The latest events have brought up the discussion about campaign events in Germany launched by the Turkish President Erdogan and the AKP. These might be counteracting the integration of the Turkish community in Germany. In the following I will discuss whether these campaign events should be forbidden in Germany.
In April 2017 there will be a referendum in Turkey about a new presidential system. If most of the Turkish people vote in favor of it, it will most likely give more power to the current President Erdogan. In the last couple of weeks Erdogan and his supporters tried to campaign for the referendum especially in Germany because there are 1.4 million Turkish voters residing in Germany.
Many people argue that Germany is a democracy and therefore everyone should have an opportunity to make his/her opinion public. The right to freedom of speech is written down in the German Basic Law and ensures that “Every person shall have the right freely to express and disseminate his or her opinions in speech” (Basic Law, Article 5). Following this law, campaign events launched by the Turkish president Erdogan and the AKP should be allowed in Germany.
Also the 1.4 million Turkish voters residing in Germany should have the right to be informed about elections in Turkey. They are actually able to influence the elections and should therefore also have access to informatory campaigns. Since 2014 Turkish people living in Germany can vote in Turkish elections in Germany. Also children born to foreign parents do not have to choose one nationality at the age of 23 according to the Dual Citizenship Law from 2014. This is the reason why many people living in Germany with a Turkish background have both the Turkish and the German citizenship. If the campaign events were forbidden in Germany, residents with a Turkish citizenship might feel isolated from Turkey and feel tricked by the German government.
There are also strategic reasons why the German government should not forbid Turkish campaign events in Germany. If, for example, the Turkish minister Yildirim is prevented from appearing in Germany, he will be celebrated in Ankara as a victim, and the Turkish people will question Germany’s democracy. Turkish voters in Germany might vote in favor of the referendum as a protest. They do not want to be “left alone” in Germany without having the opportunity to hear the campaigns for the referendum. In order to keep the good cooperation with Turkey and to avoid conflicts, the Turkish government should be allowed to launch campaigns in Germany.
In contrast to this, the campaign events themselves speak rather for the prohibition. The campaign is in favor of a reform that increases powers of the president but reduces powers of parliament and the minister president. Critics fear that it would give too much power to one person and could endanger the Turkish democracy. The German politician Sven Lehmann claims that Erdogan’s campaigns are anti- democratic and should therefore be forbidden in Germany. “The federal government should make it clear that no anti- democratic events are to be held here”. Germany should not allow the Turkish government to campaign in Germany, if the campaigns are against the democratic values we have in Germany.
If Erdogan and his supporters demand the right to free speech, they should also respect the rule of law and freedom of press says the German Justice Minister Heiko Maas. Some current events show that they do not do so. The German-Turkish reporter Mr. Yucel has been arrested in February after reporting on the hacking of the private emails of Berat Albayrak, Turkey’s Energy Minister and the son-in-law of the country’s President Erdogan. This is only one example of the disregard of the freedom of press in Turkey. Regarding this Cem Ozdemir of the Greens stated that he, “find[s] it shocking that a Turkish prime minister has no qualms about taking advantage of our democracy while he and his henchmen make their opponents disappear behind bars.” Furthermore the opposite scenario- a German politician campaigning in Turkey- would be unimaginable. The Turkish government should not be allowed to campaign in Germany, unless they also respect the freedom of speech and the freedom of press in their own country.
Another important point to look at is the integration of Turkish people into the German society. “Everyone should campaign solely in their own country; such events are toxic and harm the peaceful coexistence.” (Aydan Özoguz, Integration Commissioner). The campaign events don’t only cause a gap between Germans and Turkish Germans, but also among the Turkish Germans. The political scientist Burak Copur says that the AKP doesn’t only want to campaign but rather tries to give the Turkish Germans a foothold and feeling of home. This could stop the Turkish people from wanting to integrate into society and rather motivate them to stick to the Turkish community. The integration of the Turkish community is not only important for Germany’s economy but also for the wellbeing of the German society. If campaign events really counteract the integration of the Turkish community, they should be forbidden in Germany.
As one can see the campaign events in Germany launched by the Turkish President Erdogan and the AKP is a very controversial topic. On one hand there is the freedom of speech and on the other hand there is the reform endangering democracy in Turkey and campaigns splitting the Turkish community and slowing down the integration of the Turkish community in Germany. In my opinion the German government should put pressure on the Turkish government to support the freedom of the press in Turkey. If they accept critical coverage, they should be allowed to campaign in Germany. These campaigning events should then be open to everyone and covered by the media if possible.