World Bulletin / News Desk
President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has called on Turkish immigrants in Germany to let their voices be heard through their votes in the upcoming June 7 elections in Turkey.
"The nearly 1.4 million (Turkish) electorate in Germany will play a decisive role in the June 7 elections," Erdogan said in his address to more than 10,000 Turkish immigrants in the southwestern German city of Karlsruhe.
"If you use this opportunity in the best way, politicians cannot think about closing their ears to your voice," he said.
He said that the problems of the Turkish diaspora in Germany had been ignored for decades by past governments, but this has changed. He underlined the recent achievements of the current Turkish government brought about through major political reforms and economic transformation.
"I would like to stress that we will continue to support our brothers in Europe with our full strength and using all our capabilities. If we can strongly keep our unity and solidarity among members of the Turkish community in Europe, we can be more hopeful about our future,” he said.
Erdogan, who is very famous among Turkish immigrants in Europe, made his first visit to Germany as president of Turkey since he was elected by a popular vote in August last year. He was invited to Germany by a number of conservative Turkish nongovernmental organizations led by the influential Union of European Turkish Democrats, or the UETD.
He highlighted the political and economic achievements in the last decade, and asked the support of Turkish immigrants for his vision of a “New Turkey.”
Erdogan said that a new constitution and a change towards the presidential system should be key steps after the elections to strengthen governance and stability in the country to realize the goal of making Turkey among the top 10 economies of the world by 2023.
- Debate on impartiality
The Turkish president dismissed claims of the opposition that he was breaching the rules on presidential impartiality, with various rallies in recent weeks.
“I am at an equal distance to every party of course," he said, but added that he would continue to speak up and tell his views to the public on solution of major problems affecting the Turkish nation.
Erdogan did not name any party during his address, but indirectly criticized pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party, or the HDP for not clearly distancing itself from the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party, or PKK.
“Some are still trying to achieve something in the country by seeking the support of armed terrorist organizations,” he said.
“The best way to make your voice heard is through the ballot box, not with arms in the mountains,” he added.
PKK is listed as a terrorist organization by Turkey, the U.S. and the European Union.
Later, addressing a rally in the Belgian city of Hasselt, he said: "I will not give up my freedom to give speeches at squares," Erdogan, adding "I will not be a conventional president."
He also urged Turkish nationals in Belgium to go to the voting booths on June 7. "Voting is not a burden, on the contrary it is an obligation."
- 'Preserve your culture'
In his rally in Germany, Erdogan promised Turkey's continued support for Turkish immigrants abroad and called on them to maintain close cultural ties with Turkey.
"You should show utmost care to your mother tongue Turkish. One who loses his or her mother tongue, loses everything," he said.
Erdogan urged Turkish immigrants to not only be sensitive about preserving their culture, mother language and religion, but also to make stronger efforts for integration abroad. He said it was the responsibility of young generations in Germany to speak not only perfect Turkish, but also perfect German as well as perfect English.
Germany has the largest Turkish diaspora abroad.
Among the three million ethnic Turks living in Germany, around 1.4 million of them are Turkish citizens who are eligible to vote for elections in Turkey.
Erdogan had secured 68.6 percent of votes from Germany during presidential elections held in August 2014. But the voter turnout was less than 10 percent and Turkish community members had blamed the compulsory appointment system, the short voting period of four days and logistical problems for the poor response.
Erdogan thanked the Turkish immigrants for their support and acknowledged the problems. He underlined that they had made changes to address such problems, and called on immigrants to increase their voter turnout.
Turkish citizens living abroad are able to cast their vote at embassies and consulates in their countries of residence for the elections in Turkey, following a change in the election law in 2012.
Following widespread criticism to the appointment system in 2014, it has been abolished for the June 7 polls.
Turkish citizens in Germany will be able to cast their votes from May 8 to May 31 at 13 polling stations in consulates across the country.
The contest will be to elect 550 members of parliament from 20 political parties.
Approximately 2.8 million Turkish citizens abroad and 53.7 million Turkish citizens in Turkey are eligible to vote next month in the country's 25th general election.
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