Turks in Germany: A Crucial Voter Base for Erdogan

Germany's large Turkish community, including 1.4 million people eligible to vote in Turkey, is a potential electoral goldmine for President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in his bid to win a referendum on expanding his powers.

Ahead of the April 16 vote, Erdogan has dispatched ministers to Europe's biggest economy, seeking to tap Turkey's fourth largest electoral base after Istanbul, Ankara and Izmir.

Many Turks made their home in Germany after coming to the country in search of work in the 1960s and 1970s.

Among the 17.1 million foreigners or people with foreign roots in Germany in 2015, Turks were the largest group, at around three million, according to federal statistics authority Destatis.

- Vote winners? -

The size of the Turkish community means Germany is often a magnet for top Ankara politicians in campaign season.

In addition, the voter base has rewarded Erdogan's AKP party in the past -- with support at 59.7 percent at the last general elections in November 2015. In comparison, the AKP secured 49.5 percent at home.

- High tension -

But this year's referendum comes at a time when ties between Germany and Turkey have been rocked by a series of disputes, particularly since a failed coup last July that aimed to oust Erdogan.

Berlin has emerged as a strident critic of Ankara's vast crackdown in the aftermath of the failed putsch, which has seen more than 100,000 people arrested, suspended or sacked for alleged links to the plotters or to Kurdish militants.

Germany has also repeatedly denounced Turkey's detention on terrorism-related charges of a journalist for Die Welt newspaper, Deniz Yucel, 43.

Given the significant Turkish population and the presence of a million Kurds in Germany, Berlin is also anxious to prevent Turkish domestic disputes from spilling into the country.

- Decades of history -

The large Turkish presence in Germany dates back to the 1960s, when West Germany invited them as so-called "Gastarbeiter" ("guest workers") to fuel its post-war economic renaissance.

The host country's idea then was for the Turkish "guests", along with Italians, Spaniards, Greeks and Portuguese, to one day return home -- but many settled definitively in Germany and later brought along their families.

Many complained of discrimination as, for decades, Germany-born children of immigrants from non-EU countries were not allowed to keep dual nationalities.

Berlin only eased that law in 2014.

Prominent Germans of Turkish origin include footballer Mesut Ozil and film director Fatih Akin.

Source: Agence France Presse

Copyright © 2012 All Rights Reserved.