Ankara Mayor Gokcek to resign as Erdogan consolidates local power

Ankara Mayor Gokcek to resign as Erdogan consolidates local power

Melih Gokcek steps down today after 23 years in office. The move comes after Ankara’s residents voted against an expansion of

Photo: Greater Municipality of Ankara

Photo: Greater Municipality of Ankara

Melih Gokcek steps down today after 23 years in office. The move comes after Ankara’s residents voted against an expansion of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s powers in an April referendum.

Though Erdogan won the national vote, poor results in big cities—particularly Ankara, Istanbul and Izmir—point to the president’s political vulnerabilities. While his political base is rural, he likely wishes to expand his support among more liberal-leaning and opposition-friendly urbanites.

To this end, Erdogan has pushed out big city mayors, including Istanbul’s Kadir Topbas last month, in a bid to bolster his local power. The president will select Gokcek’s successor, and he will no longer deal with the mayor’s more outlandish statements, including accusations Israel manufactured artificial earthquakes.

Yet, Gokcek is a member of Erdogan’s Justice and Development Party and is personally loyal to the president. Erdogan then may not solely be motivated by consolidating power; he could believe that fresh blood is needed locally to gain support among urban voters. Whatever the motive, expect Erdogan to continue replacing mayors across Turkey as he bids to strengthen his rule.

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