Turkey’s mayors can’t even hand out masks as COVID-19 battle centralised - columnist

Turkey’s efforts to tackle the COVID-19 coronavirus are being hindered by a centralised, partisan approach by the government, in which municipalities are not even allowed to hand out face masks, columnist Taha Akyol said in Karar newspaper on Friday. 

Akyol asked why the government was preventing municipalities helping in the fight against the virus and said that, if municipalities required permission from governors to help, they should be given permission. 

“Municipalities are even prevented from distributing masks,” he said. “By limiting the potential of municipalities to fight against the epidemic it is limiting Turkey’s overall potential in this struggle.” 

Tensions between Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan's government and many major cities run by opposition-controlled mayors have risen during the coronavirus outbreak

Istanbul Mayor Ekrem İmamoğlu has accused the government of not working with the city’s municipality in its efforts against the coronavirus outbreak, failing to inform him of major decisions - such as the last-minute imposition of a weekend curfew a week ago - and of ignoring his calls for a stronger lockdown. 

The Interior Ministry also blocked municipal aid campaigns after Erdoğan launched a nationwide fundraising campaign to help low-income Turks during the outbreak. Erdoğan accused opposition-run municipalities of attempting to form a parallel state by launching charity drives.

Akyol said it was obvious that opposition party mayors such as İmamoğlu in Istanbul, Mansur Yavaş in Ankara, and Tunç Soyer in İzmir wanted to work with the government, yet they had not even been able to get an appointment to meet the president.  

He said that the state’s efforts would be more effective and reliable if it exercised its powers fairly regarding all political parties. 

“The troubles will grow. This is not the time for partisanship, it is the time to join hands with sincerity,” said Akyol.