Germany’s Turkish population has been in the country for decades, but that does not mean they have embraced liberal values when it comes to how they vote in their own home country, with over 50 percent expected to back incumbent Recep Tayyip Erdoğan in upcoming elections. However, the presence of campaign posters for Erdoğan in the city of Nuremberg, which feature messages in Turkish, has led to a debate that goes to the heart of multiculturalism.
After the posters featuring Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan went up around Nuremberg — which feature the politician holding his hand over his heart with the text “The right man at the right time” — the city announced it would review how the posters were permitted to go up ahead of the Turkish presidential election on May 14., according to German news outlet BR.de.
Erdoğan has a strong incentive to campaign in Germany, as it features the largest voting bloc of Turkish voters outside of Turkey. Of the 2.8 million people living in Germany with a Turkish migration background, around half have Turkish citizenship and the right to vote in the country.
Nuremberg Mayor Marcus König (CSU) told Bavarian media outlets that he wanted to have it explained to him why the posters were allowed to be hung up in the city after numerous complaints were made to the local administration.
Other politicians from across the political spectrum have jumped into the fray.
“Who allows such a thing?” Green Party politician Volker Beck (Greens) asked on Twitter. He also told Bild newspaper: “German politics must finally wake up: Erdoğan and AKP are anti-democrats. Anyone who supports them also poisons the political climate in Germany.”
Martin Sichert, an Alternative for Germany (AfD) MP, also lobbed criticism at the city.
“Seriously? And if there is a mock election in North Korea, is Kim Jong Un to be hung up around the city?” the politician asked. He further accused Erdoğan of waging conflict in northern Syria and of obstructing the recovery of thousands of earthquake victims in the area.
Local officials attempted to justify the move by insisting the city is committed to political neutrality and does not interfere with political campaigns, even from foreign politicians.
“We are neutral in both German and foreign election campaigns. Everyone has the right to hang up posters within the framework of the law,” the city administration wrote on Twitter.
Political scientist Burak Çopur, who is himself of Turkish origin, said: “There can be no talk of fair and free elections in Turkey at present. Even the day before yesterday, opposition members in Turkey were arrested and locked away.”
Polling shows a tight race between Erdoğan and his top political rival, which means the votes from Germany could be decisive.