Turkish PM Erdoğan rallies Turks in Berlin

Turkish PM Erdoğan rallies Turks in Berlin

BERLIN - Agence France-Presse
Turkish PM Erdoğan rallies Turks in Berlin

Turkey's Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan greets the crowd from the podium as he enters the stage in the venue Tempodrom in Berlin. AP photo

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan took his local election campaign to the streets of Berlin Feb. 4, seeking to rally Germany’s vast Turkish community as he faces the most serious scandal of his 11-year rule amid a major graft investigation.

“With the Dec. 17 coup attempt, they have targeted a number of our national values, but they failed again. They have organized an attack to Turkey’s national values, national institutions and national policies under the cover of corruption and bribery,” Erdoğan said, slamming once again the graft probes that have gripped the country since mid-December. 

“We will stand up erect. We will never be impotent, you can be sure of that. We only bow before God,” Erdoğan told thousands of flag-waving Turks in the Kreuzberg area of the German capital, known affectionately as “Little Istanbul.” 

For the first time, Turkish citizens living abroad will be able to vote in their country of residence, making Germany a key campaigning ground for Erdoğan ahead of crunch municipal elections in March and a presidential vote later in the year. With almost three million people of Turkish origin, Germany is one of the biggest electoral constituencies after Ankara, Istanbul or İzmir.

Corruption defense

In Berlin, the city with the largest Turkish community outside Turkey, Erdoğan issued a fierce rallying call in a 40-minute speech.

“I want you to be proud to live in Germany. But I also want you to be proud of the Turkish flag. You are the children of a great country,” he said.

He said the younger generation should “not forget their religion and their roots to become foreigners ... you are European Turks,” he told the enthusiastic crowd.

Erdoğan also appeared to take aim at his critics, asking: “Can there be corruption in a country where the gross domestic product has grown from $200 to 800 billion?” 

He also once again took aim at the U.S.-based Islamic scholar Fethullah Gülen, his long-time ally turned bitter-rival. Erdoğan again accused Gülen’s movement of targeting the government with the graft probes. 

“Those who urged people to resign should not do so by giving advice from afar. They should come to Turkey if they want to do politics,” Erdoğan said, in an apparent remark over the resignation of eight ruling AKP lawmakers since the open rift with the movement.

Many in the crowd seemed convinced by the canvassing effort. Sangul Esmer, 29-year-old woman, veiled as were many in the audience, leapt to Erdoğan’s defense. “I live in Berlin but when I go to Turkey, I notice that many things have changed for the better since he became prime minister,” she told AFP.

“The majority of people are pleased with what he has done. I hope his party will win this year,” added Esmer, who was born and grew up in Berlin.

At a joint news conference earlier on the same day, Merkel said her “skepticism” over Turkey being a full member of the EU was no secret.