All municipal council meetings in Istanbul will be broadcast live through municipal social media accounts. This is a new development innovation brought about by newly elected Istanbul Metropolitan Mayor Ekrem Imamoglu.
After an arduous election process, Imamoglu finally took office last week. Due to objections from the ruling party AKP in the Supreme Election Board, getting official consent from the board took 17 days.
“I promised to [the people of] Istanbul. The transparency principle will be our priority. We will inform the public about all the developments. We will broadcast all municipal council meetings live,” he announced.
The new service has caught huge public interest. The council’s first two meetings were watched by 3.5 million people online.
Imamoğlu commented on the public interest shown in the meetings on his twitter account.
“Istanbul Municipal council meetings have become the most interesting and followed council in Turkey. It is a promising development in terms of Istanbul’s and Turkey’s democracy. 16 million Istanbulites have been informed regarding all decisions made in council meetings.”
Even though they vote in local elections every five years to elect mayors and council members, Turkish voters have little idea about the function of the municipal council.
Broadcasting municipal council meetings live gives them the opportunity to participate in the decision-making process and with the help of social media channels.
As a working political strategic move, the importance of the live broadcast came out yesterday. Bills regarding establishing commissions to fight drugs and social gender equality were rejected by the AKP. After the live broadcast, the rejections by the AKP were harshly criticized on social media and harshly criticized by the public.
Following the reactions one day later AKP members had to step back and accept the bill. Having the majority of the council didn’t work once again regarding making a deduction on student tickets from 95 TL to 50 TL which was one of the most important commitments made by Imamoğlu before the election.
First, AKP members put forward economic reasons to reject but then they suggested to make the tickets cheaper as a counteroffer. Therewith CHP members asked why didn’t they make students tickets cheaper when they were ruling municipality.
What is the main reason for the public interest?
Istanbul constitutes 20% of the population and 32% of the overall Gross Domestic Product in Turkey. The municipal budget of Istanbul city for 2019 is almost 24 billion TL (4 billion US$).
According to official government finance statistics for 2018, the Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality surpassed 18 ministries in the country in terms of budget size. Each decision taken in the Istanbul council has a significant effect on the Turkish economy.
Although Imamoglu got the highest number of the votes in the election history of the city, he faces a technical and serious barrier because the majority of the council belongs to the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) and its ally Nationalist Movement Party (MHP).
All sides have to seek a compromise to make a decision. President Erdogan, in one of his initial comments about the recent local election results, described the opposition’s winning candidates as lame ducks which are often used in US politics to define the elected president’s powerless situation without congress majority.
Thus, in the first meetings of the council, mayoral bills are met with intense opposition and rejected by AKP members.
CHP group spokesperson in the Istanbul Municipal Council Tarık Balyali’s comment gives an idea about the probable future of the meeting.
“Dear Istanbulite friends. We would like to thank you for your interest in our two-day-long meetings. We are strong together. Your support so important and meaningful for us. Our struggle will go on till the end to not embarrass you.”