Urban and city news
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ON THIS PAGE: Berlin trees ||| Turkish government condemned for removal of opposition mayors ||| Turkish opposition celebrates the victory of its candidate in Istanbul ||| Albanian parliament rejects cancellation of local elections ||| Son of former Athens Mayor wins Greek capital’s mayoral election ||| Pro-European parties make big gains in English local elections |||
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Berlin to import Mediterranean tree
varieties due to climate change
Berlin, 4 September 2019: The bombing of Berlin during World War II, not only caused the death of some 30,000 people and the destruction of more than 500,000 homes, it also decimated 60 per cent of the city’s street trees. At the start of the war, 411,000 trees adorned the streets of the German capital five years later only 161,000 were left standing. At the time of the fall of the Berlin Wall, in 1989, the city recorded 370,000 street trees. Today, despite the loss of 7,000 trees due to extreme weather events such as the hurricane of 2017 or last year’s drought, Berlin has now 431,000 street trees, 20,000 more than 80 years ago or some 80 trees for every kilometre of road.
Lime trees and Sycamores make up more than half of all trees in Berlin streets. Oak trees are the third most commonly found variety. Other popular types include Oak, Plane and Horse Chestnut. But climate change will necessitate a different mix of varieties. High water dependent types such as Poplars and Willows will be replaced with trees from the Mediterranean. The city’s park department favours French Sycamores and Hornbeams.
Warmer, drier summers will also require increased spending per tree. At the moment, Berlin allocates some €48 per tree, per year. Members of the Green Party in Berlin’s Senate believe that at least €80 has to be spent per tree in coming years. In periods of droughts, young trees need to be watered and fed regularly, while older trees require increased maintenance to reduce the risk of storm damage.
Most common trees in the streets of Berlin
Turkish government condemned
for removal of opposition mayors
But opposition controls largest cities
Istanbul, 22 August 2019: The European Union (EU) has condemned the removal by Turkish authorities of three recently elected mayors in the Kurdish region of the country. A EU spokesman said dismissals and detentions of local politicians and appointment of trustees deprived voters of political representation at local level and seriously risked damaging local democracy. The European condemnation followed the ousting of the Mayors of Diyarbakir, Van and Mardin in south-east Turkey. All three mayors belong to the pro-Kurdish opposition party HDP (People’s Democratic Party), which the Turkish Interior Ministry believes maintains links to the outlawed PKK (Kurdistan Workers’ Party).
In the municipal elections on 31 March 2019, Diyarbakır Mayor Adnan Mızraklı received 63 per cent of the vote, Mardin Mayor Ahmet Turk 56 per cent and Van Mayor Bedia Özgökçe received 54 per cent.
Leading Turkish opposition politicians described the ousting of the three mayors as a blow against democracy. Veli Agbaba, deputy leader of the country’s main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP), wrote that the dismissals were tantamount to fascism, while Istanbul’s newly elected CHP mayor Ekrem Imamoglu also condemned the move as an affront against the will of the people. Even members of Turkey’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) called the government action dictatorial. Turkey’s former president Abdullah Gul and ex-prime minister Ahmet Davutoglu, both former allies of Turkish President Erdogan, said the dismissals contravened the country’s democratic constitution.
A spokesman for the HDP, to which the three mayors belong, said the three had been dismissed “on an order based on lies and illegal justifications”. “This is a new and clear political coup. It is a clear and hostile stance against the political will of the Kurdish people,” the HDP executive board added in a written statement.
Following the dismissal of the Mayors of Diyarbakir, Van and Mardin, Turkish police also carried out raids across 29 provinces, including Diyarbakir, Mardin and Van, detaining at least 418 people over alleged PKK ties. The Diyarbakir city hall was cordoned off by police, with employees being searched by officers as they entered.
Since the 2016 coup attempt by junior army officers, the Turkish government has replaced more than 90 elected HDP mayors.
