ANKARA (Reuters) – Istanbul’s new opposition municipality cancelled the transfer of more than 350 million lira to some pro-government foundations, Mayor Ekrem Imamoglu said on Tuesday, in one of his first moves against Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan since his election.
Imamoglu, of the main opposition Republican People’s Party, won a decisive victory in a June 24 re-run vote, ending a 25-year rule by Erdogan’s AK Party (AKP) and its predecessors in the country’s largest city and commercial hub.
Throughout his election campaign, Imamoglu vowed to uncover what he said was the wasteful transfer of millions of lira to pro-government foundations by previous administrations.
“As of now, we have completed the cancellation of a total of 357 million lira ($62 million) of resources that were given or transferred to foundations,” he told reporters on Tuesday, adding that this figure included 56 million lira of “food support” and a 165 million lira of building.
“It’s incredible. On what are you spending the people’s money?” he said. “This is only the beginning.”
The municipality also annulled its protocol agreements with five foundations receiving transfers.
One of the five was the Turkey Youth and Education Service Foundation (TURGEV), which Erdogan founded when he was mayor of Istanbul in the 1990s. Its board includes Erdogan’s daughter, his communication director’s wife, and a former AKP mayor.
Other foundations that had protocol agreements annulled and fund transfers cancelled include the Turkish Youth Foundation (TUGVA), the Ensar Foundation, the Aziz Mahmut Hudayi foundation, and the Daru’l Funun Theology foundation.
The move comes after Turkish authorities last week replaced Kurdish mayors in three southeastern cities with state officials and detained more than 400 people for suspected militant links, sparking sharp criticism from the opposition.
Erdogan has said his government would take similar measures in other parts of the country if needed. But Imamoglu said such remarks were “saddening” and meaningless.
“Istanbul is in safe hands. Istanbul is being managed by a mayor who received close to 50% of the votes of Istanbulites,” Imamoglu said.
(Reporting by Tuvan Gumrukcu; Editing by Jonathan Spicer)