Municipalities in Turkey have escalated their property sales ahead of the 31 March local elections, raising concerns about the potential depletion of public assets and the long-term impact on local communities and urban development.
The trend is most prevalent among those municipalities under the control of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP).
According to Tolga Güney of Mezopotamya Agency, between the announcement of the election schedule on 1 December and 20 January, a total of 107 property sale tenders have been listed in the Official Gazette, the majority by AKP-led municipalities.
These sales are predominantly conducted through closed bidding processes. On the day the election timetable was announced, the Official Gazette published notices of property sales by six municipalities, including those in Siverek (Sîwereg) in Urfa (Riha) and Kadıköy in Yalova, both under AKP administration. The listings covered a range of residential and commercial properties across various regions.
AKP-led municipalities have been notable for their large-scale property sales. Significant among these are the sale by Elazığ municipality of 13 plots for residential and commercial development, and the offer for sale by Eyüpsultan municipality in Istanbul of a large residential plot in Kemerburgaz.
Additional large-scale sales were made by municipalities in Konya, Ankara, Giresun and Kayseri. Similar sales are also evident in municipalities where trustees were appointed in place of elected officials from the pro-Kurdish People’s Democratic Party (HDP), particularly Van (Wan), where there has been a concerted effort to sell off a substantial number of public properties.
Municipalities led by the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) have also been active in property sales, especially true in Ankara and Istanbul, where numerous transactions were carried out within the 50 days covered by MA’s report. Sales included properties in various districts of Ankara and plots in Kağıthane, Pendik and Eyüpsultan in Istanbul.
Municipalities under the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), another member of the governing coalition, have also engaged in property sales. Kayseri’s İncesu municipality and Dilok’s Oğuzeli municipality are among those that have announced sales of several plots.
There are documented instances of financial mismanagement and legal irregularities in various municipalities in Turkey, particularly the trustee administrations in Kurdish-majority cities.
For example, municipalities under trustees have rapidly depleted their resources, incurring massive debts, as noted in the reports of the Turkish Court of Accounts (Sayıştay). Illegal procurement, without application to open tenders, has also been an issue.
Trustees have resorted to selling off municipal assets including large tracts of land and municipal buildings to try and recoup some of their losses. It is strongly suspected by analysts that there is another purpose – to transfer the public wealth into private hands by selling to supporters at a reduced price.