have already started to complain only in seven months. ‘We can’t run Ankara under these conditions,’ they say. Very interesting. Why can’t you? You won the polls, and now, go and run the city,” Erdoğan said.

To find a bank loan is your job, Erdoğan told both İmamoğlu and Yavaş who were voicing their criticisms to the public banks for not granting credit for major infrastructure and transportation projects.

Interestingly, Erdoğan’s words came a few days after the CHP completed its second workshop on the functions of the municipalities.

According to a report issued after the workshop, the CHP has accused the government of blocking the state funds to the CHP municipalities and of trying to curb the independence of the elected mayors.

In a statement on Nov. 25, İmamoğlu complained that state banks are even not extending routine loans to the Istanbul municipality, saying, “The doors of state banks are closed to us.” That’s why he held a fundraising tour of European capitals to find at least $3.5 billion to finance stalled metro projects and others, he explained.

Another problem before Istanbul and Ankara mayors is the fact that both municipal assemblies are under the control of the AKP majority. In some cases, the ruling party majority can cause trouble for both mayors.

Still, under these conditions, both mayors have announced that they had a surplus in their budgets only through curbing municipal funding to some foundations and avoiding waste. Plus, both Istanbul and Ankara mayors, as well as other CHP local governors, are very careful in not creating controversy and engaging in political disputes with the ruling party.

The performance of mayors will play a crucial and central role in the oppositional alliance’s campaign in the next parliamentary and presidential elections. This will surely open a new front in the ongoing political fight between the ruling and the oppositional alliances as CHP mayors will increasingly be under the spotlight of the government circles.