Germany's double standards on Turkish elections backfire

YUNUS PAKSOY @yunuspaksoy
Published 14.06.2018 20:42 Modified 14.06.2018 20:42

Briefly after the announcement in April that Turkey is headed to early presidential and parliamentary elections on June 24, German politics reacted to the news as well. Taking a glance back at the feud between Ankara and Berlin prior to the April 16, 2017 referendum in Turkey due to events with Turkish politicians on German soil, German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas drew a clear line.

"We have a clear position that three months before elections that are conducted abroad, there will be no election campaigning in Germany," Maas said. The line that he drew, however, was as effective as drawing a line in the sand.

The Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP), which is harshly criticized in Turkey for being the political wing of the PKK, a designated terrorist organization in the European Union, in the United States and Turkey, has so far enjoyed the freedom of carrying out political propaganda on German soil.

Maas' words, at the end of the day, were miserably in vain. On May 6, HDP Diyarbakır Deputy Nursel Aydoğan attended a congress in Frankfurt together with Die Linke lawmakers Ulrich Wilken and Gökay Akbulut. Also on May 8, Aydoğan attended an event in Munich hosted by PKK-linked groups. On the very same day in Germany's Lörrach, two HDP deputies - Besime Konca and Mahmut Toğrul - were present at another event.

The Diyarbakır deputy went on her campaign spree as she was scheduled to deliver a speech at an event on May 20 in Saarbrücken titled, "We can stop dictatorship, fascism and war with a vote."

Moreover, the HDP held two rallies in Cologne and Berlin, the German capital, without any hindrance, and HDP politicians delivered speeches. On top of all these, ex-leader of the PKK-linked Democratic Union Party (PYD), Salih Muslum, is also scheduled to attend an event as well. The Cologne Municipality in Germany will endorse an open forum on June 22, which Muslum will attend via video conference. The open forum, titled "On the Cooperation of the German Government with the [President Recep Tayyip] Erdoğan Regime," seeks to spread propaganda against Turkey and the Turkish government prior to the crucial elections.

"That is the case; and that is the case for everyone, independent of where they come from," Maas had said, yet it did not ever materialize. Apart from the HDP, the main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP) and the newly-established Good Party (İP) were allowed free reign in Germany as well.

Berlin's ban on Turkish politicians was met with understanding in Ankara. However, the period since the announcement of the ban has been nothing but a clear message to Ankara and Turkish citizens in Germany that it only targeted the ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party). Around 5.5 million Turkish citizens are estimated to be living in European countries. In Germany alone, there are more than 3 million Turkish citizens, making the country a crucial campaign stop for election campaigns.

Nermin Yılmaz, 58, agrees that the AK Party has been the only victim to Berlin's inconsistent policy. Having spent most of her life in Germany, she is not surprised by the double standards even one bit. Just exiting the voting booth at the Turkish General Consulate in Cologne, Yılmaz shrugs her shoulders. "What should I say? They do what we expect from them to do. It will not change our way of seeing things anyway," she said, fuming.

The 58-year-old is only one of millions of Turkish citizens casting their votes in Germany for the June 24 elections. At the end of the sixth day of voting abroad, around 300,000 people voted in Germany. The people rush to the voting centers. The more they feel there are unjust practices towards the political party or politician they favor, the more devoted they become.

Mehmet Çetin, 69, may be the perfect example. Despite his health problems, he did not hesitate to get on his feet, get his walking stick and make his way to the consulate. When asked about the HDP rallies, he said: "Of course we are aware of what they have been up to. It shows that we are right in our claim that they are being unjust to the AK Party."

Watching the HDP politicians carry out propaganda in German cities while the German minister promised exactly the opposite bolstered Çetin's political feelings for the June 24 elections. "I swear to God I was not planning to head to the ballot box with such desire. Now that I have seen all of it, I am here."

For Yılmaz, the picture is more or less the same. "It is a statement from us now. We protest against the double standards by casting our vote proudly," she said.

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