The resignation of Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality Mayor, Kadir Topbaş, has made talk all the louder of Prime-Minister Binali Yıldırım’s candidacy for Istanbul in 2019, which has been discussed in hushed tones in AKP circles for some time.
Prime-Minister Binali Yıldırım gave the first pointer that Kadir Topbaş would resign yesterday following his visit to the Türk-İş trade union confederation. With Yıldırım indicating that Topbaş would make an announcement in the afternoon, nothing but resignation remained on the cards.
Even if Binali Yıldırım gave the pointer emanating from the ruling party, the news basically came one day earlier from the CHP’s ex-journalist parliamentarian, Barış Yarkadaş. Barış Yarkadaş made known that Topbaş would resign after five development plan changes were passed the day before yesterday by AKP members at a meeting he did not attend despite having been vetoed by him last week. Yarkadaş revealed in public that Topbaş had intimated his intention to resign to his close acquaintances but President Erdoğan who was in the USA had asked him to wait. After Erdoğan had set foot on Turkish soil yesterday, events moved speedily and Topbaş announced his resignation in the evening hours.
In the wake of the planning change crisis, Topbaş had begun to be spoken of as a “lame duck” in the sense that his departure had been decided on and it was only a question of when. However, political circles had pointed to Topbaş being for the chop more or less since the 15 July coup attempt.
Following the detention on FETO charges of his son-in-law businessman Ömer Faruk Kavurmacı, there had been constant talk of the impossibility of his 2019 candidacy and his standing down being a matter of time. When it came to his son-in-law Kavurmacı being released and then re-detained, this was said to have put the final veto on 2019.
As these very events unfolded, Prime-Minister Binali Yıldırım’s name began to be touted in party circles as Topbaş’s sole potential replacement. Especially after the reaching of agreement with the MHP on the presidential system and this having been achieved in the referendum, even greater weight was attached to stratagems for Yıldırım to go to Istanbul. A widespread consensus formed that Yıldırım’s capacity to make things happen and get results, rather than his political attributes, would win the municipality for the AKP. No sooner had Topbaş resigned than Yıldırım’s candidacy began to be openly spoken of in many different sections of the party.
16 April fear
Irrespective of who is brought in to replace Topbaş today, the word in the AKP is that, barring a major surprise, Binali Yıldırım will be the AKP’s candidate for Istanbul Mayor in the local elections slated for March 2019. The defeat suffered by the AKP for the first-time in Istanbul in the 16 April referendum on the presidency adds further grist to the mill of Binali Yıldırım’s candidacy. The view being aired is that Yıldırım’s nature as one who avoids argument and gets things done puts him in an advantageous position when it comes to taking votes from other parties. Yıldırım’s candidacy may also determine whether the elections are brought forward. The matter is being discussed in such terms in party circles. An amendment to the constitution is required for the local elections to be brought forward. However, there is no such need for the November 2019 elections. So, the view doing the rounds is that Yıldırım’s candidacy may necessitate the Presidential and Parliamentary elections being brought forward. The AKP also suffered a similar setback in the referendum in Ankara. While details remain hazy, the fear instilled by 16 April has also given rise to discreet discussions over the names of new candidates for Ankara Metropolitan Municipality.
Two departures at the very top in sixteen months
Assessments are also being made in the party over the consequences of the resignation. In this connection, attention is being given to the magnitude of Topbaş’s resignation and that of Prime-Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu sixteen months earlier on 5 May 2016. The thoughts doing the rounds regarding both resignations are, “In sixteen months, at the top level, a Prime-Minister has departed and the party’s mayor of Istanbul, the biggest and most important province, has also departed. Neither of them even explained why they were resigning when they departed, either.”
As to the opposition, the conclusion is that this has its roots in the single-man administration that has been long in the forming and came into being on 16 April and that no office apart from the general chair has any power.