Voters in Germany head to polls ahead of Turkey election
Kate Brady Berlin
June 7, 2018
Voting for Turkish voters abroad is underway. But as a visit to the polling station at Berlin's Turkish consulate found, opinion on the future of Turkey and President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is divided.
By 8:30 a.m. on Thursday morning, a large queue had already formed at the Turkish Consulate in Berlin. Until June 19, some 60,000 voters in the German capital are expected to pass through the consulate gates to cast their ballots in Turkey's presidential and parliamentary elections.
Concerns over manipulation prompted tightened security, with media and voters all undergoing a "routine" pat down before entering the grounds. Inside, security guards, decked out in suits and aviators, paroled the row of portacabins.
"I voted for him because says he wants to bring us together and bring democracy to Turkey," the 24-year-old said.
Like Ezgi, the IT student said violence forced him to leave his home in Surici, the old town of Diyarbakir in southeastern Turkey.
"We couldn’t live there anymore. Everyday there were bombs. There was so much pressure and the police were everywhere," he said.
With Turkey having detained a number of German citizens in a crackdown following the failed coup attempt in July 2016, relations between Ankara and Berlin are fractious. The elections, which in Turkey will take place on June 24, are being closely observed by Berlin.
"A mood of intimidation has spread among citizens of Turkish origin in Germany in recent years," Gokay Akbulut, German lawmaker with the opposition Left Party, told DW.
A total of 1.4 million Turkish nationals living in Germany are eligible to vote, but "many no longer dare to express their political views openly because they fear that this could create problems for relatives in Turkey," said Akbulut.
Rumors that voters are being pressured to vote for President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his conservative Justice and Development Party (AKP) are, however, unfounded, according to Consul General Muhammet Mustafa Çelik.
"Every night the ballot boxes will be sealed up, without being opened, and stored under lock and key," he told DW. “Then, on June 20, they'll be sent — unopened — to Turkey."
While optimistic that there'd be no manipulation of ballots in the German capital, Mehtap Erol, co-leader of the pro-Kurdish HDP in Berlin, criticized that the vote boxes will be flown to Turkey unescorted.
"It’s bad that the ballot papers will be locked in a room for three to four days. We don't have a clue what goes on in there," Erol said.
"Those who are imprisoned supported the coup attempt. If they hadn't done anything wrong they wouldn’t have been detained," they said as they waited to vote at the consulate in Berlin. "Normal journalists can live in Turkey without any problems."
"The AKP has done so much for the country in their 16 years in power: improving hospitals and the roads. That's why Erdogan is the future of Turkey," he told DW.
Turkey's economy flourished, indeed, after the AKP was first elected to power in 2002. Gross domestic product tripled, more than $220 billion (€186 billion) in foreign investment flooded the Turkish markets and inflation was back in single figures.
A look at the results of last November's referendum, which gave Erdogan sweeping powers, give an indication as to how close the elections might turn out on June 24. While votes in Berlin were split 50/50, in other parts of Germany, it was a different story.
In western German cities, anywhere between 64 and 76 percent of voters said 'Yes' to extending Erdogan's powers - shedding as much light on Germany's own problems as Turkey's.