Ankara municipality demands prosecution of ruling party former mayor

The opposition-run municipality of Ankara has demanded criminal charges be brought against the ruling party’s former mayor, who ran the Turkish capital for 23 years, after an internal investigation said $98 million had been lost through a contract for services that were not delivered, the Cumhuriyet newspaper said on Monday.

The secular main opposition Republican People’s Party’s (CHP) took control of both Ankara, and Turkey’s biggest city and financial hub, Istanbul, in local elections last year from President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s ruling Islamists, who had run both cities since the mid-1990s. It was the biggest defeat for the Justice and Development Party (AKP) since it came to power nationally in 2002.

The new mayors have accused the previous AKP municipal administrations of graft and misuse of public funds, but the courts have yet to bring any major prosecutions.

Cumhuriyet said Ankara municipality had demanded investigating prosecutors bring charges against the city’s former mayor, Melih Gökçek, after an internal council investigation found that more than a third of repairs that were supposed to have been carried out according to a 2015 tender, worth 1.7 billion lira ($290 million), were never made.

It said a report concluded that a municipality-owned company that was supposed to have carried out the repairs reported inflated costs and otherwise falsified work it was contracted to undertake on the city’s cemeteries and recreational facilities.

Gökçek stepped down as Ankara’s mayor in October 2017, after 23 years in the job, under pressure from Erdogan who sought to bring a new leadership team to the city ahead of elections in March 2019. The AKP lost the polls anyway.