April 18, 2017 / 2:32 PM / 2 years ago

Pro-Erdogan vote among Turks in Germany unleashes integration row

BERLIN (Reuters) - Shocked by the support among Turks in Germany for handing new powers to President Tayyip Erdogan in Sunday’s referendum, several senior German lawmakers called on Tuesday for the rules on dual citizenship to be tightened.

FILE PHOTO: People of the Turkish community living in Germany, supporting Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan celebrate on Kurfuerstendamm boulevard after news bulletins on the outcome of Turkey's referendum on the constitution, in Berlin, Germany, April 16, 2017. REUTERS/Fabrizio Bensch/File Photo

The latest unofficial results show 51.4 percent of voters in Turkey backed plans for an overhaul of the political system which will give Erdogan sweeping new powers, while support among 1.4 million eligible voters in Germany was far higher, at 63 percent.

In the western city of Essen, as many as 75.9 percent backed the “yes” campaign, although some commentators cautioned that turnout in Germany was only 44 percent.

Germany is home to some 3 million people with Turkish roots and some politicians said the loyalty many showed to Erdogan, a leader viewed by many in the European Union as increasingly authoritarian, pointed to a rejection of democratic values.

“Those in a liberal country like Germany who vote to abolish freedom in Turkey or to limit it have obviously not accepted our values,” said Free Democrat (FDP) leader Christian Lindner, adding that Turks in Germany must respect its constitution.

Senior politicians in Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservatives called for action.

“It is important that we reverse the changes that made it easier to get dual citizenship,” said Bavarian conservative Stephan Mayer. The rules were relaxed in 2000 and 2014.

About five months before a federal election, the right-wing Alternative for Germany (AfD), polling at between 7 and 11 percent, demanded a complete end to dual citizenship for Turks.

“That it needed a referendum in Turkey for the conservatives to realize that integration, above all of Turks, has failed, shows how removed they are,” said Emil Saenze, deputy head of the AfD parliamentary group in Baden-Wuerttemberg.

Many Turks came to West Germany after World War Two, providing labor for its “economic miracle”. Experts say many second and third generation Turks have not successfully integrated into wider German society and language is a problem.

The head of the Turkish Communities in Germany said those who backed Erdogan were protesting against their situation in the country.

“They wanted to protest about what they have felt for decades,” Gokay Sofuoglu told SWR radio. “That they feel discriminated against, that they feel excluded,” he said.

Observers also point out that many Turks in Germany come from conservative, rural areas of Turkey such as Anatolia and that the largest association of mosques in Germany, Ditib, brings in imams from Turkey.

“The local mosques are polling stations for (Turkey’s ruling party) the AKP,” sociologist Necla Kelek told Bild daily.

Editing by Andrew Roche

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