Turkey, Europe and the Crisis of Democracy

  • Why it matters

    Why it matters

    The fact that a majority of people of Turkish origin living in Germany, who voted in the recent Turkish referendum, agreed to giving the Turkish president more power has perturbed many Germans. The latest to complain about this is Torsten Albig, state premier of Schleswig-Holstein.

  • Facts


    • The recent Turkish referendum, which gives sweeping powers to the country’s powerful but divisive president, was arguably the most controversial political change in a generation.
    • Voters agreed to the change by a slim margin but the outcome is being contested by Turkish opposition parties.
    • Since the referendum was held, there have been nightly protests in some parts of Turkey against the results.
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Turkey’s President Erdogan waits for the start of a meeting with EU Council President Tusk in Brussels
Winner? President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Picture source: Reuters

The returns, on first glance, may come as a surprise. About 63 percent of German Turks who participated in Turkey’s constitutional referendum voted to increase President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s power, a far greater margin than voters actually living in Turkey.

This outcome has caused handwringing in Germany and triggered a debate over whether or not the community of 3.5 million people of Turkish origin in Germany are fully integrated into society and share the country’s democratic values.

Torsten Albig, the premier of the federal state of Schleswig-Holstein in northern Germany, believes the outcome of the Turkey referendum demonstrates how people in general, not Turks in particular, are susceptible to the allure of the strongman.

“The voting of Turks in Germany is not an expression of a failed integration policy,” Mr. Albig told Handelsblatt. “It clearly shows that the campaign of an anti-democratic politician can catch on in a democratic population – not just in Turkey but also in all of Europe.”

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