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Erdogan calls on Turkish mayors to quit to revitalise AKP party

Recep Tayyip Erdogan says positions of three city mayors, including the Ankara 'boss' Melih Gokcek, should not be considered eternal
Erdogan said 'this situation was conveyed to Melih' (AFP)

Recep Tayyip Erdogan has called on mayors of three major cities to resign, including the high-profile mayor of Ankara in a push to revitalise his ruling party ahead of 2019 elections, the Hurriyet newspaper reported on Thursday.

The comments mark the Turkish president's most explicit demand yet for a shake-up of veteran politicians - some of whom are nationally prominent - after voters in many cities rejected an April referendum granting him sweeping powers.

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While Erdogan narrowly won the referendum to change the constitution and create an executive presidency, 17 of Turkey's 30 largest cities voted against the change. They included the capital, Ankara, which has been led by Melih Gokcek for 24 years.

Since then, Erdogan has spoken of the need for renewal in local government and the ruling AKP party, citing signs of "metal fatigue" within administrations.

"People do not take these offices as independent candidates but as candidates shown by parties," the Hurriyet reported Erdogan as saying.

"We cannot regard these posts as chairs which are kept eternally and never abandoned."

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 Melih. The same with Bursa," he was quoted as saying. 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, the victor in five elections and referred to as "the boss" by supporters, has so far stayed in place, despite widespread speculation that he 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 Twitter posts in which he has engaged in spats with journalists and other senior members of the AKP.

In February he suggested the US-based cleric blamed for last year's failed coup might be plotting an earthquake, with the help of foreign powers, to damage the economy.

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