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DAVA party courts ethnic Turks: New DAVA party: Erdogan's influence in Germany?

DAVA party courts ethnic Turks: New DAVA party: Erdogan's influence in Germany?

 


For days, Germany has been discussing the emergence of a new party. Its name: DAVA. Critics say it is the outstretched arm of Turkish President Erdogan. Who is behind DAVA and what are its objectives?

Germany's newly formed “Democratic Alliance for Diversity and Awareness” (DAVA) is currently a voters' association, but it intends to run as a party in the European elections on June 9. The announcement in January sparked a heated debate in Germany, with some political observers accusing the new party of being nothing more than a mouthpiece for Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Four candidates have been put forward, and they all have ties to Turkey's ruling party: lawyer Fatih Zingal, 45, is the leading candidate. He was born in Germany to Turkish immigrant parents and was a member of the center-left Social Democratic Party (SPD) for 10 years, until 2011. He served as spokesperson for the Union of European Democrats (UID) , which German authorities describe as a lobbying organization for Turkey's ruling AKP party. Ahead of Turkey's elections, the UID organized election appearances by Erdogan and other Turkish officials in Germany and other European countries.

Erdogan's outstretched arm?

Candidate Yonca Kayaoglu, an engineer by training and former president of the UID Youth of the Land of Baden-Württemberg (southwest), is also a candidate for a seat in the European Parliament. She is leading a strong campaign on social networks to collect the 4,000 signatures required for her candidacy.

The other two candidates, Mustafa Yoldas and Ali Ihsan Unlu, are both known as representatives of the Turkish-Muslim communities of northern Germany. Yoldas was involved with the Milli Gorus Islamic Community (IGMG), while Unlu belonged to the Turkish-Islamic Union, or DITIB for short. These two umbrella organizations maintain close relations with Ankara.

DAVA President Teyfik Ozcan was born in Germany in 1988 and later studied law. He has written reports and opinion pieces for Turkey's public broadcaster TRT, which critics describe as a propaganda machine for the AKP. Ozcan writes about the grievances of Turkish immigrants in Germany focusing on racism, Islamophobia and high inflation.

Ozcan tends to attack German politicians of Turkish origin, denouncing Serap Guler of the center-right Christian Democratic Union (CDU) for wearing a short skirt.

Agriculture Minister Cem Ozdemir (Greens), the only member of the current federal government with Turkish roots, is a staunch critic of Erdogan. He also described DAVA as another offshoot of the AKP, writing on social media platform X, formerly Twitter, that it was “the last thing Germany needs.”

New attempt at influence on Germany

CDU MP Jens Spahn called DAVA a latest attempt to sabotage the integration of Turks in Germany. The parliamentary leader of the SPD, Rolf Muetzenich, said he was convinced that the party would have no relevance.

The main candidate, Fatih Zingal, categorically states that there is no reason to suspect his party's candidates of being controlled by the Turkish president. He said the candidates' decades-long affiliations with organizations associated with Erdogan's party meant nothing.

“More than 65% of Turks in Germany, including our party chairman Mr. Ozcan and I, prefer the current Turkish president and his policies to the previous ones. However, this does not mean that we are outstretched of Erdogan,” he said.

Political scientist Kemal Bozay, from the Center for Research and Prevention of Radicalization at the International University of Applied Sciences in Cologne, disagrees: “Groups and movements affiliated with the AKP and Erdogan have been trying for a long time to establish their lobby structures in Germany in order to gain influence on the German political landscape,” he explained. For him, DAVA is just another attempt in this direction.

DAVA also wants to appeal to people outside the Turkish community

Previous attempts include the “Alliance of German Democrats” (AD-Demokraten), which received 41,251 votes in the 2017 federal elections, the “Alliance for Innovation and Justice” (BIG), which obtained 68,647 votes in the 2019 European Parliament elections, and finally, there was the cooperation with the minor party “Team Todenhoefer” in the 2021 general elections. This alliance enjoyed the support of former German footballer Mesut Özil , which brought it to 220,235 votes.

Around 1.4 million of the approximately 3 million people of Turkish origin currently living in Germany are German nationals, and 893,000 of them are eligible to vote in German elections.

Caner Aver, a political scientist at the Center for Turkey and Integration Studies in the city of Essen, said that 50 percent of those who did so in the last federal elections voted for center-left parties, that's why he doesn't give much to DAVA. a chance.

The president of the Turkish Community in Germany, Gokay Sofuoglu, said he did not believe the group had a future in Germany. A party founded solely on ethnic criteria and focusing only on ethnic issues can only be marginal, he told the RND news channel.

The founders of DAVA, on the other hand, are confident. “It takes about 250,000 votes to get a seat in the European Parliament and all the forecasts say we can get them,” said Zingal, DAVA's leading candidate. He explained that DAVA would also participate in the 2025 German general elections.

“The huge media reaction in recent days has worked in our favor,” Zingal said. “We are now known throughout Germany. We could hardly have achieved this, even with a large marketing budget.”

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