World Mayor 2020

Ankara Mayor Mansur Yavas
Mansur Yavas, Mayor of Ankara, Turkey, since 2019

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THE ESSAY

Mansur Yavas was born in 1955 in Beypazari (Ankara) where he completed his primary and secondary as well as his high school education. For his bachelor degree in Law, he studied at Istanbul University and started his career as an advocate at his hometown, Beypazarı. He has been interested in politics since his youth.  Between 1989 and 1999, he served as a Member of the Municipal Council. He was elected as the Mayor of Beypazarı for two terms between 1999-2009.As Mayor of Beypazari, Mansur Yavas won several awards for his environmental, administrative success and efforts to preserve the mother tongue as well as an award for the Best Mayor in 2004.  He announced his candidacy for the Ankara Metropolitan Municipality for the first time in 2009, but could not win due to the alleged irregularities during the election. In 2019, he was elected as the Mayor of Ankara Metropolitan Municipality with a vote rate of more than 50 percent. The coalition of Yavas' party helped his campaign to a great degree as he was viewed as a bridge between the political left and right in Turkey.

Throughout history, Ankara, the Turkish capital, has been home to many civilizations, such as Lydians, Hellenistic Empire, Galatians, Roman, and Byzantine Empires, and the Empires of Seljuk and Ottoman. Even though Ankara, was an important trading center in most of these civilizations, it was not a capital in the Ottoman Empire and was a rather small town.

During the last years of the Ottoman Empire, after WW1, Ankara was located in the center of Anatolia and had lines of communication and roads more developed than some other parts of the Anatolian region of Turkey as well as its location providing a defensive advantage where the enemy troops would take too long to reach. This allowed the Independence Movement to select Ankara as its capital to both send out the news about the movement and also command the troops in the war.

In the aftermath of the war, Ankara was chosen to remain capital of the new Republic, mostly because it was developed to a degree logistically and its geographic position serving as a defensive advantage again. Later on, Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, the country's first President and founder has summoned foreign architects to devise a modern city plan for Ankara and the chosen plan by German Hermann Jansen created the modern skeleton of the city.

Ever since then, with the government and governmental bodies and parliament being in Ankara, the city became a center for bureaucrats and government workers as well as for students with the new universities and educational institutions. Ankara city, which had no more than 100,000 residents at the inception of the Republic in 1923, now has a population of over 6 million people. With such a great population, came a great responsibility for its administrations.

First of all, for a mayor or any administrative leader, budgeting and the improvement of the economic situation is essential. Early in his mayoral term, Mansur Yavas had to deivise a Covid relief programme to help Ankara tradesmen to stay afloat. He was able to convince the city council of the urgency of the matter and managed to get it passed with one consent.

Thanks to this initiative, some other urgent and essential city planning and running organizations such as ASKİ (Water and Canalization Department for Ankara) have been able to go on with their earlier progress and work toward a better quality of service for the citizens of Ankara. For similar reasons and saving policies, the municipality gave reported a 1.6 million Turkish Lira (100 TL = US$11.8 = €10.1). Many residents who have been going through difficult times during the Covid pandemic were able to go on with their lives and ease their struggles all thanks to Mansur Yavaş’s debt revitalization plan and license to be indebted for the municipality, showing a sincere and compassionate approach to truly help the residents of Ankara.

With the insurgence of the Covid pandemic, Turkey has been affected to a great degree as many other nations despite the strict precautions taken. Especially, the closing down of shops and small businesses, which account for some 77 per cent of the whole employment in the country, has hit like a tidal wave for the country.

The federal government and the local governments had to take major responsibilities and Mansur Yavas, being the Mayor of the second largest city in the country as well as its capital, have initiated several approaches to support the families and businesses in these unfortunate times.

The Mayor has initiated relief packages for those families and businesses that were out of business, that included food and supplies, from the beginning of the pandemic. These packages were extended for unemployed citizens and were sent directly under the name of the citizens in need and for Ramadan 2021, eventually included 100 million Turkish liras, covering an estimated 232,350 families. The Mayor was also very much aware of the rise of the role of social media in the modern age but even more so during the pandemic, he has taken his words to the social media platforms more often and even joined up in live broadcasts of famous social media personalities in order to meet and interact with young people.

