President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, who is also the leader of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), has instructed party member mayors to take complaints into consideration in their future actions, focusing on finding solutions and developing projects “that will win the hearts of the public.”
“Local elections in March, 2019 is a critical threshold for the [presidential] elections in November, 2019. For this reason, AK Party municipalities should not stay behind in the service competition,” Erdoğan reportedly told party executives during his visits to eastern and northeastern Anatolian cities late December 2017, according to sources familiar with the content of the meetings.
“All our local organizations and mayors should show the difference between the municipal understanding of the AK Party,” Erdoğan also said.
The AKP has recently accelerated its efforts to accomplish a massive restructuring of local organizations in a bid to be better prepared for the local elections scheduled for March 2019. The AKP will finalize this process through a final convention in the coming months.
The mayors of Ankara and Istanbul, as well as mayors of other prominent cities, resigned in 2017 after Erdoğan’s instructions aimed towards consolidating AKP votes in Turkey’s most populous constituencies.
Another instruction Erdoğan gave mayors was to have more coordination with the AKP headquarters, while warning that some “local heads cannot produce solutions, are insensitive to problems and act slowly on developing projects.”
“Do not stay indifferent to complaints. You have to win the hearts of the public by finding solutions to problems,” Erdoğan said.
“Our municipalities, which have great importance for AK Party rule, have to develop projects in accordance with the public demand. Do not initiate any project the public does not want. We have to win the hearts of the public by developing more projects in the cities, especially in metropolises like Istanbul and Ankara,” he said.
According to sources, Erdoğan also called on party executives to better explain a controversial decree law that stipulates impunity to civilians who were involved in efforts to thwart the coup attempt in mid-2016. Many oppositional parties and prominent political figures, like former President Abdullah Gül, have criticized the government’s move, which has led to a rare public row between Erdoğan and Gül.