Turkish government strips mayors of some powers after election defeat

The Turkish government has issued a new regulation that transfers some powers of mayors to the Ministry of Environment and Urbanisation, Birgün newspaper reported on Tuesday.

The ruling comes after President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s Islamist party, in power since 2002, lost control of the municipalities of five of the six most populous provinces in local elections in March, including Istanbul, where the polls were rerun on Sunday. The regulation means those new mayors will lose some powers over some redevelopment projects, a major source, analysts say, of kickbacks for the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP).

The new regulation allows the ministry to intervene in all urban transformation projects in areas determined by the presidency or by the ministry itself, Birgün said. 

Meanwhile, the government also transferred the power of mayors to appoint senior officials of municipality companies to municipal assemblies, the Cumhuriyet newspaper reported on Wednesday. While losing many mayoral seats, the AKP managed to retain majorities in many council assemblies, including in Istanbul.

As a result of the transfer of authority, the government refused to approve appointments made by the new opposition mayor of Ankara, Mansur Yavaş, to municipality’s bakery, Cumhuriyet said. 

The Istanbul municipality controls 28 affiliated companies with a total annual turnover estimated at 24 billion lira ($4.2 billion), while the Ankara municipality owns 15 companies.