After the presidential election in Turkey, the voting results of Turkish voters in Germany are causing criticism. But it’s worth taking a look at the overall situation.
The election results of Turks eligible to vote in Germany quickly came into focus after the presidential runoff election in Turkey – because the previous incumbent Recep Tayyip Erdogan won significantly more votes in this country with 67 percent than his challenger Kemal Kilicdaroglu.
Pictures and videos of Erdogan supporters celebrating in major German cities made the rounds. Among other things, Federal Agriculture Minister Cem Özdemir criticized the voting behavior of Turks in Germany.
About half were not eligible to vote
To classify the result, it is helpful to take a closer look at the numbers. Of the according to the Federal Office for Migration and Refugees A total of around 2.9 million people with a Turkish migration background in Germany, only 1.5 million were even eligible to vote. Because many of them have German citizenship, but not Turkish citizenship – and therefore they are not entitled to vote.
According to the Turkish news agency Anadolu, almost half of the 1.5 million eligible voters took part in the runoff election – we are talking about 732,000. Of these, 67 percent voted for Erdogan – around 500,000.
voter turnout assessed differently abroad
There are various reasons why voter turnout in Germany was lower than in Turkey, says Betül Havva Yilmaz-Bergk, research assistant at Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz. “Many people have told me that they don’t vote because they don’t live in Turkey. They therefore find it inappropriate to influence the election result without knowing exactly what the situation on the ground is like.” Others, on the other hand, were afraid of repression from the Turkish state because they were active in the opposition.
Due to various hurdles, voter turnout abroad is generally assessed differently than that at home. Postal voting is often not possible and people have to travel to the consulate of their country of origin to vote, for example. Therefore, voter turnout is often lower for this reason alone: in the 2021 federal election, of the approximately 3.4 million Germans abroad, only 126,500 even applied to be entered in the electoral register. It is not known how many of them actually voted. How the Germans abroad voted was also not recorded.
Majority for Kilicdaroglu in North America
In a Western European comparison, Turks in Germany voted very similarly to those in some neighboring countries: In France, Erdogan received 66.57 percent of the vote, in Austria 73.88 and in the Netherlands 70.45 percent. Erdogan’s results were somewhat weaker in the Scandinavian countries Denmark (60.47 percent) and Norway (54.23 percent). In Switzerland, Poland and Finland, Kilicdaroglu won the majority – as in many other countries in southern and eastern Europe.
In Great Britain, Canada and the USA, Kilicdaroglu from the social democratic CHP party also received significantly more votes than Erdogan from the conservative AKP party. According to Yunus Ulusoy from the Center for Turkish Studies and Integration Research, the different voting results can be explained by the social classes that have emigrated to the respective countries. “In countries like Canada or the USA, where it is mainly people with high qualifications who immigrate, approval ratings for Kilicdaroglu are higher.”
Unlike in Germany, the Social Democrats in Turkey are not considered a traditional workers’ party, says Ulusoy. In Turkey, they voted primarily conservatively, while the Social Democrats were more popular among the urban elite and secular milieus. “However, these milieus are underrepresented among people of Turkish origin in Germany,” says Ulusoy. Because there are more people living in Germany who come from rural Anatolia, for example. This is then reflected in the election results: Erdogan was also well ahead of Kilicdaroglu in Anatolia.
In recent years, however, an increasing number of opposition members have come to Germany, says Yilmaz-Bergk – at least since the Turkish government’s repression after the coup attempt against Erdogan in 2016. It is often difficult for them to understand that there are people in Germany who Support Erdogan.
No positive interest in elections?
According to Ulusoy, Erdogan and his party have an easy time reaching their supporters in Germany because of the conditions. In addition, they mostly consume state-affiliated media, which Erdogan uses to consolidate his popularity. And the German population’s view of the elections in Turkey also influences the voting decision, says Ulusoy. “Of course people notice how the German public thinks about them, about their voting behavior and about their president. And then a kind of defiance reaction arises.”
Because many would not perceive the excessive attention to the Turkish elections and the person of Erdogan as a positive interest. “In their eyes, discriminatory prejudices against Turkish Muslims, for example, are simply projected onto Erdogan as a person and thus disguised as legitimate criticism. If someone takes aim at Erdogan, they no longer have to explain that they might have something against the Turks.”
“We have to approach people”
Yilmaz-Bergk also considers it important, with a view to German politics and society, to examine the reasons for the pro-Erdogan vote. “Religion and Turkish identity were important factors that Erdogan relied on. The question is why this apparently played such an important role for many in Germany.” Erdogan managed to make many Turks in Germany feel supported by him.
Instead of being upset about the Turkish election results in Germany, Ulusoy calls for reaching out to the people. “If we want to win people over, we have to appeal to them emotionally in a positive way. Condemnation doesn’t make people open up, but rather makes them isolate themselves.”
The history of migration is full of condemnations, says Ulusoy. “Almost every person with a migration background, even the third or fourth generation, has such experiences. Such injuries are often deep. And if we then condemn them and point the finger at them, then we push them in that direction even more.”