JEDDAH: Since the beginning of this week, the mayors of Istanbul and Ankara, both led by the opposition, have been working to expose the corruption of their predecessors, who left the two cities in economic ruin.
Both mayors, when elected last year, promised full transparency in municipal finances and an end to cronyism, including the channeling of public money to close friends and family members.
Their promises to investigate former allegations of corruption have finally begun materializing.
This move did not receive a warm welcome from all, though. On Monday, members of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) and its right-wing ally in the Ankara Municipal Council, the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), left the meeting as Mayor Mansur Yavas announced his intent to expose the corrupt activities of former AKP Mayor Melih Gokcek.
During Gokcek’s rule in the city, which lasted for almost a quarter of a century, the public loss had amounted to about 3 quadrillion Turkish liras ($380 trillion dollars) with just three corruption cases, including unnecessary and costly projects such as the installation of 10-meter-long dinosaur statues or inflatable gorillas at various corners of the city.
These investments were harshly criticized by many, as they were incompatible with urban culture, history and architectural memory. The city was already facing infrastructure problems, especially regarding access to clean water, while the ruling class was focused on unpopular projects from which several pro-government companies profited immensely.
In Ankara, the files of 40 major corruption and mismanagement cases have already been submitted to the prosecutor’s office as the cases allegedly involve entities with ties to the ruling AKP, who received funds and commissions from municipal tenders behind closed doors.
Yavas, who has been mayor of the capital since March 2019, has prioritized proper management of the municipality’s depleted resources by revealing the corruption cases that drained the budget, which has already been strained under the combined effect of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic and Turkey’s existing economic troubles.
In May, Yavas also filed a lawsuit against his predecessor Gokcek for using the municipality’s coffers for the renewal of a wastewater treatment facility for other purposes. He accused Gokcek of abusing his authority.
The decisive fight of opposition figures against nepotism, crony capitalism and overt corruption cases still continues on various fronts this week.
On Monday, the leader of the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) Kemal Kilicdaroglu, who has recently received death threats from a notorious mafia leader politically affiliated to the nationalistic MHP, announced during his speech in parliament that he would expropriate all investments made by the “gang of five” once the CHP rules the country.
The “gang of five” refers to the five major construction companies that keep receiving the lion’s share of public funds despite widespread criticisms. These five companies are known for winning the highest number of public tenders globally.
Similarly, Istanbul Mayor Ekrem Imamoglu on Monday began to reveal some of the details regarding the corruption cases and irregularities of the previous period. The municipality is currently working on some 40 files of data, including the illegal spending of AKP-era municipalities.
It will be the first-ever major corruption file that will be unearthed under Imamoglu’s rule.
The Istanbul municipality filed a criminal complaint against 23 people, including the then Minister of Transport, for the loss of about 15.4 million liras of public money (about $1.97 million) through unlawful payments to a pro-government public relations company.
Turkey ranks 91 out of 198 countries in the latest corruption index from Transparency International.