Mayors of Turkey's largest cities
Turkish opposition celebrates the
victory of its candidate in Istanbul
Istanbul, 24 June 2019: Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) triumphed in a controversially ordered re-run of Istanbul’s mayoral election. Pressured by the Turkish government, the country’s electoral authority (YSK) annulled the 31 March vote, which was narrowly won the CHP candidate Ekrem Imamoglu. If President Recep Erdogan’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) thought it could put pressure on Istanbul’s electorate to produce a different result, it failed miserably. Whereas in the March election, Binali Yildirim, the government-backed candidate, lost by a mere 14,000 votes, he was soundly defeated in yesterday’s vote. Ekrem Imamoglu increased his winning margin to almost 800,000.
The Mayor-elect said his victory marked a new beginning for Turkey. "It was not a single group or party, but the whole of Istanbul and Turkey that won this election," the opposition politician said, adding that he was ready to work with President Recep Erdogan to solve the problems facing Istanbul. Binali Yildirim conceded defeat in the election shortly after the first results were announced, saying: "I congratulate him and wish him success." President Erdogan also congratulated the opposition candidate on Twitter.
However, the Turkish President also pointed out that his AKP party still controlled Istanbul’s city council. During the election campaign the government camp tried to intimidate voters by claiming the even if Imamoglu won, his victory may be challenged in court. Three days before election day, President Erdogan said in a television interview that that even if the opposition candidate won the mayorship, legal action could remove him from office for an insult that Imamoglu allegedly made to a regional governor. “If the justice decides, his mayoralty will be revoked,” Mr. Erdogan said.
Addressing his supporters, Ekrem Imamoglu declared that democracy had won the election. “The people of Istanbul have shown tenacity and courage.” The Mayor-elect also vowed to end extravagance, arrogance and wasteful spending. “We will build democracy in the city, we will build justice. Nobody’s lifestyle and how they dress is a concern for us. We came to embrace everyone.”
Ekrem Imamoglu’s victory has been largely welcomed by Turkish public opinion. Even government-supporting newspapers wrote that the better candidate had won. “Imamoglu, will be an excellent representative of one of the most cosmopolitan cities in the world.” The newspaper Cumhuriyet said that after the stolen election in March, the people had triumphed, while the Hürriyet Daily News wrote politics in Turkey would never be the same.
The international media, describing the new Mayor as charismatic and inclusive, also believe he could become a serious challenger to President Erdogan. Germany’s Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung wrote that Imamoglu appealed to a wide cross-section of the electorate, including religious elderly voters. The Swiss Neue Zürcher Zeitung argued that the election result represented Erdogan’s first serious defeat. “In the longterm, it could well mean the end of the Erdogan era”.
Ekrem Imamoglu, born in 1970, joined the Republican People’s Party in 2008. In 2014, he was elected district mayor of Beylikdüzü, a European suburb of Istanbul.
Albanian parliament rejects
cancellation of local elections
Tirana, 17 June 2019: The Albanian parliament has rejected an attempt by the country’s President to cancel municipal elections scheduled for the end of June. Earlier this month, President Ilir Meta declared that the 30-June elections should be postponed due to the lack of opposition candidates. Albania’s main opposition party, the nationalist-conservative Democratic Party of Albania, said it would not field any candidates unless Prime Minister Edi Rama resigned and called a new general election. The opposition claimed that the governing Socialists maintained links to organised crime, while the Democratic Party leader is accused of making undeclared payments to an American lobbyist with alleged Russian connections.
The stand-off between Lulzim Basha’s Democratic Party and Edi Rama’s Socialist Party of Albania, which began in February, has led to sometimes violent street protests and culminated in the withdrawal of opposition members from the country’s parliament. The opposition MPs claimed the 2017 elections were rigged by the government, however, most of the vacated seats have since been filled by rebels from the opposition parties.
Earlier this month, the Democratic Party announced that it would also boycott the end-of-June municipal elections. The decision by the opposition led the Albanian President to announce the cancellation of the elections, saying he feared any balloting would be undemocratic without the participation of candidates from the main opposition party.
President Meta added that he feared that any local elections without meaningful opposition candidates would lead so social unrest, posing “a serious threat to the life and health of citizens, the democratic stability of the country, the unity of the people and the constitutional order.”
