Serkan Sayin lives in Westphalia, far away from Turkey – and yet the election result affects him deeply. The 51-year-old is disappointed, at a loss, and above all does not understand the renewed popularity of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan among Turks abroad. In Germany, the incumbent got 67 percent – overall he came to 52 percent in the runoff. “I don’t get it. The people who live freely here in a democracy are forcing the people in Turkey to suffer under an autocracy,” says Sayin from Ahlen. However, the 67 percent of the votes in no way mean that two-thirds of all people of Turkish origin nationwide are behind Erdogan.
Sayin, for example, decided on German citizenship a good 20 years ago and is not entitled to vote without a Turkish passport. He says: “It’s the wrong way for people to have a say in the political situation in Turkey, even though they live and work in other countries.” He fears that the rift between supporters and critics of Erdogan in this country will widen On the one hand, there were motorcades, loud cheers, on the other hand, the frustration and worries are great.
German-Turks form a heterogeneous community
A look at the Turkish community in this country: Around three million people with Turkish roots live in Germany – figures from 2.8 to 3.5 million are circulating; the group is heterogeneous. Nationwide, 1.5 million people were eligible to vote this time. Of them, 50.4 percent cast their votes in the runoff – a good 500,000 of them for Erdogan. The Turkish community in Germany (TGD) makes it clear that – based on three million people of Turkish origin – that’s only about 17 percent. Yunus Ulusoy from the Center for Turkish Studies says: “We don’t know how other people tick who didn’t vote or who aren’t eligible to vote.”
The political division has long been a reality in Turkey and also among people of Turkish origin in Germany, reports Ulusoy from Essen. The fact that Erdogan won against challenger Kemal Kilicdaroglu will probably not change that much. “The election result affects the people here emotionally, but it does not change their everyday life”. Normal everyday life will soon continue.
Reactions to Erdogan’s victory vary among German-Turks
TGD chairman Gökay Sofuoglu does not perceive “any major dispute or unrest”. “Erdogan’s voters are enthusiastic, opposition supporters are looking for mistakes and causes. The Turkish-born opposition and the Kurds will not fight here with Erdogan supporters .”
The Turkish-born bar owner Safak Salda from Berlin knows of many people who want to leave Turkey. His bar has become a kind of contact point for many Turks who have already emigrated to Germany or are toying with the idea. The former radio broadcaster also receives a lot of messages from frustrated Turks via Instagram, who often lack the resources or a visa for a new start. On election night, he tweeted – somewhat jokingly – in response to the voting results: “I should also take over the bar next door, we probably won’t fit in my bar anymore.”
“The brain drain from Turkey remains inevitable,” says journalist Hüseyin Topel from NRW, where a particularly large number of people of Turkish origin live. The immigration of thousands of top professionals – for example from medicine, engineering professions or education – has been letting Germany benefit for years. “It will continue. “
Should the democratically oriented and well-educated young people leave the country, “Turkey will slip economically and technologically”, predicts Volker Beck from the Center for Religious Studies in Bochum. He expects “a stronger polarization between Turkish and Kurdish democrats and Erdogan followers”. According to Beck, Erdogan and his AKP are pursuing a “systematic disintegration policy” in Germany.
German-Turkish relations remain cool but pragmatic
And what about the exchange at the political level? Musician Tayfun Guttstadt observes: “German-Turkish relations are on a very cool but pragmatic path. Everyone has got used to it.” He doesn’t expect any upheavals here. The artist from Berlin is pretty pessimistic about the economy: “I strongly assume that Turkey’s economy will hit the wall hard in a year or two.”
Scientist Ulusoy adds: From a German perspective, Turkey is an important player in the Middle East. And Turkey would plunge into an economic crisis without the foreign markets of Germany and Europe. “You don’t have to love each other, but get along with each other.” Little will change in the tense relationships.
The Kurdish community casts doubt on the integration efforts of recent years “when half a million people in Germany decide to vote for a president who stands against freedom of the press and democratic values and for religious fundamentalism”. Zeynep Yanasmayan from the Center for Integration – and migration research considers it too easy to see the election results in this country as a sign of failed integration, and many politicians also cited this as the reason for Erdogan’s victory.
Topel calls for a policy that “does not stigmatize and above all does not exclude” Erdogan supporters supporters “not to be lost entirely, at least from the point of view of German democracy”.