GERMAN BRIEF: TURKS IN GERMANY Young German Turks rebel
by voting for Recep Erdoğan
29 May 2023: In yesterday’s (28 May) second-round election for the Turkish presidency, a two-third majority of Turkish voters in Germany again supported President Erdoğan. More than 67 per cent of German Turks preferred Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, while his opponent, Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, obtained less than 33 per cent of the vote. Overall, the result between the President and his challenger was much closer, with Erdoğan receiving the support of 52 per cent of voters against 48 per cent for Kılıçdaroğlu.
President Erdoğan did thus again significantly better among voters in Germany than overall. In the first round of voting, two weeks ago, he had received 65.5 per cent of the vote among German Turks. In the 2018 election, it had been 64.8 per cent.
German agricultural minister Cem Özdemir, whose parents moved from Turkey to Germany in the 1960s, expressed his disappointment with the voting behaviour of Turks in Germany. On Twitter, the minister, who is a member of the Green Party, questioned the motives of Turkish voters in Germany. “They are voting for someone without realising, or even caring, for the consequences of their decisions. Under President Erdoğan, Turkey has become poorer and less free. All the benefits Germany offers its people, whatever their status or their origin, are not available to ordinary citizens in Turkey."
Gökay Sofuoglu, chairman of the Turkish Community in Germany, said it had been a highly emotionalised election campaign from both sides. "And you know that when it comes to emotions, nobody can actually win against Erdoğan."
According to Yunus Ulusoy of the Centre for Turkish Studies in Essen, the fact that Erdogan is doing so well among eligible voters in Germany is due to a variety of reasons: For one, many people who came to Germany as guest workers (Gastarbeiter) in the 1960s and 70s are from the Anatolian heartland. “There, conservative-religious lifestyles prevailed - the values were passed on to the next generations”, Ulusoy said.
Ulusoy added that for young German Turks, although fully integrated, voting for Erdoğanis kind of an act of defiance. “Some of them believe that being a Turk or Muslim in Germany puts them at a disadvantage in society. And then along comes a president who gives them the feeling of recognising their worth, emphasising their belonging to Turkey and, last but not least, appealing to their emotions, their hearts. And Erdoğan succeeds in doing that very, very well."
Two thirds of German Turks
voted for President Erdoğan
16 May 2023: The first round of Turkey’s presidential election on 14 May 2023 did not produce an outright winner. None of the three candidates was supported by 50 per cent of voters. However, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, the incumbent president, came close. Some 49.5 per cent of voters cast their ballots for him, while his main challenger, the joint opposition candidate Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu from the social democrat CHP party, received just under 45 per cent of votes cast. A little more than five per cent of Turks supported Sinan Oğan, the ultra-nationalist candidate. Voter turnout was close to 90 per cent.
Among Turks in Germany, who were eligible to vote, the presidential election once again showed a clear majority for President Erdoğan. According to the interim results, a good 65 per cent of the votes in Germany went to Erdoğan. Opposition leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu only received just under 33 per cent.
According to data from the Turkish newspaper Yeni Şafak, which has close links to Erdoğan’s ruling AKP party, the President received 78 per cent of the vote in North Rhine-Westphalia, while in Berlin, Erdoğan and Kılıçdaroğlu were almost level, on 49.2 and 48.8 per cent, respectively.
Because all three candidates fell short of an absolute majority in Sunday’s first round, there will be a run-off election between Erdoğan and Kılıçdaroğlu on 28 May. Voters with Turkish passports in Germany will be able to vote between 20 and 24 May. It is estimated that there are about 1.5 million German Turks eligible to take part in the election. About a third of them live in North Rhine-Westphalia. Five years ago, in the previous presidential election, some 65 per cent of Turkish voters in Germany cast their ballots for Erdoğan.
Sinan Oğan, the third candidate, will not be eligible for the second round of the election. It is assumed that the majority of his voters will now support the President. His voters tend to be nationalists and are unlikely to support social democrat Kılıçdaroğlus. The backing Kılıçdaroğlus received from the Kurdish HDP party also makes him unelectable for many conservative Turks. Many of them regard the HDP as an extension of the banned Kurdistan Workers Party PKK.
According to Yunus Ulusoy, from the Centre for Turkish Studies in Essen, there are historical reasons why the President does so well in Germany. The guest worker migration primarily brought people from the Anatolian heartland with a religious conservative attitude to Germany, he said. In other countries, such as the USA and Canada, Erdoğan does not get nearly as many votes.
In contrast, it was mainly students and academics who went to Britain. They tend to vote for centre-left or liberal parties. Sweden has taken in many Kurdish refugees, which is why the Kurdish HDP is about as strong as Erdoğan’s AKP among Turkish citizens there.
Gökay Sofuoğlu, the chairman of the Turkish Community in Germany, said Erdoğan was also so successful because he had built up a good support structure in recent years. "He has presented himself as the defender of Turks in Germany.” Many Turks have lived in Germany for decades but are not allowed to vote in local elections. Sofuoğlu also said that Turks still suffer discrimination. Other commentators pointed out that the results only reflected the attitudes of German Turks who were eligible to vote. There are some 2.7 million people of Turkish origin in Germany, with roughly half of them eligible to take part in Turkey’s presidential election.
German Agricultural Minister, Cem Özdemir, blamed German politics for Erdoğan’s popularity among German Turks. In a newspaper interview he spoke out in favour of making it easier for foreigners living in Germany, and especially Turks, to obtain a German passport. "I would like us to succeed in turning foreigners into German nationals if they speak our language, support the constitution (Grundgesetz) and earn their living here. It is still the case that a large proportion of children born in Germany to Turkish parents do not receive German citizenship. That means we are still producing domestic foreigners."
The Minister referred to his own life: "I was born in December 1965. I have always spoken better Swabian German than Turkish, and yet I was a Turkish citizen for 18 years of my life - although I never spent more than six weeks of holiday in Turkey in the summer. If you tell people long enough, you don't belong here, they will behave like that.”
Election results for selected German cities:
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