Istanbul mayor condemns AKP limit on water tariffs: 'What you are doing is a crime'

As the central government has raised electricity and natural gas tariffs to sky-high rates, Istanbul Municipal Council's members from the ruling AKP have blocked a proposal to raise city-distributed water tariffs. Mayor Ekrem İmamoğlu condemned the move as “criminal.”

This file photo shows Istanbul Mayor Ekrem İmamoğlu addressing a meeting.

Duvar English

Istanbul Mayor Ekrem İmamoğlu, from the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP),  has condemned the rejection of increased water tariffs in the city by the councilors of the Justice and Development Party (AKP) and Nationalist Movement Party (AKP).

As the government has raised the electricity and natural gas prices to sky-high rates, İmamoğlu has said that what the AKP-MHP bloc is doing is a “crime.”

“A very dirty game is being played against the Istanbul Municipality,” he said during a press conference held at the Istanbul Water and Sewerage Administration (İSKİ) on Feb. 18. “You will pay for the damage you have done in the courts,” he said. 

The İmamoğlu-led administration brought before the municipal council a proposal that would have raised water prices to keep up with the costs which have increased by more than 100% and proposed to raise tariffs by 50%. The proposal, however, was turned down by the votes of the AKP and MHP councilors. 

President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan doubled down on this stance on Feb. 17, calling not just for prices to keep steady, but for them to decrease by as much as the government has reduced the value-added tax (VAT) on staple foods. In recent weeks, the VAT on staple foods has been reduced from 8% to 1%, in a move that many economists have analyzed as political more than economically effective. 

Without touching on increases in electricity and natural gas prices, President Erdoğan implied that municipalities were trying to take advantage of citizens. He further said that AKP municipalities would decrease water tariffs by 7%. It is noteworthy that water has not been a subject of complaint in recent weeks - the bills most severely affecting people in Turkey are electricity and natural gas, sparking widespread protest and condemnation of government policy. 

“We want the peace of our citizens at this point. We will bring discounts on water and bread,” Erdoğan said.

He said that his party would not stop until Turkey was one of the 10 most powerful economies in the world. Currently, Turkey is facing sky-high inflation and price ranges on both goods and utilities, largely as a result of government policy.

Mayor İmamoğlu condemned the President’s words. In a tweet on Feb. 17, he said that the “people should decide” which bills they want to be reduced.

A day later on Feb. 18, İmamoğlu said that what the AKP was doing is "criminal." He noted that according to the law, İSKİ cannot supply water below cost. However, as a result of price rises in electricity and other inputs, that is what it is having to do.

“İSKİ or the municipality are not responsible for anything. If the price of anything increases too much in this country, people who manage the economy, the government, are responsible for this,” he said.

He said that the “blind” AKP will pay for what it has done to put the “precious” people of Turkey into an economic depression.