İstanbul Mayor Topbaş resigns from post after dispute with AKP council members

Kadir Topbaş

İstanbul Metropolitan Municipality Mayor Kadir Topbaş announced Friday his resignation after 13 years of service. The resignation follows disputes in the municipality administration, after Topbaş handed back five previously agreed zoning amendments on the grounds that they would damage the municipal council. The amendments were then approved once again without changes with the votes of AKP council members.

Speaking at a press conference at the municipality building in Saraçhane, Topbaş said that he was only resigning from his post as mayor and would continue his political career within the ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party).

Topbaş said he was “not offended” by the recent dispute and had always been committed to the party, saying he welcomed criticism but would not forget disrespect fullness against him.

“I have never said ‘I am tired’ and I am not leaving the municipality in debt,” he added, while warning that opposition parties will now try to exploit his resignation.

“We tried not to make mistakes. Mistakes and betrayal should not be confused. Those who betray are never forgiven. But I am proud,” he said.

“We should stand by our president [Recep Tayyip Erdoğan] as 80 million people. Thank you to the people of İstanbul and also to the president, the prime minister and ministers,” he said.

Topbaş’s son-in-law Ömer Faruk Kavurmacı was arrested over his alleged links to the Gülen movement as part of Turkish government’s massive post-coup witch hunt campaign targeting the alleged members of the movement. Kavurmacı was detained during a police operation against the Turkish Confederation of Businessmen and Industrialists (TUSKON), which was affiliated with the movement. He was later released by a Turkish court.

Before entering office as mayor, Topbaş had worked for many years as an architect. 72-year-old Topbaş previously became mayor of İstanbul’s Beyoğlu district in 1999. After the 2004 regional elections, Topbaş assumed office as the mayor of İstanbul. He became the first Istanbul mayor to be reelected twice for the post in 2009 and 2013

Turkey survived a controversial military coup attempt on July 15, 2016 that killed 249 people. Immediately after the putsch the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) government along with Turkey’s autocratic President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan pinned the blame on the Gülen movement.

Fethullah Gülen, who inspired the movement, strongly denied having any role in the failed coup and called for an international investigation into it, but President Erdoğan — calling the coup attempt “a gift from God” — and the government initiated a widespread purge aimed at cleansing sympathizers of the movement from within state institutions, dehumanizing its popular figures and putting them in custody.

Turkey’s Justice Ministry announced on July 13 that 50,510 people have been arrested and 169,013 have been the subject of legal proceedings on coup charges since the failed coup.

İstanbul Mayor Topbaş had suggested to establish a “cemetery for traitors” for those coup makers who were killed during the clashes in the night of a coup attempt on July 15, 2016.

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