On May 23, 2013, the Social Democratic Party of Germany (SPD) celebrated its 150th anniversary in Leipzig. People from all across the world attended the event including the chairmen and senior members of the Socialist International parties and other parties the SPD is on friendly terms with. Some guests from Turkey also showed up. The Justice and Development Party (AK Party) Deputy Chair Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu (current Turkish Foreign Minister) was in the protocol. Akif Çağatay Kılıç, who is a former long-standing Turkish Youth and Sports minister, also accompanied him at the celebration. The attendance of AK Party representatives at an SPD event is not only limited to this event.
AK Party representatives have attended many events organized by the SPD or organizations close to the party. Çavuşoğlu and Kılıç have met SPD officials at Willy Brandt Haus, the headquarters of the SPD, numerous times. Many other AK Party ministers and politicians at the time, such as former EU Minister Egemen Bağış also had close ties with their counterparts from the SPD.
Relations were how they were supposed to be: The AK Party politicians developed close ties with all the parties and politicians whom they believed to be sincere and well-meaning about Turkey.
For the SPD, those ties were invaluable. Thanks to this, the German electorate of Turkish descent voted for the SPD. For this reason, the SPD members endeavored to have their photos with AK Party members published in Turkish newspapers.
As a person who witnessed the meetings and the close relations between the SPD and AK Party members numerous times, including the current Chancellor candidate and the SPD Chairman Martin Schulz and the former SPD chairman and current Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel, I have always seen the maintenance of amicable relations as essential.
Those who spoke out against the AK Party today used to say that the AK Party was closer to them than Turkey's main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP). Some SPD politicians even argued that the AK Party would be a more suitable member of the Socialist International than the CHP.
The SPD and the Greens struggled for years to reflect their close ties with the AK Party to the electorate of Turkish descent, which was quite normal and legitimate.
Developing SPD-AK Party ties did not bring any favor to the AK Party in terms of vote share. However, the SPD received the majority of the Turkish votes thanks to its relations with the AK Party and was not bothered by the situation.
Some circles in Germany even highlighted that the electorate of Turkish descent voted for the AK Party in Turkey and the SPD in Germany, which was really the case.
No SPD member ever complained about this or regarded it as an intervention in internal affairs. They seemed to be enjoying the situation.
The AK Party has not changed since then. However, the perspective of the SPD and other parties toward the AK Party and Turkey has dramatically changed. They were disturbed when Turkey became more democratized and increasingly more independent and strong in the region.
Over the past few years, the SPD has been the leading party or group opposing the AK Party. Even some marginal parties and groups have been provided with aid through various means. For some reason, they have never been regarded as intervening in Turkey's internal affairs.
They went on the rampage when Turkish President and AK Party Chairman Recep Tayyip Erdoğan told his electorate not to vote for parties that antagonize Turkey. Interestingly, the leading members that stirred up trouble include Gabriel and Schulz.
But are they not supposed to be quiet given the conditions?
They never considered AK Party support in the German elections as intervention, but now they are almost insulting Erdoğan only because he told people not to vote for the SPD. Is this fair politics?
I am very upset about bearing witness to this. Germany might have set a good example in many areas. Particularly considering the 150-year history of the German social democrats, their latest remarks are very disappointing for Turkish people.