Intimidation tactics by Erdogan supporters in Germany ahead of Turkey’s crucial election

Photo courtesy of Bangkok Post

Supporters of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Germany have been accused of attempting to intimidate voters ahead of the country’s crucial election. Politicians and voters have reported instances of harassment, particularly directed toward those perceived as anti-Erdogan.

In Neukoelln district, Berlin, a local chapter of the opposition CHP party arranged for buses to transport voters across the city to cast their ballots at the Turkish consulate. Ercan Yaprak, 52 years old and co-leader of the local chapter, claimed he had witnessed groups of pro-Erdogan demonstrators at the consulate. “We are being provoked. But we won’t rise to it,” Yaprak commented.

On Tuesday, as voters gathered at the CHP bus station, a car drove past playing pro-Erdogan music. Katresu Ergez, 29 years old and a Turkish-German citizen who was waiting to board, had already visited the consulate the previous week to accompany a friend who was voting. “You get insulted on the way in,” she said. “If you don’t wear a headscarf or you wear more modern clothes, you are directly labeled as anti-Erdogan and insulted.”

Ergez also reported experiencing abuse from Erdogan supporters on social media. “You often get insults, you are called a terrorist and many other things,” she explained.

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Approximately 1.5 million registered Turkish voters live in Germany, making it the largest diaspora taking part in Turkey’s most pivotal election in recent history. These individuals have been voting since April 27, with polling stations closing today. During the last elections in 2018, just about half of the voters in Germany participated in the ballot. At that time, support for Erdogan was stronger in Europe’s most prominent economy than in Turkey itself.

Current polls show Erdogan, 69 years old, in a close battle with secular rival Kemal Kilicdaroglu and his influential alliance of six parties representing Turkey’s cultural and political spectrums. As a result, the push for every vote has intensified. Herbert Reul, the interior minister of North Rhine-Westphalia state, noted that Erdogan backers in Germany have been using “methods that are not acceptable” to pressurize Turks residing in the country. He further stated that “there is a blatant attempt to influence opinion-forming or even to put people under pressure.”

Erdogan’s supporters and his AKP party have frequently stirred controversy in Germany. Earlier this year, an AKP politician in Neuss threatened Turkish opposition politicians exiled in Germany, stating: “We beat them up in Turkey and now we’ll beat them up in Germany.” Reul insisted that such comments must be challenged, adding: “If any politician thinks they can continue the Turkish election campaign here, then we won’t allow it.”

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With a Bachelor's Degree in English, Jenn has plenty of experience writing and editing on different topics. After spending many years teaching English in Thailand, Jenn has come to love writing about Thai culture and the experience of being an ex-pat in Thailand. During long holidays, she travels to North of Thailand just to have Khao Soi!

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