Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has held the metropolitan municipalities run by opposition parties on Turkey’s southern and western coasts responsible for the country’s poor handling of ongoing wildfires.
More than 180 wildfires have scorched huge swathes of forest and killed nine people since breaking out along almost the entire perimeter of Turkey’s Aegean and Mediterranean coasts.
With Erdoğan and his Justice and Development Party (AKP) government facing increased criticism over the apparent poor response and inadequate preparedness for the large-scale wildfires, the president said the municipalities are responsible for containing the fires.
“Who is responsible for [taking care of] fires, etc., in residential areas? The responsibility lies with the metropolitan municipalities there,” Erdoğan said during an interview on A Haber Wednesday evening in an apparent bid to save his government from mounting criticism over the poor response to the wildfires.
The municipalities in Turkey’s Aegean and Mediterranean coasts are mostly run by the opposition parties, mainly the Republican People’s Party (CHP).
“The Antalya Metropolitan Municipality, the Muğla Metropolitan Municipality have primary responsibility [for containing the fires]. İzmir and Aydın, likewise. Denizli, too. They can’t say, ‘No, it is not our responsibility.’ They should take a look at the [relevant] law regarding local administrations. What kind of a mobilization have they done? What are they doing now?” asked Erdoğan.
The mayors of these municipalities, however, complain that government officials leave their calls for air support to contain the flames unanswered.
CHP Deputy Chairman Seyit Torun, who is responsible for local administrations, slammed Erdoğan for his statements about the opposition municipalities. In a statement on Twitter late on Wednesday, Torun referred to Turkey’s Forestry Law NO. 6831 and said this law clearly holds the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry responsible for containing fires.
“You never tire of putting the blame on municipalities whenever you’re put in a difficult situation. You are inept,” Torun said, targeting Erdoğan and his government.
During the interview Erdoğan also accused the opposition parties of making the wildfires a matter of politics, claiming that it is never the case in other countries.
“In Turkey, the opposition terror winds are blowing. It’s impossible to ignore this,” Erdoğan said, claiming that opposition parties work with governments when fires erupt in countries such as the US, Canada and Russia and that Turkish opposition parties are doing the opposite.
When the government admitted that it did not have a usable firefighting aircraft fleet to combat the wildfires, opposition parties accused the government of failing to procure firefighting planes and instead spending money on construction projects that they say are harmful to the environment.