Mayors and the AKP’s party restructuring
The demands for the resignation of mayors who are members of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) is certainly a big deal, part of ongoing party restructuring.
Party chairman and President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan touched on the issue during the AKP’s strategic camp in Afyonkarahisar over the weekend.
“Of course, the party administration can remove officials without asking for their resignation. But the picture is different for the municipalities. There are two ways to achieve the same thing: Suspension from the party or removal on the basis of malpractice. Of course, we do not want to go down these routes,” he said.
Indeed, party authorities can easily remove and replace party managers. But it is a different story for municipal administrations, because although mayors are nominated by the party, they come to office in elections. As the voters choose the mayor, the party cannot simply remove them. Even if they are removed from the party, they maintain their position as mayor.
Clearly, the AKP certainly does not want to give up a municipality it has won to a mayor who has been suspended from the party. As it has not opted to proceed down the “malpractice” path, it is asking for resignations.
But aren’t the people suspected of links to the Fethullahist Terrorist Organization (FETÖ) guilty of malpractice? Wouldn’t legal action be taken if the individual concerned was from the opposition?
The AKP should have refrained from further damaging public trust in government institutions during its reform of party structures.
First universal direct suffrage
The recent debates over municipality administrations prompted me to cast my mind back to 1930. It was a time of single-party rule under one man. But Mustafa Kemal Atatürk saw the harm caused by a political atmosphere that lacks an opposition, so allowed for a new Free Republican Party (SCF) to run. In October 1930, local elections took place. The government helped the single party to win, but the vote was the first step in Turkey’s multi-party democratic tradition. The 1930 local elections were the first universal direct suffrage vote.
After the vote Atatürk visited the Black Sea province of Samsun to ask for the resignation of the mayor, who had been elected on the SCF ticket.
“I am not familiar with the SCF,” said the mayor in response. “But this election proved the people’s trust in me … If there are any concerns with my administration, the state has the power to annul the elections. In such a case, I would not apologize to the people who elected me.”
Atatürk was impressed by these words. “Your thoughts make sense,” he said. “Let things stay as you wish.”
Rules and administrations
Every country’s democratic experience consists of an evolution of experiences, politics and the law. Monitoring and improving democratic evolution are vital to keep Turkey a manageable country and to maintain trust in government institutions.
Our democratic experience began with local elections during the Tanzimat reform era of the 19th century. Our municipalities have played an important role in advancing our democracy.
That the central authority, as well as the local authority, can be elected and removed by the will of the people is one of the most critical qualities of a democracy.
It is obvious that the ruling party is having problems at the moment. But it is crucial that if its party organizations are going to be restructured, the people’s trust in the institutions of state should not be further damaged.