ANKARA (Reuters) - Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan said on Thursday that three more mayors, including the high-profile mayor of the capital Ankara, are to resign soon, as he pushes to revitalise his ruling party ahead of 2019 elections.
It was Erdogan’s most explicit confirmation yet of his desire for a shake-up among veteran politicians - some of whom are nationally prominent - after voters in many big cities rejected an April referendum granting him sweeping powers.
“Three mayors from our party have handed in their resignations so far, and there are three more. I believe they will hand theirs in as soon as possible,” Erdogan told a news conference in Ankara.
“Those whose resignations we are waiting for are preparing to hand theirs in, otherwise we will do what is necessary,” Erdogan said.
While Erdogan narrowly won the referendum to change the constitution and create an executive presidency, voters in 17 of the country’s 30 largest cities voted against the move.
Since then, Erdogan has spoken of the need for renewal in local government and the ruling AK Party, citing signs of “metal fatigue” within administrations.
A request had been conveyed for the resignation of the mayor of Balikesir in northwest Turkey, the newspaper quoted him as saying.
“Likewise, this situation was conveyed to (Ankara Mayor) Melih (Gokcek). The same with Bursa,” the daily Hurriyet quoted him as telling reporters on his plane back from a trip to Poland this week. Bursa is a city in northwest Turkey.
The mayor of Istanbul has resigned in the last month, as has the mayor of Duzce city in northwest Turkey. The mayor of Nigde city in central Turkey resigned on Wednesday.
But Gokcek, who has been Ankara mayor since 1994 and won five consecutive elections, has so far stayed in place, despite widespread speculation that we would step down.
Gokcek has avoided addressing the resignation issue and pointedly steered clear of the subject in public when he made an unexpected visit to the presidential palace this month.
“I presented to my president all the project details of the museum to be built opposite the (presidential) palace. I also gave various information about ongoing municipal projects... For the public’s information,” he wrote on Twitter.
Gokcek, generally regarded as a staunch Erdogan loyalist, is well known in Turkey for tweets in which he has engaged in spats with journalists and other senior members of the AKP.
In February he suggested the U.S.-based cleric blamed for last year’s failed coup might be plotting an earthquake, with the help of foreign powers, to damage the economy.
Additional reporting by Tuvan Gumrukcu and Ece Toksabay in Ankara; Writing by Daren Butler; Editing by David Dolan