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Turkish officials turn deaf ear to calls for resignation despite catastrophic toll of earthquake

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Officials from Turkey’s Justice and Development Party (AKP) government, including President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, have turned a deaf ear to calls for their resignation from opposition politicians and experts after the country’s most powerful earthquakes in almost 100 years claimed the lives of tens of thousands.

The 7.8-magnitude quake that struck near the city of Gaziantep as people slept on Feb. 6 has killed 41,156 people across 10 southeastern provinces hardest hit by the disaster, according to the latest official figures. It was followed by thousands of aftershocks, including a 7.5-magnitude temblor that struck the region later the same day.

Pervin Buldan, co-chair of the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), has said twice since the disaster that Erdoğan and his AKP government should resign since they did a poor job of coordinating search and rescue efforts after the quakes.

“If this government had a conscience and some [shame], all of them, including the president, would have resigned in the first two days [after the quakes]. However, they have neither the [shame] nor the conscience to resign,” Buldan said on Thursday.

“Everyone has one request — for them to resign as soon as possible. … What are you waiting for? … The only thing that needs to be done politically, morally and in good conscience is to resign,” Buldan said.

Leader of the nationalist opposition İYİ (Good) Party, Meral Akşener, also told reporters on Friday that it was “remarkable” that all the failures in organization and coordination of relief efforts after the earthquake hadn’t led to any government officials resigning.

“The AKP and Erdoğan [think they] have no responsibility. Tens of thousands of our people have died. But there hasn’t been a single resignation,” opposition Homeland Party (MP) leader Muharrem İnce said.

Professor Övgün Ahmet Ercan, an earthquake expert, on Friday called on Environment Minister Murat Kurum to resign, saying it would be “a very honorable departure” if he were to leave his position to a competent scientist who can do it successfully in order to “give some relief to the wounded heart of the public.”

“You aren’t solely responsible for the extraordinary destruction in the earthquake zone. … However, you have been in power for 20 years. If the necessary work had been done during that time, the losses could have been greatly reduced and all the structures there could have been transformed,” Ercan said, addressing the AKP.

Meanwhile, the İhlas News Agency (İHA) reported on Monday that Lüftü Savaş, mayor of Hatay, one of the areas hardest hit by the powerful earthquakes, denied claims that he would resign from office and from the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP).

“Together with our state, our nation, all our municipalities and institutions, we will neither leave our job nor leave Hatay before we get this place on its feet,” İHA quoted Savaş, a former member of the ruling AKP, as saying.

Journalist Erk Acarer slammed the mayor in a tweet, saying, “Resignation would have been a very honorable act for someone who was the guest of honor at the wedding of the son of [the owner of] Özburak Construction, which owns the largest number of buildings destroyed in Hatay!”

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