“The local administration has a dynamic structure. They need to meet the demands of both the cities and the people living in these cities,” he said. “While the local administrations are expected to provide uninterrupted municipal services, all powers and authorities are given to the central administration … and this creates a contradictory situation. Decentralization means the establishment of local decision-making mechanisms,” Tanrıverdi added in an exclusive interview with Sunday’s Zaman.
He stated that the authority of the municipalities, whose responsibility is to meet the changing and increasing demands of cities, continues to be a topic of debate in Turkey. Asked about the criticism that the AK Party has stalled reforms in local governance, Tanrıverdi said he disagrees. “In Turkey, local administration reform has been started and continued by the AK Party. Since 2004, the government has made many important legal arrangements, including the Metropolitan Municipality Law and Special Provincial Administration Law,” he said.
“For example, we have passed a law on transforming disaster-risk areas, aptly called the Urban Transformation Law. Our duty is developing the cities and pleasing the people. We had to make legal arrangements in order to make cities more habitable and prevent unplanned and uncontrolled urbanization,” he explained.
The deputy chairman argued that Turkey has long ignored unplanned urbanization. “We should not expect that this problem will be solved in a short time. The regulations concerning the Urban Transformation Law are being prepared. The government will start to deal with the problem of unplanned and uncontrolled urbanization in 2013, and in future the silhouette of cities will radically change. Other countries have experienced this transformation over a long period,” he stated. Referring to a report titled “Local Administration Report of the AK Party,” Tanrıverdi said the document does not express the official position of the AK Party; rather, it is the joint project of five experts, and contains their personal opinions on local administrations. He clarified: “We want to improve the service quality of the local administrations. Thus, some of our friends have done some intellectual exercises about the steps that need to be taken within this scope and collected their opinions in a report. In this report, they express their views about the handover of authorities and ways to generate revenue for the local administrations. As the AK Party, we neither established a commission nor prepared a report on local administrations.”
The AK Party official also talked about possible changes in the security administration of local areas, with new laws to extend the borders of metropolitan municipalities to the provincial borders. “The amendment of the village law will be on Parliament’s agenda in the upcoming session,” he said.
“Of course, if the borders of the metropolitan municipalities are expanded, the necessary arrangements for their security will be made. Because of hardships and impossibilities, the gendarmerie is tasked with ensuring security in some settlements. Until very recently, Ankara’s Çayyolu neighborhood, which is close to the city center, was controlled by the gendarmerie. I am sure that the Interior Ministry will take the necessary measures and make legal arrangements,” he explained. Tanrıverdi emphasized that the reform process will never end. “Since the driving force of this process is the changing needs of the people and a changing world, we will always need new reforms to meet people’s demands,” he said. “Until very recently, infrastructure services were considered the backbone of municipal services. Then transportation and road construction gained importance. Finally, social facilities and landscaping works have become a requirement in Turkey.”
Tanrıverdi praised municipalities under the AK Party for solving a substantial number of infrastructural problems and providing social facilities and landscaping works, but said that residents in municipal areas now ask local government to meet the socio-cultural needs of the people. “The municipalities have started to emphasize the social aspects of their services. Now we want to see that our municipalities produce services in consideration of new demands, and emphasize the beauty of life via cultural activities.”
‘For stability and predictability, we hold elections on time’
Hüseyin Tanrıverdi, Justice and Development Party (AK Party) deputy chairman, stated that it is a cardinal rule to maintain stability in Turkey for the AK Party to hold elections on time. “We have never considered changing the election schedule,” he noted. Asked about the debate surrounding changing the date of municipal elections currently scheduled for 2014, Tanrıverdi explained: “We consider the change in the election schedule a threat to political stability. … During the last 10 years, Turkey has been in a period in which elections have been held as scheduled. Thanks to the political stability, Turkey grows. We never disturb political stability by changing the election schedule, because it would take Turkey backwards.”
He added, however, that if there is consensus in Parliament, particularly among opposition parties, on changing the date, the AK Party will not remain indifferent. Recalling that the AK Party has drawn criticism in the past for holding local elections in harsh winter conditions, Tanrıverdi said that moving the election date to the fall may be a possibility.
“The campaigning period for the municipal elections in March 2014 will take place during winter days. The winter conditions continue to affect many parts of the country during March. The tragic death of Muhsin Yazıcıoğlu, the former leader of the Grand Unity Party [BBP], in a helicopter crash in Kahramanmaraş ahead of the local election of March 29  showed that these concerns are not baseless,” he stated. “Since holding early elections will require constitutional amendment, the best option is that all parliamentary parties should determine a new date for the elections by consensus,” he said, stressing that the AK Party does not have sufficient votes in the Parliament to change the date alone. “It would be more appropriate if the opposition parties made this offer,” he remarked.
“The main opposition party’s support for this amendment is important. Otherwise, it will be concluded that [the AK Party] wants to hold the elections in winter conditions, and it doesn’t matter to us. We are fulfilling our responsibility by saying the date of the election can be changed if the opposition parties demand this,” he noted.