Widespread criticism and a social media backlash forced Turkey’s ruling party to backtrack over its opposition to the establishment of the municipal commission aimed at fighting drug abuse in Turkey’s largest city Istanbul.
The Gazete Duvar news portal reported that councilors of the Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality (IBB) belonging to the Justice and Development Party (AKP) and its ally the National Movement Party (MHP) on Wednesday rejected a proposal setting up the commission.
The proposal was made by councilors of the Republican People’s Party (CHP) during a council meeting chaired by Istanbul’s newly elected CHP Mayor Ekrem Imamoglu.
The AKP and MHP councilors also rejected a CHP proposal on Wednesday to establish a commission for gender equality.
The pro-government Sabah daily reported on Wednesday that the AKP voted to reject the commission’s establishment because existing formations on the issue of drug addiction are deemed by the party to be sufficient and setting up another one was “unnecessary.”
The very next day the AKP reversed its opposition to the commission’s establishment after it came in for wide criticism by opposition figures, critics and social media users.
Mehmet Tevfik Goksu, the AKP’s group deputy chairman in the council, who is also Esenler district mayor, said during Thursday’s session that his party would propose setting up a research department in the municipality to fight against substance abuse next month.
“I announce this for the social media phenomena,” Artıgercek news portal quoted him as saying in reference to critical comments made by well-known social media users in Turkey.
“I wish they [CHP members] would have discussed the issue of drug abuse with us earlier. Everyone knows that a political movement such as AKP is against drug abuse,” Goksu stated.
Mayor Imamoglu emphasized during the meeting that the AKP group should display the same sensitivity, as they did on the issue of drug abuse, towards the establishment of a gender equality commission.
Speaking to T24 news portal on Thursday, Acıbadem University Director of Crime and Violence Research Oguz Polat underlined that local administrations are building blocks of the fight against drug abuse.
“Saying no to establishing a commission to fight drug addiction due to disputes between parties is treason. Members of political parties in Turkey should let go of the mindset that leads them to reject every proposal made by their political rivals,” Polat said.
Mayor Imamoglu received his official mandate 17 days after the local elections on March 31 due to full and partial vote recounts in various districts across Istanbul.
The recounts took place following appeals submitted to Turkey’s Supreme Electoral Council (YSK) by the ruling AKP.
President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s party faced a serious setback in local elections after main opposition CHP won the races in major cities, including Istanbul and capital Ankara.