Under new mayor, Turkish capital has referendum fever

Since Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan pressured the long-standing mayor of Ankara, Melih Gökçek, to resign in October last year, the city has held one referendum on local planning issues and plans to hold two more.

“We’re bringing to life another example of participatory democracy,” tweeted the mayor of one district of the capital over plans to pedestrianise a street.

The announcement follows a Nov. 25 referendum on the fate of a tower that had been left half-finished for 14 years due to a quarrel between Gökçek and another district mayor. In that referendum, 76 percent of local residents voted for the tower to be completed rather than demolished.

Gökçek was mayor of Ankara for 23 years, but stepped down under pressure from Erdoğan as part of the president’s plans to renew the party ahead of elections due in 2019.

The new mayor of Ankara, Mustafa Tuna, has also announced a referendum on whether or not to complete one of his predecessor’s pet projects – an amusement park Gökçek said was to be the biggest in Europe.