Turkey’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) could replace at least 13 Istanbul district heads and the total number of provincial heads replaced nationwide could rise to 30 by the end of March 2018, daily Hürriyet has reported.
According to AKP sources, the party is expected to replace at least a third of Istanbul’s 51 district heads and focus on Turkey’s cultural capital as part of its strategy ahead of 2019, when local, parliamentary and presidential elections are scheduled.
The rumors come amid an ongoing “restructuring” operation ahead of key 2019 elections, which began with the resignation of Kadir Topbaş as Istanbul mayor on Sept. 22 and continued with the resignation of five more prominent mayors, including Melih Gökçek after 23 years as Ankara mayor.
President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, said to be disappointed with the relatively low “Yes” vote in Istanbul in the April 2017 referendum on shifting to an executive presidential system, is keen to focus on Turkey’s most populous province ahead of 2019.
As a result, the AKP’s Istanbul’s city and provincial heads are expected to be subjected to the “restructuring process” by early 2018.
The exact date for the changes in Istanbul is expected to be made public along with the date of the Istanbul city congress, which is also as yet uncertain. While a number of local AKP congresses have also been reshuffled, the party will hold the remainder across the country by the end of February, sources stated.
The party’s general congress is expected to be held in spring, once local reshuffling is completed. At the general congress, the AKP is expected to renew part of its Central Decision and Executive Board, while also reshuffling the ministerial cabinet in order to form an “election cabinet” for the 2019 race.
More than 800 of Turkey’s 1,397 district and provincial municipalities are run by mayors who are members of the ruling AKP.