In addition, with the declaration of Covid-1 as a pandemic by the World Health Organization (WHO), it established a platform and created the Capitals Solidarity website against Covid-19 with 44 capitals.

Turkish politicians, from congressmen and congresswomen to the mayors and nearly the entire ecosystem of politics are run by elderly people, causing the young in Turkey to find it difficult sometimes to connect with them, to raise their voices, and most importantly to have their voices heard. The Mayor of Ankara has shown great interest in reaching out to young people and have their voices heard by numerous programs and statements. However, the most recent, innovative, and perhaps surprising way he has done it, which nearly no other major Turkish politicians have ever done, started a Twitch account and had a nice chat with young people of Turkey on a broadcast of his own. He accepted questions from the young participants and you could say that the broadcast was not overly political. It was more like a sincere chat of personal relationships, interests, and the opinions of the youth.

The Mayor of Ankara has lead many initiatives and campaigns since he took office, and one of the easiest but impressive things he has done was to sell the expensive office cars that were bought and paid for with taxpayer’s money. It may seem small but for the people of Ankara and Turkey and also in the world media, this was a true sign of unity and understanding of the people.

For whatever they were worth, it was more than thousands of Turkish liras to the eye of the public, it was an act of understanding the status of the public and an approach to make them feel closer meanwhile showing that their money and efforts are not going to be a means to satisfy the owner of an office, but for the benefit of the people.

Ankara is filled with beautiful buildings and sites, however, the constructions and some of the investments by the previous municipal administration started were causing headaches for the people of Ankara because of how unsuccessful they had become over the years. The reports for the 'dead investments' of the previous administration have taken up a toll of over 400 million Turkish liras (= €40 million, $47 million) according to some estimates.

For people living below the poverty line and strugling to pay for rent and utilities, bad investments of that magnitude cause real pain

One of the early actions of Mayor Mansur Yavas¸ was to be transparent about the state of affairs and suggest ways to reduce the debt burden. The Mayor was very open about his intiatives and tried as much as possible to involve the oppostion parties on the municipal council. For example, he avoided blaming previous administrations for the sorry state of affairs.

Therefore, the new mayor has announced this situation to the public in different channels and made an archive digging to prove the reports to a degree, showing everyone that the Mayor’s office could save a lot of its budget just by reprising some of these dead investments or simply get them out of the municipality’s care to prevent further expenses. This movement has brought Mansur Yavas a softer approach to him from his rival parties and their supporters, if not their full support, placing him in a position of unity especially thanks to the way he has handled this process, making sure that the previous administration is not fully blamed or thrown under the bus but simply a transparent explanation of the bad situation that was going in Ankara.

The city of Ankara and Turkey, as the whole world, is under a great threat of environmental disasters, these disasters and/or disastrous situations are too many to list, however, the global awareness levels on these issues have been climbing up recently and Mayor Yavas¸ was one of those who contribute greatly to raising awareness about environmental problems. Being aware and identifying the problem is the first step to solving problems, knowing this, Mayor Yavas¸ has envisioned turning Ankara into a more eco-friendly city with several projects and arrangements.

The most recent and important of which are the construction of bike roads throughout the city to reduce carbon footprint and traffic and the revitalization of the water billing system. and a gradual utilization rate-based system to the water billing system to save water-based expenditures by emphasizing water scarcity.

The opening of the archives and explanation of the municipality’s dead investments have shown that Mansur Yavas was not only planning to put his agenda of placing the public first and do his best to improve the living standards but also proved that he was going to be righting the wrongs of his predecessors and run his campaigns in his very own transparent way.

The transparency of an administration is always a major factor in their evaluation of political standing and success.
Mayor Yavas on the other hand has taken things to a new level in the opposite direction by opening the archives to show the doubtful investments by the previous administration but more importantly, opening the Ankara City Council meetings to the public, showcasing the tenders for the municipality construction bids instead of disclosing the details and giving the tenders for a company without the acknowledgment of the public. Mayor Yavas has opened a new chapter of transparency and sincerity for the residents of Ankara and also as an exemplary leader in this specific field for the entire Turkish Republic.


*Altay Özkut
Altay Özkut, an IB graduate, is chairman of the Turkey-based international youth organization Progress and Development. He has lived in Ankara for nine years. During the past five years and alongside his studies, Altay has raised political, social and environmental awareness among young people by organising youth events in cooperation with schools, universities and municipalities.