AK Party prepares new bill for local administrations in coordination with MHP, CHP

DAILY SABAH
ISTANBUL
Published 15.01.2020 18:49

The new bill for municipalities is expected to be presented to Parliament in the coming months as the AK Party, in consultation with other parties, nears completion of its plans aimed at removing financial obstacles to funding

The ruling Justice and Development Party's (AK Party) preparations for a new bill that will regulate local administrations continues in coordination with other parties in Parliament, particularly the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) and the main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP), a party official said Wednesday.

According to AK Party deputy chairman in charge of local administrations, Mehmet Özhaseki, the bill will be ready to be proposed in Parliament within two months. The bill's main components will include enhancing the authority and funding for municipalities.

Özhaseki confirmed to journalists that the AK Party is in touch with the deputy chairmen of both MHP and CHP, Sadir Durmaz and Seyit Torun, respectively. Stating that both parties have requested to see the draft bill, Özhaseki said that they are still working on the final version and have sent them the initial draft.

"We need to create a draft that we can stand by so that we can say that 'here is our offer,'" he said, adding that there are many demands and offers coming from the local administrations, all of which are being discussed among party members.

Regarding the final draft of the bill, the deputy chairman said that he expects it to consist of 60 articles, adding that he will get in touch with both the MHP and CHP as soon as it is completed.

Özhaseki underlined that he wishes to enact the bill with a consensus in Parliament.

"It is a fact that the issues regarding the municipalities are a matter of concern for everyone. A municipality that is under the control of one party today may transfer to another one the next day. So, even if you would enact a bill today that would benefit your party, the circumstances may be reversed tomorrow," he said, indicating that this is why making what is right rather than acting in accordance with political affiliations is a must in this situation.

Previously in October, Özhaseki and Torun held a meeting in Parliament to exchange views about the planned reforms.

In their first face-to-face meeting, the two politicians discussed ideas about the general principles and sought to reach a consensus for the approval of the proposal in Parliament.

Torun suggested that the municipalities' authorities and sources of income should be increased with permanent regulations. Torun mentioned the economic difficulties many municipalities are facing, noting that their responsibilities have been increasing while their income sources remained the same.

Referring to the current state of local administrations during a meeting on the issue on Wednesday, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan underlined the importance of municipalities as an instrument supporting the central government.

"Municipalities have the ability to reach remote areas of our country. Throughout the history of (the AK Party's) service (to Turkey), local administrations have always been our supporting mechanism," the president said.

Regarding the criticisms toward the bill from the opposition parties, which claim that the central government will confiscate the authorities and the revenue of the local administrations, Özhaseki expressed that the bill will consist of articles that will rejuvenate municipalities while easing their job.

"There are no such articles that would make the job of the mayors more difficult and that would de-modernize the local administration understanding of today," he underlined.

Questioning the reasons why many municipalities are in debt today, Özhaseki said that many mayors tend to "bite off more than one can chew," especially ahead of elections.

"They want to show themselves off. I don't claim this for party A or party B. I merely want to explain the average psychology (of the mayors)," Özhaseki said. He further reminded that mayors also tend to employ more people during those periods in order to gain more support, which also puts municipalities in a financially difficult situation. As the debt rises, Özhaseki explained, the new mayor who replaced the old one also fails to take the situation under control in the next term, which eventually causes the central administration to be helpless in the face of the situation.

In response to a question asking if the new bill has any measures to prevent such scenarios from reoccurring, the deputy chairman said that AK Party's draft offers to reduce the Treasury's financial cut from the municipalities as a solution. "Yet, I'm not sure what would the treasury of the state's opinion be on the issue," Özhaseki said. He added that there are also articles that would order the municipalities to make smarter financial decisions.

He added that there are articles that are quite clear on the ethical responsibilities of the municipalities that would forbid acts like nepotism.

In Erdoğan's opinion, the economic levels of a given municipality do not matter, given that those in a better state could always assist those bearing the brunt. In this respect, the president gave the example of the east and west of the country, saying that despite difficult financial situations in many eastern municipalities, local administrations in the west funded various projects in support of eastern districts.

The president also urged the AK Party mayors to be accountable and available to their people.

"We shouldn't build bureaucratic walls between ourselves and the people. It is not fit for an AK Party member to look down on the people," he said, warning that it was easy for some to forget their main duties and display arrogance.

Millions of Turkish voters went to the polls on March 31, 2019, to choose mayors, city council members, mukhtars (neighborhood officials) and members of elder councils for five years.

While the AK Party led the polls in half of 30 metropolitan municipalities, the CHP led the polls in 11 metropolitan municipalities including Istanbul and the capital Ankara.

A total of 24 of the other 51 provinces are led by AK Party municipalities, while 10 of them are led by CHP municipalities.

The government has planned to widen the authority of the district municipalities while narrowing down the authority of provincial municipalities, especially when it comes to the major provinces such as Istanbul and Ankara.

The government has been planning to make some changes within the district authorities within the scope of the presidential system reforms that are on the way. In this respect, it was reported that in metropolises such as Istanbul and Ankara, some authorities of the metropolitan municipality will be transferred to the district municipalities.

In order to increase efficiency, it was suggested to make alterations within the distribution of certain authorities and transfer some rights to the districts.

The work also suggests an increase within the revenue of the local administrations while strengthening the hand of the municipalities when it comes to the fulfillment of a decree.

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