In European countries, such as Germany, Netherlands, Austria, where Turkish nationals have been living, working for many decades, Erdogan’s AKP has launched its 2023 electoral campaign several months before the election date. Erdogan’s AKP focuses its election campaigns strategy on winning expatriate voters as much as possible, as it has often been the case over the past elections, notably in nations like the Netherlands and Belgium. It might be curious to figure out why Turkish immigrants vote for a person who sometimes displays dictatorial behaviors and perpetuates lawlessness in order to maintain power, all the while not living physically in the country in question. European countries that received migrants from Türkiye in the 1960s are now perplexed as to why the third generation of immigrants have not yet integrated into Europe and are supporting a right-wing political party and leader in a nation where they have never lived and are likely never to settle. Erdogan’s ability to garner support from Turkish expats can be attributed to a number of factors.
Firstly, on a sociological perspective, Turkish workers immigrated to European countries for economic reasons, and the majority of them had dreams of going back to their home country after prospering financially. As a result, they have never fully integrated into European communities, kept up their traditional values and identitarian aspects conservatively, with quite many of them not even bothering to learn the language of the country they immigrated to. They have been living by following the agenda of the country they came from, through mostly pro-government media channels broadcasting in European countries, rather than an integration to the European nation they live in; and they have not any knowledge in the domains of European countries’ culture, art and education. This has inevitably caused people to seek out more about the policies of the nation where they spend their vacations, namely Türkiye, which is generally only once a year.
The third generation descendants of Turkish expatriates in Europe are more educated and culturally integrated into their host nation, but when the time came to voting patterns during elections, they supported the AKP because the media sources they followed on Turkish politics were pro-AKP. In the perspective of the great majority, Erdogan is viewed as the voice of the Muslim world, capable of confronting global leaders, and standing up for the “oppressed,” the Turkish expats who have long been ignored in Europe. They also view the AKP as being similar to their culture and beliefs because the majority of Turks migrating to Europe are from Anatolia and adhere the Sunni branch of Islam. Turkish expats who travel and spend money in euros have mostly been unaffected by the sudden decline in the Turkish economy. On the other hand, despite voting for left-wing parties in the countries where they reside in Europe, they are uninterested and lack strong opinions about rising levels of corruption in Türkiye, breaches of human rights, and restrictions on freedoms.
The AKP’s activities and election campaigns in European nations are a second significant component in Erdogan’s support among Turkish diaspora. Erdogan has been running election campaigns for his party with an eye on the votes of Turkish immigrants in Europe ever since he took office. He has typically obtained the outcomes he desired. For instance, in the 2018 general elections, Erdogan defeated Muharrem Ince (the opposition candidate), and won with 75% of the votes cast in Belgium.
Erdogan and the AKP are mobilizing all options for Turkish immigrants in Europe to cast a ballot by leveraging all available financial and moral resources. AKP changed the system for voting abroad and extended the voting period up to one month in embassies and consulates, provided the opportunity to vote at airports, and most importantly, organized special bus schedules for Turkish immigrants so that they can easily reach the nearest Turkish consulates to vote.
AKP attempts to mobilize the Turkish diaspora for the 2023 elections
The 2023 Turkish elections are scheduled to take place on May 14th and it will mark the turn the country shall take on the 100th anniversary of the Republic of Türkiye; Erdogan will either establish his full autocracy or the country will revert to its former democratic values. The next elections will not be easy for the AKP due to the country’s economic crisis, recent human rights abuses, Erdogan’s authoritarianism, and the migration of skilled labor. With less than 100 days until the elections, the opposition has not yet declared its candidate to challenge Erdogan, but the AKP has already started its campaign to win the support of European Turks.
Election campaigns and rallies by Erdogan are prohibited in European countries. Despite this, Erdogan sent its delegation to Europe for elections campaigns. Many ministers, deputy ministers, AKP members, and top government officials from Türkiye have recently traveled to Europe, particularly to Germany, Belgium and Netherlands to conduct their election campaigns. During meetings with Turkish diaspora and AKP authorities, Erdogan spoke via a live phone connection and urges them to vote in the upcoming elections. “I believe that you are experiencing the excitement of May 14th right now. You will deliver some crucial messages to the entire world on May 14 in addition to our nation. I hope 14 May will be a wakeup call for us, when the vote boxes are blown up again, and Europe will have the best reaction to this,” told Erdogan via cellphone at a gathering in Heusden-Zolder, Belgium, of which photographs and videos were recently released in the AKP media.
In the last weeks, AKP’s responsible for foreign relations and previous AKP PM, Efkan Ala and his team traveled to, France, Belgium, Netherlands and Germany. It has been discovered that AKP managers discussed the propaganda campaign to be run in Germany, where 1.5 million voters are located, during meetings held back-to-back for two days at the offices of the AKP’s lobby organization in Europe, UID. It has already been revealed that the AKP would hold electoral campaigns in numerous German cities in March under the guises of “culture meetings,” “public gatherings,” and “youth gatherings.”
One Final Chance for Democracy
Türkiye will undoubtedly put democracy to the test in this general election. The decision of whether to maintain the autocratic administration, which would cause the Turkish Lira to crash economically as Türkiye turns increasingly authoritarian and departs from western norms, or whether the nation will once more embrace republican values. The opposition to the AKP and Erdogan, who are effectively campaigning in Europe, should do election studies in Europe and not undervalue the votes of Turks living abroad. The opposition, which has not even chosen a candidate, may be viewed with suspicion by Turkish nationals who reside in European nations due to their stance. Additionally, the corruption of the Erdogan administration, the nation’s economic crises, and the human rights violations should be brought to the attention of intellectual Turks living in Europe, as this will help them to make the best choices before the elections.
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