A Turkish mayor declared to a news conference that democracy in Turkey is broken as on October 30 he resigned and left President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s ruling AKP party after enduring pressure and threats he said were “beyond unbearable”.
Ahmet Edip Ugur, mayor of the northwestern province of Balikesir, who was briefly reduced to tears before journalists, is the sixth Turkish mayor in recent weeks to quit their post in a purge of local government.
“There is no corruption, no irregularity, no failures on my side... but despite this, there are pressures and threats coming all the way into your home and to your family. This is beyond unbearable,” Reuters reported him as saying. He added that he had no ties to the network of US-based cleric Fethullah Gulen, whom Ankara blames for the failed coup of July last year, despite his strenuous denials of being in any way involved.
In the wake of the botched putsch, Turkey declared a state of emergency, allowing Erdogan, who founded the AKP, to rule by decree. Under the emergency powers, extended for a fifth time on October 17 by another three months, more than 50,000 people have been arrested in wide-ranging purges, while around 150,000 people, including military personnel, judges, academics, journalists, police officers, teachers and civil servants at various ministries have been dismissed from their jobs. Turkey has become the biggest jailer of journalists in the world with around 150 behind bars.
Erdogan has explained the massive crackdown as necessary to isolate Gulenists and maintain stability in Turkey. The AKP, he says, needs a renewal, having governed the country for 15 years.
EU accession off course
However, the tough regime run by Erdogan since the coup was foiled risks throwing Turkey’s EU accession process irreversibly off course, with Germany in particular angry at human rights infringements amid Ankara’s slide towards what it sees as authoritarianism. What’s more the economic consequences of Turkey’s actions could mount up. For instance, on October 25 it was reported that Berlin is working actively to cut funding from Germany’s state-owned KfW development bank, the European Investment Bank (EIB) and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD).
Outgoing mayor Ugur, who also told the press briefing he was “sorry, hurt, but in peace”, quit following the resignations of the mayors of Istanbul and Ankara. Melih Gokcek, a loyal Erdogan backer who served as Ankara’s mayor for 23 years, stepped down on October 28.
In a televised speech, he said: “I leave my post of mayor upon orders from our leader Recep Tayyip Erdogan. This is not because I think I’m unsuccessful, tired or for some other reason. I am solely realising the request of Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who I believe will make my country a leading nation.”
Istanbul Mayor Kadir Topbas has also resigned on orders from Erdogan.