The biggest urban problem in Istanbul is traffic congestion followed by population issues, according to Binali Yıldırım, the Turkish Parliament speaker who is running for mayor of the country’s largest city from the ruling Justice and Development Party’s (AKP) ranks.
“We have asked [people] what the biggest problem in Istanbul is and I asked in person the same question to the people on the street. Without any exceptions, residents in all districts say it is transportation and traffic,” Yıldırım told a group of journalists on Jan. 7.
The candidate for the March 31 local election suggested linking the car lots used by private vehicles to the public transportation system in a bid to improve the use of bus and underground lines and ease intra-city traffic.
“The residents want a more accessible Istanbul with a cleaner air and nature as especially young people and children want to live in a city that possesses the infrastructure and opportunities that would fulfill their dreams and expectations, where social and cultural activities are held intensely,” he said, adding that there are people who cite dense population and crowd as a major problem.
The history of the city dates back 8,500 years, according to recent studies, Yıldırım said.
“I think it is even older than that. Maybe new excavations will prove that. As Mustafa Kemal Atatürk puts it, the summary of our history and civilization is Istanbul,” he said, citing the founding father of the Turkish Republic.
He also praised President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, who was mayor of the city between 1994 and 1998.
“We will be working very comfortably because we have a president who has been here. Thus, I will be working with a president who knows about Istanbul the best and who has been a companion for 40 years,” he said.
Asked about any probabilities of a division in ideas, he said this would not create an issue.
“We [the AKP] might have split opinions, but in the end, we have a leader,” he said.
Yıldırım said he doesn’t need to resign from his parliament speaker seat during the election campaign.
“Since a lawmaker does not have to resign from the seat while running for another term and attends campaigns as a member of parliament, it is not lawful or just to find it odd for a lawmaker doing so at the local elections,” he said.
Yıldırım cited the Turkish election law and said “our position today is a lawful situation that does not constitute a judicial problem.”
Opposition groups have slammed Yıldırım for running for mayor while serving as parliament speaker, urging him to be “impartial” as a speaker of parliament as the Constitution states.
The AKP and the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) will enter the election as the People’s Alliance, with the latter refraining from appointing candidates in the country’s three largest provinces.
On the other side stands the Nation Alliance of the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) and the İYİ (Good) Party in major cities.
Responding to a question on recent remarks by Ekrem İmamoğlu, the CHP’s candidate for Istanbul, who said the city cannot be ruled by the orders from the government, Yıldırım criticized his rival for contradiction.
“İmamoğlu says ‘Istanbul cannot be ruled from Ankara.’ Then he says that ‘we will implement a 2,200 Turkish Lira [roughly $410] monthly minimum wage in line with the instructions by our leader, Kemal Kılıçdaorğlu.’ Isn’t it odd? Istanbul cannot be ruled from Ankara but it also cannot be ruled without Ankara,” he said.