Ousted Istanbul mayor denounces ruling party misspending

Turkey’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) spent 80 million lira ($13 million) in three years on an Istanbul municipality website, part of billions of lira in misspent public money, the ousted opposition mayor said on Wednesday, Reuters reported.

Ekrem İmamoğlu from the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) served less than three weeks as Istanbul’s mayor after his narrow March 31 victory over the AKP candidate. That vote was annulled on May 6 by Turkey’s election council, and a rerun set for June 23, following appeals by President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s party.

“We could set up websites for all of Turkey’s municipalities with this money,” İmamoğlu said at a news conference launching his new campaign.  

“The resources of Istanbul municipality are being plundered,” he added. “We will change this system of waste together.”

“Preparing for the second vote, İmamoğlu has sought to highlight alleged extravagance and waste under the AKP which, together with its Islamist predecessor parties, has ruled Istanbul with a budget of nearly $4 billion annually for a quarter century,” said Reuters.

Istanbul’s debt has increased 4.5 times to 27 billion lira since 2014, while its annual budget deficit ballooned 20-fold to 4 billion lira, İmamoğlu said. If the budget were properly managed, around 5 billion lira could be saved, he said, promising to spend on education, green spaces, and support for the poor.

Analysts say the AKP is reluctant to hand over control of Turkey’s biggest city, which provides its mayor with significant resources for patronage. Istanbul municipality has denied accusations that it overspent on cars for management, saying some of the vehicles were used by employees for vital services, according to Reuters.

İmamoğlu also said the AKP used lies to overturn the initial result, referring to ruling party officials’ allegations of irregularities and stolen votes.

“Nobody believes their claims,” İmamoğlu said, according to Agence France-Presse. “When I look at their facial expressions, I see that they themselves do not believe them either.”