Gov't bans street vendors' bread sale, starts brawl with Istanbul Municipality

The Turkish Agriculture and Forestry Ministry started a brawl with the Istanbul Municipality by banning the sale of bread by mobile street vendors, first interpreted as closing municipal kiosks in the metropolis. Ankara has been at odds with opposition municipalities including Istanbul since main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP) won office in 2019.

Duvar English

The Turkish government banned the sale of bread by street vendors, as well as fruit and meat vendors, and released a decree that was initially interpreted as shutting down all bread kiosks by the Istanbul Municipality on Jan. 21.

The Agriculture and Forestry Ministry's ban on "mobile" bread vendors was initially interpreted as an attempt to shut down the municipal kiosks, a suspicion that stems from Ankara's crackdown on opposition municipalities since the local elections of March 2019.

"They continue to tamper with people's bread. This decree bans the sale of bread on mobile vehicles," city council member from Good Party (İYİ) İbrahim Özkan tweeted on Jan. 21.

Municipal Spokesperson Murat Ongun chimed in on the debate in the later hours of Jan. 21 to reassure Istanbulites that the municipality would continue to provide them with "the service of healthy and cheap bread."

"We will deliver the bread you need to your homes if need be," Ongun said in a tweet at 11.24 p.m.

As the night progressed, the Agriculture and Forestry Ministry stepped back into the debate to clarify that they had in fact not banned the Istanbul Municipality bread kiosks. 

"Not only are these claims misinforming the public, but they're also slandering our ministry," the official statement noted past 2 a.m. on Jan. 22.

"Istanbul Municipality would have continued to distribute bread anyways. Even if the ban was enforced, we were prepared to continue," Mayor Ekrem İmamoğlu said on Jan. 22. 

Noting that people form long lines in front of municipal kiosks to be able to buy bread for one lira, İmamoğlu said that the city was committed to fighting poverty, and urged all government agents to support this service. 

The power struggle between municipalities of Istanbul, Ankara and Izmir and the central government has been ongoing since the offices were won over from previous Justice and Development Party (AKP) control by the main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP) in 2019. 

Ankara has banned fundraising campaigns by the local offices, issued reporting bans on their efforts to reveal fraud by the AKP, and even issued criminal complaints about the elected mayors.