Turkish opposition-run municipalities demand right to collect coronavirus aid

Eleven mayors of opposition-run metropolitan municipalities in Turkey signed a joint statement on Wednesday calling on the government to allow them to continue their charity drives during the coronavirus pandemic.

All municipal campaigns were blocked on Tuesday by the Interior Ministry who said municipalities could not collect aid without permission from the central government-appointed provincial governor, a day after Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan had launched a nationwide fundraising campaign to help people in need during the outbreak.

Municipalities are obliged to get permission to collect aid, while there is no such limitation on receiving donations, according to Turkish law.

"While it is completely legal for municipalities to receive donations, the Interior Ministry's blocking of a practice which was performed by the municipalities for years by granting it aid status will not bring any benefit, and it will only increase the suffering of our citizens who are waiting for help," the joint statement said.

"We are not in a position to engage in a 'who is right and who is wrong' debate about this issue as new victims are being added on top of millions, or waste time when our people are waiting for help. We leave this discussion to public discretion," the municipalities’’ statement said.

Erdoğan on Wednesday accused the main opposition Republican People's Party-run municipalities of Istanbul and Ankara, Turkey's largest city and the capital, of trying become a state within a state.