Main opposition’s Istanbul mayoral candidate calls for shelving Taksim project

Photo: Main opposition’s Istanbul mayoral candidate calls for shelving Taksim project  / Turkey

The Republican People's Party's (CHP) candidate for Istanbul mayoralty in the upcoming local elections, Mustafa Sarigul, has called on the Metropolitan Municipality to shelve the controversial pedestrianization project of Taksim Square, one of the city's most popular entertainment areas Hurriyet Daily News reported.

"We won't let them play with Taksim. This project has nothing architectural about it, but it is childish," Sarigul said in a press statement Feb. 6, a day after Istanbul Mayor Kadir Topbas revealed new images of the landscape project.

The current mayor of the nearby Sisli district also vowed to organize a project contest if elected at the March 30 elections.

"The contest would be national and international. The Committee will assess the three best projects, and then submit it to Istanbul residents," Sarigul said.

The controversial pedestrianization is also partly responsible of igniting the massive nationwide protests over the summer, which started as local demonstrations to prevent trees being cut down at Gezi Park, which is adjacent to Taksim Square. Protesters also initially demanded the withdrawal of a project to build the replica of the Ancient Artillery Barracks as a part of the redevelopment plan.

Sarigul urged Istanbul Mayor Kadir Topbas to suspend works on the project until the elections. "I want to tell Topbas this: You can plan a lot of things, but Istanbul residents will not let you complete them. Please put this project on the shelf. In 53 days, we will submit the Taksim Gezi project to our citizens," Sarigul said, announcing he will propose building a monument for the protesters who died during the nationwide Gezi protests.

"We have lost seven citizens as martyrs in the name of democracy in Taksim. Our project will include proposing to our citizens to build a monument for democracy," Sarigul said.

The popular politician who joined the CHP after a long period of uncertainty was perceived as the only figure who could beat the ruling Justice and Development Party's (AKP) candidate for Istanbul. He was recently accused by Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan with corruption allegations after Turkey's state fund moved to seize some of his assets two weeks ago for an alleged unpaid loan acquired in 1998.

The CHP has brushed aside the allegations, describing them as a "sign of panic" at the prospect of losing the elections in Turkey's largest city.

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