German elections hardly a victory for Erdoğan

German elections hardly a victory for Erdoğan

As expected, Chancellor Angela Merkel’s center-right Christian Democratic Union (CDU) won the German elections with 33 percent of the votes. This is less than expected but a victory it still is. The real winner, however, appears to be the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) party, which gained an unprecedented 13 percent of the votes.

This means that a party that President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan declared “an enemy of Turkey,” and called on Turks in Germany not to vote for has won, while an anti-Muslim, and consequently an anti-Turkish party, made significant gains.

The first thing that comes to mind is that if Turks in Germany heeded Erdoğan’s call and helped reduce support for Merkel even by a fraction, this means they worked for the AfD. 

Erdoğan had also declared the Social Democratic Party (SPD), which Turks traditionally vote for, as an enemy of Turkey. If Turks in Germany heeded his call and stayed away from this party too, thus contributing to it being routed, then they shot themselves in the foot again. 

Clearly there are hard days ahead for Germany’s Turks who are hoping that Erdoğan will be the panacea for their woes there. How that is going to be, given the strained state of ties between Ankara and Berlin, is not clear though. 

Erdoğan is on record saying that things will return to normal after the German elections. In other words, he expects Merkel to forget all and reach out to Turkey.  That, however, appears unlikely. 

Erdoğan is more likely to remain a bête noire in German eyes, even more so now given the increase in the far-right votes. All the insults and jibes exchanged between Ankara and Berlin aside though, the problems that angered Erdoğan and resulted in him calling Merkel and other German political leaders “Nazis” are still all there. 

Germany is even more unlikely to let Erdoğan or any Turkish politician canvass – Berlin would say agitate – Turks in that country from now on. It is also unlikely to start extraditing people Ankara accuses of involvement in last year’s failed coup attempt based on circumstantial evidence.

Again Berlin is not likely to totally ban rallies by pro-Kurdish groups in that country that Turkey accuses of promoting terrorism. It also appears unlikely that Merkel will change her position regarding Turkey’s EU membership, especially after the strong remarks she made on this in the lead up to the elections. 

She is also unlikely to revoke, for example, her decision to halt government guarantees to German companies wanting to invest in Turkey, when German citizens are in prison in Turkey on what Berlin maintains are trumped up terrorism charges.

Put another way, Merkel did not win these elections, which also lost her many votes, so that she could turn around and curry favor with Ankara. To the contrary, she will feel duty bound to maintain her hard line because she knows the general mood in Germany is against Turkey and its current leadership.

Erdoğan successfully injected himself into the political debate in Germany and obviously influenced the decision of many Turks in that country. But whether he will manage to extricate himself from this successfully remains unclear. This is why the results of the German elections can hardly be considered a political victory for him.

Many say the onus will be on Ankara to try and improve the situation, if indeed that is what Ankara wants. If not, the nosedive in Turkish-German ties can be expected to continue. Those who pay the bill will most likely be Turks in Germany who seem to have forgotten where they live, and are dreaming that Erdoğan will come to their rescue. 


In my last article I inadvertently referred to Süleyman Aslan, a former manager of the Turkish state-owned Halkbank, as being in jail in the U.S. in connection with the case relating to the circumvention of Iran sanctions. Aslan, who is in Turkey, has been indicted by U.S. prosecutors, but it is his former deputy, Hakan Atilla, who is in jail in the U.S. in connection with this case.