The elected co-mayors of Turkey’s eastern metropolitan city of Van (Wan), Bedia Özgökçe Ertan and Mustafa Avcı, were replaced by the Ankara administration with an appointed ‘trustee’ on 19 August 2019, only four months after they had been elected to the post with 54 percent of the metropolitan area vote.
This marked the second wave of the civilian coup d’etat on local governments in Kurdish-majority cities, the first having removed other elected mayors after the 2016 municipal elections. This second wave was almost completed by October 2020 as mayors of 54 of the 65 local governments in control of the People’s Democratic Party (HDP) were replaced with government appointed trustees.
Mustafa Avcı made a public address in Van on the second anniversary of the coup, condemning the Ankara administration’s policy of disregarding the Kurdish vote, and heavily criticising the corruption that came along with the trustee, giving a detailed account of the malpractices, MA reports.
“The trustee means extortion, plunder and coup. It means indebtedness for the people,” he said in his address as he spoke at the protest organised by the HDP, and added: “I want to start by condemning this anti-pluralistic, authoritarian minded trustee regime.”
Avcı said that the trustee regime, after its takeover of local government, started channeling funds to trivial projects while it ignored the main problems of the city. Indicating that the lack of a transportation master plan was one of these, he said they’d started working on a project with the Istanbul Technical University before he and the other co-mayor, Bedia Özgökçe Ertan, were removed from the post.
“The trustee scrapped the contract as soon as he was appointed, and sent the experts from the Istanbul Technical University away,” he said.
Underlining that the lack of a development master plan was another major problem and the concentration of urban growth around only two avenues was not sustainable, he said that they had started working with the Istanbul Technical University on this issue too. “The trustee instantly scrapped this project as well,” he said.
After pointing out other major needs like construction of a freeway, improvement of infrastructure for tourism, creation of a city square and extending urban green space, he explained how the trustee-led city government consumed funds.
“And what do they do? Their construction of prestigious avenues! While major problems pile up, they’re removing pavement stones and reconstructing pavements. They are erecting signal lights. They’re removing the asphalt and replacing it… The market price of a single traffic light pole is seven thousand liras. You know what they paid? They paid 19 thousand liras for a single pole. They have erected five poles in places where two would suffice. Look who is profiting.”
He also referred to how the city funds were being usurped by the governing Justice and Development party (AKP).
“Expenses for the election meeting of the Justice and Development Party was paid for by the city municipality… Now they use city funds for financing the social aid packages. The packages are delivered to members of the Justice and Development Party, and the party distributes them.”