Turkey’s Erdoğan steps up efforts to reach out to young people

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and his Justice and Development Party (AKP) have stepped up efforts to reach out to young people, a segment of the population where they are losing support, ahead of local elections on Sunday.

A new online election advertisement that emerged on Turkish social media this week tries to persuade young people to vote and shows them the nightmare scenarios that would result if AKP were defeated.

The interactive ad named “Choose Your Future” tells the story of a young boy who is busier developing a smart car computer program, rather paying attention to elections. The viewer has different choices throughout the advertisement to guide the young boy.

Eventually, if the young boy decides to head to the polls and if the viewer decides the AKP wins the election, then the outcome is a wealthy and peaceful Turkey.

But in three other scenarios that the boy chooses not to vote, or the viewer selects an opposition win, the outcomes are violent protests, or people without petrol for their cars. 

The advertisement tells the young boy that, even if he successfully develops a smart car program that would become a huge breakthrough in the sector, he would not have the opportunity to find investors if the opposition won the election, as the country would find itself in political and economic turmoil.

On Thursday, Erdoğan answered the questions from dozens of young people across Turkey in a live broadcast on Twitter. But young people who backed the opposition did not take part.

Throughout the event, Erdoğan advised young people to focus on expanding domestic production, particularly in high technology sectors, giving examples of Turkey’s efforts to build its own defence systems.

The president also answered questions about the slide of the lira, explaining the young people his unorthodox theories on interest rates

“Did we fulfil your expectations of young people,” a girl asked Erdoğan, but the president answered by citing the number of universities opened in Turkey under his 16-year rule.

Erdoğan compared higher education in Turkey and Germany. 

“I asked Merkel ‘how many university students you have’,” Erdoğan said referring to a recent visit to Berlin in late September. “She said 'it is about three million’. Germany’s population is 82 million, close to us. I told her ‘we have 8 million’,” Erdoğan said proudly.

Almost one-fifth of young people are unemployed and the rate is increasing among university graduates. Germany is widely seen as a model worldwide with a strong vocational education system and a high percentage of employment among young people.

Erdoğan said Turkey still had lot to do to increase the quality of education, adding that the brain drain had recently reversed, with academics abroad returning to Turkey. “We will sooner or later catch the world,” Erdoğan said. 

According to official figures, the number of Turks leaving the country increased by 63 percent last year, reaching 113,326 in 2017. Two-fifths of those who emigrated from Turkey are between the ages of 20 and 34, according to a report prepared by the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP).