TurkeyMarch 30 2023, 8:07 am

The Secret Turkish Election Campaign in Germany: AKP’s Alliance with Extremist Groups

Eleven men sit around a con­fer­ence table, mugs of cof­fee at their side, with the Ger­man and Turk­ish flags proud­ly dis­played at the head. It’s an innocu­ous snap­shot shared on social media, announc­ing a new coop­er­a­tion. But when crit­ics took notice of the pho­to, it dis­ap­peared as quick­ly as it was posted.

The rea­son for this sud­den dele­tion? The pho­to was tak­en at premis­es owned by the IGMG mosque asso­ci­a­tion, and the men in the pic­ture are mem­bers of a com­mit­tee that the rul­ing par­ty AKP found­ed for the upcom­ing elec­tion cam­paign. The pho­to revealed what the IGMG had been try­ing to hide — their involve­ment in the elec­tion cam­paign of the Turk­ish rul­ing par­ty in Germany.

The IGMG, or Islamis­che Gemein­schaft Mil­lî Görüş, is part of a polit­i­cal move­ment whose goal is to trans­form Turkey into an Islam­ic state. The move­ment was found­ed in 1969 by Necmet­tin Erbakan, for­mer Turk­ish Prime Min­is­ter and head of the Islamist Felic­i­ty Par­ty in Turkey, until his death. The ide­ol­o­gy and polit­i­cal agen­da of Mil­lî Görüş calls for an end to the sec­u­lar regime in Turkey through edu­ca­tion and preach­ing. IGMG over­sees the work of Mil­lî Görüş chap­ters in at least 12 Euro­pean coun­tries and claims to have over 127,000 mem­bers world­wide, por­tray­ing itself as inde­pen­dent from the Turk­ish state. IGMG sec­re­tary gen­er­al, Ali Mete, claimed in an inter­view in Jan­u­ary that there is no AKP elec­tion cam­paign in IGMG mosques.

How­ev­er, recent events sug­gest oth­er­wise. The AKP lob­by group Union of Inter­na­tion­al Democ­rats (UID) report­ed hun­dreds of joint events with the IGMG in an end-of-year pre­sen­ta­tion. And now, an orga­ni­za­tion­al chart obtained by GIOR shows that a sep­a­rate com­mit­tee has been set up to coor­di­nate the elec­tion cam­paign, head­ed by AKP deputy Muhammed Fatih Toprak. The com­mit­tee com­pris­es sev­er­al long­time Erdo­gan gov­ern­ment lob­by­ists and promi­nent UID members.

UID claims to be a vol­un­tary NGO found­ed in 2004 that oper­ates in sev­er­al Euro­pean coun­tries. It aims to enhance the eco­nom­ic, polit­i­cal, and social activ­i­ties of Turks and “sis­ter com­mu­ni­ties” abroad while com­bat­ing Islam­o­pho­bia with­out alien­at­ing their iden­ti­ties and val­ues. How­ev­er, the Ger­man Office for the Pro­tec­tion of the Con­sti­tu­tion has clas­si­fied the UID as “nation­al­ist” and incom­pat­i­ble with Ger­many’s free demo­c­ra­t­ic order. The com­mit­tee also includes for­mer UID pres­i­dent Bülent Bil­gi, UID Sec­re­tary Gen­er­al Zuhal Aksoy, and for­mer chair­man of the Bavar­i­an region­al asso­ci­a­tion Mehmet Akkoc.

Accord­ing to a tweet, Turk­ish-Ger­man influ­encer Tugrul Sel­manoglu has been appoint­ed as the head of the Pro­mo­tion and Media Unit. The 43-year-old, who boasts a whop­ping 360,000 fol­low­ers on Face­book, is known for his staunch sup­port of Pres­i­dent Erdo­gan. Sel­manoglu has not been shy in using his social media plat­form to spread polit­i­cal mes­sages. Recent­ly, he seized on the Russ­ian attack on Ukraine to appeal to young Turks. In a post, he warned his fol­low­ers not to make the same mis­take as the Ukraini­ans who had elect­ed a come­di­an as their pres­i­dent, only to lose their coun­try to Russia.

The AKP is mobi­liz­ing a mass of cam­paign­ers, rely­ing on coop­er­a­tion with asso­ci­a­tions close to Islamist, nation­al­ist, and far-right camps. Besides IGMG, the For­eign Elec­tions Coor­di­na­tion Cen­ter also vis­it­ed the ATIB com­mu­ni­ty in Dort­mund and agreed to cre­ate a con­sul­ta­tive body among the asso­ci­a­tions. The Ger­man Fed­er­al Office for the Pro­tec­tion of the Con­sti­tu­tion con­sid­ers ATIB part of the extreme right-wing Ülkücü move­ment, a splin­ter group of the Ger­man arm of the Turk­ish MHP par­ty. Intel­li­gence from secu­ri­ty cir­cles reveals that the orga­ni­za­tion has increas­ing­ly moved clos­er to the AKP in recent years, as evi­denced by dozens of meet­ings and pho­to oppor­tu­ni­ties between ATIB offi­cials and par­ty representatives.

As the upcom­ing Turk­ish elec­tion approach­es, it seems that the AKP is rely­ing on coop­er­a­tion with asso­ci­a­tions that hold right-wing and Islamist extrem­ist views. The involve­ment of IGMG and ATIB in the elec­tion cam­paign rais­es ques­tions about the extent of the AKP’s influ­ence in the Turk­ish dias­po­ra in Ger­many and Europe and their com­mit­ment to demo­c­ra­t­ic values.



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