Topic: Assessing the future dynamics of rural governance in Turkey: Expanding boundaries of Metropolitan Municipalities
Keywords: Rural policies and services, local representation, land control, the use of commons
Rural settings in Turkey have been challenged by various developments in the neoliberal crisis era. These processes alter the forms of production, livelihood strategies, and the use of land and labour in rural sites. Increasing indebtedness and land sales due to crisis, growing importance of non-agricultural activities, and redefinition of rural space and identity end up discussions on disappearing ruralities. Moreover, the state policies on rural development and governance have accelerated ongoing transformation and turn our attention toward state-society interface in the countryside of Turkey.
Recently, the Law No.6360 (issued in 2012 and implemented in 2014) expanded the boundaries of Metropolitan Municipalities with the intention of providing more effective and qualified local services. According to the Law, villages and sub-provincial municipalities within the administrative boundaries of metropolitan municipalities lost their legal status. Villages are no longer accepted as legal entities but neighborhoods. In the crisis era, the abolishment of villages and creation of new legal status as neighborhoods result in considerable change in rural governance and socio-political processes specifically on decision making procedures, use of common goods and land, agricultural production, taxes and payments in return services provided, and design of rural development policies. Therefore, this study focuses on socio-technical and political arrangements in newly opening scenarios for rural areas in the crisis period in Turkey within theoretical framework of new ruralities, the use of commons, and local representation and democratic governance.
Considering recent changes in law and its impacts, it is clear that rural representation and governance reflect contested state-society relations and power struggles that cut across different levels of government. As villages lost legal recognition, the common goods from pastures and meadows to vehicles and equipment used by the villagers were transferred to metropolitan municipalities. From public transport services to water sewerage services, many additional services will be provided by the metropolitan municipalities in return for fees and new taxes. However, there is higher possibility of increasing accountability problems related to the common goods and municipal services because allocation of local services is widely accepted as part of efforts to reward pro-government groups and to isolate opponents. In addition, any type of architectural projects and rural development programs will be controlled and designed by metropolitan municipalities. Villages are disappearing literally and rural people whose livelihoods are intervened, production resources are limited, and lands are grasped are losing the right to govern their own communities. As an outcome of the crisis, rural dwellers have failed to keep access to local governance and new legal regulations have taken power away from them. The shift in distribution and power structure is evident today, however rural societies should manage to make local autonomy and democracy one of their priority.