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Under Erdogan's pressure, Ankara mayor resigns after 23 years

Melih Gokcek is stepping down from his position as Ankara's mayor after 23 years, following a weekslong standoff with President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
Mayor of Ankara Melih Gokcek speaks during an interview with an AFP journalist on July 30, 2016 in Ankara. / AFP PHOTO / ADEM ALTAN        (Photo credit should read ADEM ALTAN/AFP/Getty Images)
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Heeding President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s “orders,” Ankara Mayor Melih Gokcek resigned Oct. 28 after 23 years in office, joining four other mayors who have stepped down under pressure over the past two months. Gokcek’s resignation, however, resonates beyond the internal jitters in the Justice and Development Party (AKP) as his legacy in the capital represents an urban illustration of how Turkey’s rulers have sought to settle scores with the secular republic.

Throughout his 23 years in office, Gokcek stirred controversy by destroying places of symbolic importance for the modern Turkish republic that Mustafa Kemal Ataturk created on the ashes of the Ottoman Empire in 1923. He opened to construction the Ataturk Forest Farm, a sprawling green area that Ataturk had created in the capital. He tore down Ataturk’s Marmara Mansion on the farm and amended construction rules in the vicinity of Ataturk’s mausoleum, allowing for the construction of tall buildings that would block the imposing view of the mausoleum, which sits on a hill overlooking the city.

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