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Germany fears the “Erdogan party”

Germany’s newly founded “Democratic Alliance for Diversity and Awakening” (DAVA) is currently a voters’ association, but it intends to run as a party in the European elections on 9 June. This announcement in January triggered a heated debate in Germany, with some political observers accusing the new party of being no more than a mouthpiece of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Four candidates have been presented, and they all have had ties to Turkey’s governing party: 45-year-old lawyer Fatih Zingal is the top candidate. He was born in Germany to Turkish immigrants and was a member of the centre-left Social Democratic Party (SPD) for 10 years, until 2011. He was a spokesman for the Union of European Democrats (UID), which German authorities describe as a lobby organisation for Turkey’s ruling AKP party. Ahead of elections in Turkey, the UID organised campaign appearances by Erdogan and other Turkish officials in Germany and other European countries.

Erdogan’s extended arm?

Candidate Yonca Kayaoglu, a trained engineer and former chairperson of the UID Youth in the southwestern state of Baden-Wurttemberg, is also running for a seat in the European Parliament. She is campaigning heavily on social media to collect the required 4,000 signatures for her candidacy.

The other two candidates, Mustafa Yoldas and Ali Ihsan Unlu, are both well-known as representatives of Turkish-Muslim communities in northern Germany. Yoldas was involved with the Islamic Community Milli Gorus (IGMG), while Unlu belonged to the Turkish-Islamic Union, or DITIB for short. Both these umbrella organisations maintain close relations with Ankara.

DAVA chairman Teyfik Ozcan was born in Germany in 1988 and later studied law. He has been contributing reports and opinion pieces to Turkish state broadcaster TRT, which critics describe as a propaganda machine for the AKP.  Ozcan writes about the grievances of Turkish immigrants in Germany focusing on racism, Islamophobia and high inflation.

Ozcan tends to lash out at German politicians with a Turkish background, denouncing Serap Guler, of the centre-right Christian Democratic Union (CDU), for wearing a short skirt.

Agriculture Minister Cem Ozdemir (Greens), the only member of the current federal government who has Turkish roots, is a staunch critic of Erdogan. He also described DAVA as another AKP offshoot, writing on the social media platform X, formerly Twitter, that this was “the last thing Germany needs”. 

Ditib mosque in Kiel, Germany
DITIB is the largest Muslim umbrella organisation in Germany with more than 950 mosques. Its imams are trained by the religious authority in Ankara and sent to Germany (image: Frank Molter/dpa/picture alliance)

New attempt to exert influence on Germany

CDU lawmaker Jens Spahn described DAVA as the latest attempt to sabotage the integration of Turks in Germany. SPD parliamentary leader Rolf Muetzenich, meanwhile, said he was convinced the party would not be relevant in any way.

Top candidate Fatih Zingal is adamant that there’s no reason to suspect his party’s candidates of being controlled by the Turkish president. He said that candidates’ decades-long affiliations with organisations associated with Erdogan’s party meant nothing.

“Over 65% of Turks in Germany, including our party chairman Mr. Ozcan and myself, prefer the current Turkish president and his policies over the previous ones. Nevertheless, that does not mean we are Erdogan’s extended arm,” he said.

Political scientist Kemal Bozay, from the Centre for Radicalisation Research and Prevention at the Cologne International University of Applied Sciences, begged to differ: “The AKP- and Erdogan-affiliated groups and movements have long been trying to establish their lobby structures in Germany in order to gain influence on the political landscape in Germany,” he explained. To him, DAVA is just another attempt to do this.

Fatih Zingal - leading candidate of the DAVA party, seen as a probable offshoot of Turkey's ruling AKP party
“We are reaching out to those who are active in the established parties but don’t feel understood,” says Fatih Zingal, leading candidate of the DAVA party, seen as a likely offshoot of the Turkish ruling party AKP (image: private)

DAVA also wants to appeal to people from outside the Turkish community

Previous attempts include the “Alliance of German Democrats” (AD-Demokraten) which garnered 41,251 votes in the 2017 federal elections, the “Alliance for Innovation and Justice” (BIG), which received 68,647 votes in the 2019 vote for the European Parliament, and finally, there was the cooperation with the minor “Team Todenhoefer” party in the 2021 general election. That alliance had the backing of former German national football player Mesut Ozil, boosting it to 220,235 votes.

Around 1.4 million of the approximately 3 million people of Turkish origin currently living in Germany are German nationals, and 893,000 of them are eligible to vote in German elections.

Caner Aver, a political scientist from the Centre for Turkey and Integration Studies in the city of Essen, said that 50% of those who did so in the last federal elections voted for centre-left parties, which is why he does not give DAVA much of a chance.

The chairman of the Turkish community in Germany, Gokay Sofuoglu, said he does not believe the group has a future in Germany. A party that is only founded according to ethnic criteria and only concentrates on ethnic issues can only be marginal, he told the RND news network.

Source: Qantara