SEATTLE, Washington –The Mayor of Ankara, Mansur Yavaş, streamed an hour-long conversation on Twitch on March 18. His stream promoted a new fundraising program. The conversation is now the most-viewed Twitch stream in Turkey, with Generation Z composing the main audience of the stream. The Mayor of Ankara’s social work on Twitch marks a peak of youth involvement in politics. Additionally, it shows growing support for the mayor’s poverty and food scarcity programs in Ankara.
Turkish Politics in the Modern Day
In recent years, the Turkish political scene has been turbulent. There is growing metropolitan resistance to the country’s powerful Islamist-based Justice and Development Party. The Justice and Development Party (abbreviated to AKP in Turkish) originally gained popularity around 2002. Current President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan serves as a figurehead for the party and its conservative values.
However, recent polling in Turkey’s capital city of Ankara has revealed that many now feel that Erdoğan and the AKP no longer hold the people’s interests at heart. With the addition of numerous allegations of corruption within the AKP, citizens in some of Turkey’s biggest cities are hoping for new leadership.
Revitalized Leadership in Ankara
In Ankara, that hope has taken the form of Mansur Yavaş. Yavaş is currently serving as the mayor of Ankara and represents the secular and centrist Republican People’s Party. He succeeded the previous AKP mayor, Melih Gokcek, in 2019. Since then, he has made poverty and food scarcity one of the core issues of his campaign.
Yavaş has also garnered the respect of conservative Turkish voters by promising a clean slate for Ankara’s leadership. On his first day in office in 2019, Yavaş ordered the cleaning of a statue of the founder of Turkey, Mustafa Kemal Atatürk. This proved to be a stark contrast in tone from the previous AKP leaders in Ankara. The move was applauded by officials from the İYİ Party, a conservative secular party at odds with the continued corruption in Ankara. The act gained national attention and created a heightened sense of solidarity among Turks of all backgrounds.
Social Work Under Mayor Yavaş
The mayor has also kept his campaign promise of providing much-needed aid to Ankara residents in need. In May of last year, Yavaş raised hundreds of millions of Turkish lira through grassroots efforts. He then distributed the lira to Ankara’s poor through “non-partisan programs” and organizations. The project got its start through the Mayor of Ankara’s social work on Twitch and other social media platforms.
In the same period, Yavaş took quick action to set up online mechanisms for people suffering from food scarcity. During Ramadan last year, Yavaş and his political team created a website where citizens could quickly and efficiently donate hot meals to those in need. The project generated 500,000 iftar meals for Ankara’s hungry. Once again, the food-delivery project got its start through the Mayor of Ankara’s social work on Twitch and Twitter.
The Role of Twitch and Social Media
In addition to his swift and effective response to the novel coronavirus, Yavaş has also gained popularity among Turkish youth as a result of his many metropolitan programs and outreach channels. The Mayor of Ankara’s social work on Twitch and other social media has resulted in an engaged and invested youth population. This is something of a rarity in Turkish politics. Yavaş created his official Twitch account on March 14, opening up an entirely new channel for civic engagement.
Subsequently, Mayor Yavaş took first place in a popularity poll conducted last year in Turkey’s major cities. He continues to gain significant traction with Turks of all backgrounds. Additionally, pollsters this year indicate that the AK Party is unlikely to win back voters due to the state of the Turkish economy during the party’s leadership.
One political scientist, Berk Esen from Bilkent University in Ankara, emphasized Yavaş’s public relations successes during the COVID-19 pandemic. He especially highlighted successes regarding the city’s hundreds of thousands of poverty-stricken residents. In the same statement, Esen also stated that much of Ankara’s success stemmed from the mayor of Ankara’s innovative social work on Twitch and other social media platforms, both to raise awareness within different political circles as well as to collect donations for those in need.
The Mayor’s Optimistic Future
With Turkish citizens and youth seeking new political representation, figures like Mayor Yavaş seem to be filling the leadership role with the express goal of making poverty and food scarcity a core focus. In balancing the needs of the various communities as well as promoting solidarity among Turks of all backgrounds, Yavaş has garnered significant support from both within and outside of Ankara. Many speculate that with further community support, Yavaş has the potential to represent the start of a new revolution in how social and community work is done in Turkey.
– Madeleine Youngblood