“They provoke us. But we will not react,” said a figure in the Berlin wing of an Turkish opposition party.
Supporters of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan are trying to intimidate their opponents in Germany ahead of seismic elections back home, according to voters and politicians.
The CHP, the main opposition party, has bused Turks from around Berlin to vote at the consulate. However, on arrival, they say pro-Erdogan demonstrators await them outside the building.
Cars blasting songs linked to Erdogan’s AKP party have also reportedly driven around the local CHP branch.
“They insult you at the entrance” of the consulate, said Katresu Ergez, a 29-year-old Turkish-German citizen.”If you don’t wear the veil and are dressed in a less traditional way, you are directly considered anti-Erdogan.”
The same happens on social media, she continues. “You get insulted, you get called a terrorist and things like that”.
Turkey faces pivotal elections on 14 May which will decide the fate of Erdogan, who has ruled the country since 2001. Polls predict a neck-and-neck race.
The incumbent is favoured by religious and conservative voters, while his opponent Kemal Kiliçdaroglu heads the secular CHP party, which was founded by the father of modern Turkey, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk.
Votes from Turkish citizens living abroad will have a significant impact on the result of the 14 May election. In 2018, 2.63 million Turkish voters were registered abroad. Almost half of them (47%) were in Germany.
“There is a blatant attempt to influence opinion and even to put people under pressure,” Herbert Reul, Interior Minister of the State of North Rhine-Westphalia, told German television station ZDF, adding this was “not acceptable”.
Brawls broke out between Turks at voting stations in France last week, with police having to use tear gas to stop the violence.
“They provoke us. But we will not react,” said Ercan Yaprak, co-head of the CHP’s Berlin wing of the CHP party. “If they expect us to respond to them at the consulate, we won’t. We don’t want a fight.”
Turkey’s political rivalries are also playing in Lithuania, where Turkish citizens have been able to vote for the first time, along with those in Afghanistan, Belarus, Brazil, Estonia, Morocco, Montenegro, South Korea, Libya, Malaysia, Nigeria, Pakistan, Portugal, Slovakia and Tanzania
Speaking to Euronews, one voter in the Lithuanian capital said “political tensions [between Turks] actually play out more abroad because people are freer to express their opinions and do activism.”
“In Turkey, if you say or do anything too political you can end up in prison,” they added.
Earlier this year, a member of Erdogan’s AKP party threatened exiled Turkish leaders in Germany, saying “we are beating them up in Turkey and now we are going to beat [them] up in Germany”.
Such hostility must be prohibited, according to Interior Ministry of State Reul. “If such politicians think they can continue their campaign here, they should know that we won’t allow it,” he said.
A total of 1.5 million Turks can vote until May 9 at 26 different polling stations across Germany, according to the YSK election commission.
Many of them are descendants of migrant workers who helped Europe’s economic powerhouse recover after the Second World War.
All polling institutes will announce a close score before May 14.
The main rival of Turkey’s President Kiliçdaroglu is the candidate of the National Alliance which brings together six opposition parties.