Ankara Mayor Melih Gökçek officially resigns after 23 years of service

Published 28.10.2017 14:29
Updated 29.10.2017 09:30
Ankara Mayor Melih Gökçek officially resigns after 23 years of service

Melih Gökçek, the mayor of Turkey's capital Ankara, has announced his resignation on Saturday after serving for 23 years, amid the rejuvenation bid in the ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party) before 2019 elections.

Gökçek convened the municipal council Saturday to announce his resignation. While members from the AK Party attended the meeting, members from the main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP) and opposition Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) declined to attend.

Recalling 23 years of service in Ankara and counting some of the improvements in the city, Gökçek said that he decided to take this step after a call for his resignation from President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.

He noted that the resignation stems from his faith in the AK Party and its leader Erdoğan's cause, rather than fatigue or misconduct.

Following the mayors of Istanbul, Bursa, Niğde and Düzce, Gökçek is the fifth AK Party mayor who resigned from the post.

In a landmark speech this summer, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said that there was "mental fatigue" within the AK Party and took up the task of rejuvenating it ahead of three crucial elections in 2019: local elections, parliamentary elections and presidential elections.

Erdoğan said in a recent interview that he was expecting three mayors to submit their resignations, including Melih Gökçek, Ahmet Altepe of northwestern industrial hub of Bursa and Ahmet Edip Uğur of Balıkesir, a city neighboring Bursa.

Gökçek started his political life as the mayor of the capital's Keçiören district from the center-right Motherland Party (ANAP). After serving as the former head of the Social Services and Child Protection Society, he entered parliament in 1991 as an Ankara lawmaker for the conservative Welfare Party (RP), a predecessor of the AK Party.

After three years in parliament, Gökçek took the office of Ankara mayor on March 27, 1994, in the local elections and has served for five consecutive terms. The same elections also saw Erdoğan chosen as the mayor of Istanbul.

He became the first Ankara mayor to win two terms in 1999 as the candidate of the Virtue Party (VP), founded after RP was shut down by the Constitutional Court.

When VP was also shut down 2001, he was among the reformist group including Erdoğan and former President Abdullah Gül that did not join the new Felicity Party established by traditional National Vision movement. Initially declining to join newly founded Justice and Development (AK) Party, he later joined the party and won a third term in 2004.

Gökçek's fourth election win came in 2009, followed by another victory in 2014.

Despite his election successes and popularity in Ankara, Gökçek remained a divisive figure in overall Turkish politics and over his mayoral services. His debates with the opposition and active use of Twitter were also distinctive.

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