Turkish expats in Europe help drive Erdogan to election win

Celebrations in Germany after President defeats Kemal Kilicdaroglu to win another term

Hundreds of Erdogan supporters turned out to celebrate the election result in Berlin. Getty
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Turkey’s biggest expat communities in Europe helped propel President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to another term in power, as they once again swung behind him in the second round of voting.

Hundreds of Mr Erdogan’s supporters took to German streets and honked their car horns to celebrate after he defeated his rival Kemal Kilicdaroglu in the run-off vote.

Results showed Mr Erdogan won 67.4 per cent of ballots cast in Germany, home of the world's biggest Turkish diaspora, compared to 32.6 per cent for Mr Kilicdaroglu.

Mr Erdogan won even more emphatic vote shares in Belgium (74.9 per cent), Austria (73.9 per cent) and the Netherlands (70.5 per cent). He took 66.6 per cent of the vote in France, according to Anadolu Agency’s figures.

Pockets of support for Mr Kilicdaroglu included the UK, where he won by a wide margin, and Switzerland, where he was narrowly ahead of Mr Erdogan.

The results in Europe followed a similar pattern to the first round of Turkey's election, when expats similarly gave Mr Erdogan a boost in a tight race.

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz was among world leaders to congratulate Mr Erdogan on Sunday, calling the two countries “close partners and allies”.

But there was some disquiet at the strong backing for Mr Erdogan despite authoritarian tendencies during his 20 years in power.

His support has been attributed to a feeling of alienation among people with a Turkish background in Germany, who number about 2.5 million.

Mr Scholz’s Agriculture Minister Cem Oezdemir, who has Turkish roots, said Mr Erdogan’s supporters were celebrating in Germany “without having to be responsible for the consequences of their vote”.

Sunday’s car parades were “a rejection that cannot be ignored of our pluralistic democracy, and a testimony to our failure” in respect of the Turkish community, Mr Oezdemir said.

French MP Meyer Habib, who represents French expats in Turkey and south-eastern Europe, called for the result to herald a “path towards economic prosperity and an entente with France and the European Union”.

About 1.8 million votes were cast abroad out of 52.1 million in total.

Some European politicians such as British MP Rupa Huq acted as election observers on the ground in Turkey.

Ms Huq said she saw no obvious fraud but was not able to say for certain whether intimidation had taken place.

A report after the April 14 first round by the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe said Mr Erdogan had an “unjustified advantage” because of biased media coverage.

Mr Kilicdaroglu bemoaned what he called the “most unfair election in years” after results showed him taking 47.8 per cent of the vote, compared to Mr Erdogan’s 52.2 per cent.

“We will continue to be at the forefront of this struggle until real democracy comes to our country,” he said in Ankara.

Mr Erdogan, who defied suggestions that voters could punish him over the government’s handling of a devastating March earthquake, declared that “the only winner today is Turkey”.

He said it was “time to put the disputes and conflicts of the election period to one side and unite around our national goals”.

Updated: May 29, 2023, 10:24 AM