In Germany, after four days of early voting for the Turkish expatriate community, polling stations have closed and ballot boxes have been sealed and sent to Turkey to be counted.
The Turkish community in Germany is the largest in the world outside Turkey. Approximately 2.8 million expats are eligible to vote in the presidential elections, and over 1.4 million live in Germany, a figure equivalent to the electorate of Turkey’s fifth largest city of Adana.
But less then 114.000 people cast their ballot, about 8%.
The low turnout disappoints Turkish PM Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the favourite candidate who said the direct nature of the vote will strengthen the legitimacy of the next president.
That is why in May he visited Cologne. In order to win over the electorate he made an appeal to people who left the country in the 60’s and in 70’s, mostly from rural areas where Erdogan’s AKP party gets most support.
As co-chairman of the Alliance ’90/ German Green Party, Cem Ozdemir is one of Germany’s top Turkish-rooted politicians, and. also one of the biggest critics of bringing Turkey’s presidential election campaign battles onto German soil.
“If we had given these people German citizenship and changed the citizenship law earlier, most of them would feel more bonded to Germany. They could search for solutions for their problems here, not in Turkey or in another country. Thats why instead of criticizing first- generation Turks here, we should keep on with our integration policy,” he claims.
Many German Turks grew up with a negative image of Turkey, he said, but the onetime “sick man of Europe” is booming and Erdogan is getting much of the credit. It has boosted Turks’ self-esteem, but Islam is again visible in the once-secular state, which is especially popular in conservative religious circles. After a decade in power Erdogan’s many critics, both in Turkey and in the diaspora are getting louder – especially since the Gezi Park protests last year.