Turkish vote could be key in German elections

16th September 2005, Comments 0 comments

16 September 2005, BERLIN - Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder's Social Democrats are confident they will have the support of the vast majority of the 600,000 people of Turkish origin entitled to vote in German elections on Sunday.

16 September 2005

BERLIN - Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder's Social Democrats are confident they will have the support of the vast majority of the 600,000 people of Turkish origin entitled to vote in German elections on Sunday.

But on the opposite side of the political spectrum, there is concern among the CDU/CSU Christian Democrat alliance that the Turkish vote - which makes up almost 1 per cent of the 62 million electorate - could hand the closely-fought elections to Schroeder's SPD-Greens coalition.

The importance of the Turkish vote is demonstrated by Schroeder's visit to the headquarters of Hurriyet on Tuesday, ostensibly to mark the 40th anniversary of the Turkish newspaper's presence in Germany.

That the chancellor should choose a date in the final week of a frenetic election campaign drew criticism from the conservative press.

"Here is Schroeder fighting for 600,000 votes," the populist newspaper Bild said, printing a large picture of Schroeder against the backdrop of a Turkish flag.

"Will the Turks decide the election?" Bild asked, noting that the polls suggested 86 per cent of Turks would vote for the SPD or the Greens.

German politicians have staked out clear positions on an issue close to Turkish hearts: membership of the European Union.

Schroeder and Greens Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer have repeatedly made clear that they want Turkey in the E.U., even though there is deep mistrust in Germany over the Turkish accession process.

CDU/CSU candidate Angela Merkel insists there is no place for the Muslim country, offering instead a 'privileged partnership' with the E.U. bloc.

In a pre-election intervention, former SPD chancellor Helmut Schmidt, said the notion of Turkish membership was "nonsense".

"On this point I am of exactly the same mind as Ms Merkel," said Schmidt, who was chancellor 1974-82.

CDU/CSU interior ministers have meanwhile made a point of informing those of Turkish origin who surrendered their Turkish nationality on taking out German citizenship that, if they have taken out Turkish nationality again, they are not eligible to vote.

"Those who vote in spite of this are open to prosecution," Guenther Beckstein, hardline CSU interior minister in the state of Bavaria, said.

Beckstein's officials have written to the people concerned and received replies from 6,000 who admitted taking out Turkish nationality again, and who have thus disenfranchised themselves.

Uwe Schuenemann, the CDU interior minister in Lower Saxony, has undertaken a similar exercise, writing to 13,400 people and receiving replies from 1,155 admitting that they had once again taken out their original Turkish nationality.

Some 20 per cent of those written to had failed to reply, Schuenemann said, suggesting that the exact picture remained unclear.

In Hessen the number of Turks who could be in breach of the law, should they vote, was put at 5,390.

A survey by Deutsche Presse-Agentur of the interior ministries of the 16 states revealed that some 20,500 people were in this position.

The polls are pointing to an inconclusive outcome on Sunday, with votes to the right of centre exactly matching those to the left.

Drawn-out court battles could ensue if the vote is as close as predicted, particularly as the complexities of electoral law have regularly provided a happy hunting ground for the legal profession.

Leaders of the Turkish community have kept a low profile through the controversy.

There are currently just two members of the Bundestag of Turkish origin, even though at 2.5 million among a population of 82 million, the Turks are a highly visible minority.

In the current campaign, candidates of Turkish origin are openly appealing to their compatriots.

Ahmet Iyidirli, campaigning for the SPD in an inner Berlin constituency with at least 10,000 voters of Turkish origin, hopes to overturn the 4,000 majority the Greens candidate secured in 2002, partly on the basis of Turkish support.

"If I can turn round just half of those, I can make it," he says.


Subject: German news

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