But the government-controlled parliament rejected the President’s arguments and declared his move unconstitutional and beyond his authority. Prime Minister Rama insisted that the local elections would go ahead as scheduled “to prevent opponents from using political blackmail to force the calling of early parliamentary elections.” In parliament the Prime Minister described the President’s act as “brutal, irresponsible and intolerable.” Edi Rama added that Ilir Meta had lost the right to stay in office. “There is nothing to shake us from holding the 30-June election.”
Edi Rama was Mayor of Albania’s capital Tirana from 2000 to 2011. In 2004, he was awarded the World Mayor Prize. Opposition leader Lulzim Basha served as Mayor of Tirana from 2011 to 2015.
Son of former Athens Mayor wins
Greek capital’s mayoral election
Athens, 5 June 2019: In local elections, held on 2 June 2019, candidates of Greece’s conservative opposition party New Democracy (ND) swept to victory in 12 out of 13 regions including Attica, the country’s most populous region. New Democracy also won the mayoral election in Athens but failed to take Thessaloniki, Greece’s second-largest city. In Athens, the conservative mayoral candidate Kostas Bakoyannis won with more than 65 per cent of the vote. The 41-year-old comes from an old political family. His mother Dora was Athens mayor from 2003 until 2006, when she was appointed foreign minister. In 2005 she was awarded the World Mayor Prize. Across the country, the ND conservatives were victorious in 152 out of 332 Greek municipalities.
In Thessaloniki, the official ND candidate was ahead in the first round of voting, but ultimately lost to the progressive conservative Constantinos Zervas. The mayor-elect will take over from Yiannis Boutaris, who has been Mayor since 2011. In Patras, Greece’s third-largest city, the Communist incumbent mayor Costas Peletidis, known for his pro-immigration stance, defeated an independent challenger by a wide margin, while in the port city of Piraeus, Mayor Yiannis Moralis, from the centre-left Movement for Change, won against the New Democracy candidate. In Athens, Kostas Bakoyannis, son of former conservative mayor Dora Bakoyannis and nephew of opposition leader Kyriakos Mitsotakis, won with a 65% share of the vote to defeat a candidate backed by Greece’s ruling left-wing Syriza party. The mayor-elect is the third generation of a political family. His mother, Dora, was the first woman mayor of Athens in 2003 and his grandfather was former Prime Minister Constantin Mitsotakis (1990-1993).
Kostas Bakoyannis has a master degree from Harvard University. He served as Mayor of Karpenisi from 2010 until 2014, when he was elected regional Governor of Central Greece. He will assume the office of Mayor of Athens on 1 September.
Following Syriza’s the disappointing election results first in the European parliamentary elections on 26 May and now in local elections, Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras has called for new parliamentary elections on 7 July.
Election results from largest cities
Costas Bakoyannis (New Democracy) 65%
Nassos Iliopoulos (Syriza) 35%
Constantinos Zervas (Independent progressive) 67%
Nikos Tahiaos (New Democracy) 33%
Costas Peletidi (Communist) 71%
Gregoris Alexopoulos (Independent) 29%
Yiannis Moralis (Movement for Change) 58%
Nikos Vlaakos (New Democracy) 42%
Pro-European parties make big
gains in English local elections
London, 6 May 2019: Local elections in England and Northern Ireland were held on 2 May 2019, at a time when Britain’s future relationship with the European Union (EU) was anything but clear. Three years after Britain narrowly decided to exit the EU (Brexit), both of the country’s two principal political parties, the Conservatives and Labour, were internally divided about how to proceed. After several indecisive and sometimes contradictory votes in the House of Commons (UK parliament), voters in Britain were left bewildered about the perceived cluelessness of Conservatives and Labour politicians. Their vented anger resulted in heavy losses for the Conservatives and dashed hopes for Labour in the elections. While the Conservatives expected poor results, they were still shocked by the loss of 44 local councils and more than 1,300 councillors. Labour had hopes of picking up votes but instead suffered a net loss of 82 councillors and six councils. The beneficiaries of voters’ disgust with the big two were the Liberal Democrats and the Greens, both pro-European parties.
Local elections on 2 May 2019: Results for principal parties
Local elections on 2 May 2019: Results for principal parties