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article imageIstanbul mayor steps down as Erdogan eyes 2019 polls

By AFP     Sep 22, 2017 in World

Istanbul's mayor Kadir Topbas resigned on Friday after 13 years in the key post, as President Recep Tayyip Erdogan seeks to refresh the ruling party ahead of local and national polls in 2019.

Topbas, 72, did not give any reason for his resignation from the job which Erdogan himself held from 1994-1998.

"I resigned from the office of mayor as of today but I am not quitting my party," Topbas told reporters.

Topbas had been under pressure after the 'No' vote came out ahead in Istanbul -- as well as the capital Ankara -- in the key April referendum on expanding Erdogan's powers.

The 'Yes' vote won the plebiscite with 51.5 percent but the narrow victory created jitters in the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP).

In his recent speeches, Erdogan has often called for a renewal of AKP's cadres and making the party younger and more dynamic.

Erdogan has also noted that parts of the party have suffered from a "metal fatigue".

Topbas, an architect by profession, has been mayor of Istanbul since 2004 and has presided over the transformation of the mega city that began under the mayorship of Erdogan.

"There's no room for resentment in politics," Topbas said when asked whether he felt offended.

"I don't feel resentful towards anyone. I am a member of my party."

Local elections are due in March 2019 and will set the tone for a crunch political year with parliamentary and presidential elections scheduled in November.

His departure will also cast the spotlight on the future of the AKP's long-serving and controversial Ankara mayor Melih Gokcek.

Observers will now also watch closely to see if the AKP puts forward a heavyweight to replace Topbas.

Topbas also found himself in a delicate situation after the failed July 15 coup last year which Ankara blames on followers of US-based Muslim preacher Fethullah Gulen.

In September last year, Turkish police arrested Topbas's son-in-law, businessman Omer Kavurmaci, for alleged links to Gulen.

But he was later released pending trial, on the grounds that prison conditions would worsen his health. Kavurmaci has been diagnosed with epilepsy.

That ruling prompted fury from the opposition who claimed that the justice system favoured party members and their relatives. Kavurmaci is due to go on trial on October 23.

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