Turkey removes transport minister from his post

Mehmet Cahit Turhan has been removed from his post as Turkey’s Minister of Transportation and Infrastructure, according to a presidential decree signed on Friday and published on the Official Gazette.  

Turhan was replaced by his deputy minister Adil Karaismailoğlu. The decree did not provide a reason for the change or any further details. 

Turhan, a former head of Turkey’s Railroads Directorate and chief adviser to President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, was appointed transport minister in July 2018.

Karaismailoğlu had been serving as Deputy Minister of Transport and Infrastructure since September 2019. 

The ministry is responsible for overseeing the Kanal Istanbul project, a proposed multi-billion-dollar artificial waterway through Turkey’s most populous city. 

Erdoğan and his ministers have been pushing the project as a means of diverting shipping from the Bosporus Strait that winds through Istanbul, and to provide jobs and income for the construction industry, a key political constituency. But it has been vehemently opposed by opposition parties and environmental groups.

The first tender on bids for the project was held by the General Directorate of Highways on Thursday. But the meeting sparked criticism for both the apparent lack of social distancing measures in the meeting where officials were seen sitting less than a metre apart, and for the tender being held under emergency circumstances where almost all activity in the country has been suspended.

Istanbul Mayor Ekrem İmamoğlu questioned the timing of the auction, saying the government was tendering the work as residents of the city feared for their futures.

“I am leaving it to the public to judge those who held an auction for Kanal Istanbul today instead of supporting the millions who are fretting about their livelihoods,” he said on Twitter.