Europe’s Turkish diaspora cut up as massive numbers vote in election runoff

Europe’s Turkish diaspora cut up as massive numbers vote in election runoff

Casting her poll on the Turkish consulate in Berlin for Sunday’s second spherical runoff in Turkey’s presidential elections, Cansu Yeni mentioned she and her nation confronted a make-or-break second.

The 32-year-old was one among many younger individuals who moved to the German capital from Istanbul 5 years in the past in response to democratic backsliding underneath Turkey’s president, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.

“The nation grew to become a dictatorship,” she mentioned. “Me and my associates suffered lots. Selecting who to vote for is a simple resolution.”

Yeni is one among 3.4 million Turkish voters in Europe registered to solid their ballots overseas. Within the first around the diaspora’s selection was cut up fairly clearly between bigger and more-established communities, who backed the incumbent, and smaller, newer communities, who selected the opposition unity candidate, Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu.

The continent’s two largest diasporas – Germany, with 1.5 million voters, and France, with 400,000 – and different decades-old communities akin to these within the Netherlands and Belgium voted massively for Erdoğan.

Cansu Yeni, 32, an architect residing in Berlin mentioned voting for Kılıçdaroğlu was an ‘straightforward resolution’. {Photograph}: Kate Connolly/The Guardian

Nearly 66% of Turkish voters in Germany backed the conservative incumbent. In France, the Netherlands and Belgium, additionally residence to decades-old communities, the corresponding figures have been 64%, 68% and 72%.

“You reside overseas, you’re not a lot affected by what’s occurring at residence, but you’re feeling nearer to it than to your adopted nation – the temptation is to vote for somebody who flatters your spiritual and nationwide identification,” mentioned Claire Koç, a Franco-Turkish author.

On a current day within the tree-lined grounds of the consulate in western Berlin, those that have been eligible to vote at one of many 17 polling stations throughout Germany, have been being ushered into cubicles. A person with a megaphone directed the crowds.

As an alternative of ticking a field, voters stamped poll papers. For Rosa Burç, political sociologist and researcher on the German Centre for Integration and Migration Analysis (DeZIM), this provides much more efficiency to the act of voting. “For many individuals that bodily act of stamping has turn into a means for them to specific a variety of their years of pent up anger and frustration,” she mentioned.

All through the morning, a stream of shuttle buses and minivans pulled up in entrance of the consulate discharging voters from Berlin and different components of Germany. Within the courtyard the ambiance was principally upbeat, with folks greeting and hugging one another, although sporadic scuffles broke out.

Yeni, who works as an architect, mentioned she had voted for Kılıçdaroğlu. “He says he’ll carry again democracy to the nation and I consider him. He ran a really peaceable election marketing campaign and that is what we’d like. Mainly if he wins, many individuals will really feel they’ll return residence, together with me, as a result of it’s laborious being an immigrant,” she mentioned.

Gülden, 31, a retail employee who declined to provide her surname, mentioned she had come to “assist our president”.

For her and her dad and mom, who got here to Germany as Gastarbeiter (visitor employees) within the late 70s, Erdoğan is the one choice.

“He did lots for our nation so there are a lot of, many causes to vote for him,” she mentioned.

Requested about his response to the current earthquake, for which the federal government has confronted enormous criticism and been accused of incompetence, or his human rights file, she mentioned: “He did lots to assist folks after the earthquake. I see this for myself on A Haber [a private, pro-government Turkish TV news channel]. And he admitted he had made some errors and I respect him for that.” As for his human rights, she added: “I don’t know a lot about that as I’m residing right here however I haven’t heard that there are any issues.”

Young man in green T-shirt smiling and holding white scottish terrier
Yasin Acarbaş, 36, and his canine Charlie, exterior the Turkish consulate in Berlin after casting his vote. {Photograph}: Kate Connolly/The Guardian

Hüseyin, 68, a Turkish Kurd clutching amber prayer beads, who obtained political asylum in Germany 5 years in the past, mentioned he would meet associates at a roundabout cafe in Berlin’s Kreuzberg district to observe the outcomes on Sunday night. “There are two folks on this race,” he mentioned. “A democrat and a fascist. We wish to do away with the fascist in order that we are able to return residence.”

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Nearly 49% of people eligible in Germany turned out in the first round. The second round, voting for which closed on Tuesday, is thought to have attracted more voters.

“Voters in Germany as elsewhere, consider this election as a significant juncture for Turkey, which has meant mobilisation has increased over the past week or so, with people feeling they have to make a very clear statement,” said Burç.

Holding his scottish terrier Charlie, 36-year-old Yasin Acarbaş, a Berlin resident who left Turkey a decade ago after the Gezi Park protests, said: “I don’t feel I should have the right to vote when I’m not living in a country. But I feel it’s necessary to use my vote for the last time in order to try to get rid of Erdoğan.”

Elif, 36, a student, standing in front of a large Turkish flag stretched across the consulate railings taking selfies with three friends, said she had turned up to vote “so that Turkey wins”. Born in Berlin to guest worker parents from Antalya, she said she feared the changes a Kılıçdaroğlu government might bring.

“I’m concerned the country will go back to how it was 20 years ago, when many houses had no running water and no toilets,” she said. “So it would be better to keep things just as they are.”

In smaller and more recent communities in Europe, the narrative is very different. In places like the Baltic states, where polling stations have been opened for Turkish voters for the first time this year, Kılıçdaroğlu is the favourite.

He garnered 80% of the vote in Lithuania, for example, where first-generation Turkish immigrants are in general much younger, more likely to be university-educated, and broadly pro-European.

In Estonia, 91% of votes went to the opposition candidate, while in Poland he won 85%. In the UK, whose 130,000 immigrants from Turkey are mostly Turkish Cypriots, members of the Alevi religious minority or Kurds, Erdoğan won only 18% of the vote.

Sweden, home to another Kurdish community that has led to tensions with Turkey, voted 53% for Kılıçdaroğlu and 44% for Erdoğan.

After the closure of polling booths across Europe earlier this week, in a carefully coordinated operation, a cargo plane landed in each location to pick up the diaspora votes before flying them back to Ankara to be stored in the Turkish chamber of commerce until polls in Turkey close on Sunday evening.

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