Power cuts new Turkish PM’s first concrete challenge

Power cuts new Turkish PM’s first concrete challenge

Power cuts new Turkish PM’s first concrete challenge

Burning barricades are pictured as Kurdish villagers clash with Turkish riot policemen as they protest against power cuts in the southeastern province of Mardin on Aug 28. AFP Photo

The endemic electricity cuts in southeastern Turkey, which have triggered three-days of clashes in Mardin, have become the first concrete problem submitted to the new prime minister, Ahmet Davutoğlu.

As the violent unrest in the towns of Derik and Kızıltepe calmed down yesterday with the private grid company again providing power to indebted contractors, Energy Minister Taner Yıldız said at a press meeting in Ankara yesterday that he had already discussed the issue with Davutoğlu, who revealed his Cabinet yesterday before seeking a vote of confidence on Sept. 6.

Davutoğlu was given information on the issue from Yıldız and the ruling Justice and Development Party’s (AKP) Mardin deputies late on Aug. 28, after locals blocked a main road to the nearby city of Şanlıurfa and clashed with the police.

Yıldız said locals in the affected areas would not face more power cuts due to a new a payment schedule organized by the company, adding that this plan would include a cut in agricultural support from the state.

“[The company] will evaluate the redemption plans by our brothers, irrigation unions and farmers in the region,” he said.

Yıldız also highlighted the high level of illegal power use in the region, saying there are areas where 95 units out of every 100 unit of electricity are consumed illegally. “It is not a good idea to say that we won’t pay any money but want power,” he said.

AKP Deputy Abdurrahim Akdağ also told Anadolu Agency that Davutoğlu had demanded a study on deducting farmers’ electricity debts from their agricultural support payments. “He has ordered the prime ministry undersecretary to study a solution to the problem and a Cabinet decision on the matter. A solution will be found as soon as possible,” Akdağ said,

Dicle EDAŞ, the electricity grid company in the region, cut power to many houses and businesses in Kızıltepe and Derik five days ago, due to unpaid utility bills, triggering street unrest.

The clashes did not continue yesterday, however, as Dicle EDAŞ resumed distributing electricity to the two towns upon a court decision. However, cuts continued in some spots due to technical problems, the authorities stated.

Some 20 percent of products were damaged because of the cut, said Abdülkerim Türk, a local lawyer. “If the cuts had continued for two more days, all would have been destroyed,” he said, adding that further damage assessments would be conducted.

Türk said the cuts had come at a particularly sensitive time when the farmers needed water, and said farmers were strongly represented in the protests as they needed power to irrigate their land. He also claimed that the timing of the cuts was deliberate.

Five people were injured in clashes on Aug. 28, and many shops were closed to avoid any damage.
Three deputies from the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) visited Mardin late on the same day.

Eksim Holding, which is chaired by businessman Abdullah Tivnikli, took over Dicle EDAŞ from the state in July 2013 for $387 million.