DAVA – Germany's fear of "Erdogan's party"

Recep Tayyip Erdogan
Recep Tayyip Erdogan/ Photo: EPA-EFE/VYACHESLAV PROKOFYEV

For days, Germany has been debating the foundation of a new party. It's called DAVA. Critics note that it is an extension of Turkish President Erdogan. Who is behind DAVA and what is its purpose?

The establishment of the new party DAWA, "Democratic Alliance for Diversity and Development", has been causing heated debates in Germany for days. She is said to be close to Ankara, some even accuse her of being an extension of Turkish President Erdogan. For the first time, there should be candidates already on June 9, at the elections for the European Parliament.

Four names of candidates are already known. All have been distinguished in the past through their connections to Ankara. First at the helm is Fatih Zingal, a lawyer who has long figured as a spokesman for the Union of European Democrats, according to German authorities a lobby organization of Turkey's ruling AKP party, founded in 2004 in Cologne. Among other things, the organization organizes pre-election appearances by Erdogan and other people in Germany and across Europe.

And Jonca Kayaoglu, the former president of the youth of the UID in the state of Baden-Württemberg, will run for DAVA with the desire to represent it in the European Parliament. She engages in social media and collects signatures, so that she can participate in the elections. To secure the necessary 4 thousand signatures in her case is considered a pure formality.

The other two candidates, Mustafa Yoldas and Ali Ihsan Inli, are well-known officials from the Turkish-Muslim community of Northern Germany. Yoldas has been engaged for years with the Milli Geris Islamic Community, Inli in the Turkish-Islamic Union, DITIB for short. Both organizations nurture relations with Ankara.

Erdogan's extended hand?

The president of the party is Teifik Ezkan. He has been working for a long time for the German branch of the Turkish state television TRT, which the AKP has turned into a propaganda machine in the past 20 years. Critics accuse him of reporting unilaterally and exclusively about negative phenomena in Germany, such as racism, Islamophobia or excessive inflation. There is not even a word about the problems in Turkey, like the record inflation on the Bosphorus. Ezkan sometimes has German politicians in his sights. Once he addressed the Minister of Agriculture Cem Ezdemir with a destructive criticism because of his statement about Erdogan, on another occasion he discredited the MP of the CDU, Serap Giler, because she wore an allegedly too short skirt at the Islamic Conference. Despite close relations with Ankara, DAVA officially denies being Erdogan's party. To DV's question, candidate Zingal says that the decade-long involvement of Yoldas and Inli in Milli Gerris and DITIB did not indicate such a thing.

"Neither is the fact that over 65 percent of Turks in Germany, including President Ezkan and myself, consider that president and his policies to be better than many former presidents of the state or prime ministers. However, we are not an extension of Erdoğan," Zingal repeats.

A new attempt to influence in Germany

Professor Kemal Bozaj from the Center for Research on Radicalization and Prevention at the International University of Higher Education in Cologne has a different opinion. "AKP and groups close to Erdoğan have been trying to establish their own lobby structures in Germany for a long time, in order to gain influence on the political scene in the country," says the professor. The establishment of DAVA is another attempt in the series.

The predecessors, such as the BIG party or the AD-Democrats, did not lead to the desired success. In the 2017 federal elections, groups close to Ankara mobilized voters to support the AD-Democrats, who nevertheless received only 41.251 votes. In the European elections in 2019, they tried their luck with the "Union for Innovation and Justice" BIG, which is close to the AKP. But they too only got 68.647 votes.

In 2021, they went to the elections with the already existing party "Team Todenheffer". With the help of advertisements from the former German national team player Mezut Ezil, the party received 220.235 votes.

That's why such groups, Bozaj points out for DV, are looking for other alternative ways to get a foothold in politics. "The current characters of DAVA are already known, who are also active in networks close to AKP and lobby structures. Therefore, it can be assumed that DAVA, as an extended arm of Erdogan, wants to gain influence in Germany," concludes the professor.

DAVA also wants to reach people outside the Turkish milieu

According to Janer Aver, a political scientist from the Center for Turkey and Integration Studies, there are about 800 voters of Turkish origin in Germany, of whom about 50 percent voted in the last elections, mostly for left-of-center parties. Aver believes that DAVA does not have much chance of success. The founder of DAVA, Zingal, says that "about 250 thousand votes are needed for the first mandate in the European Parliament and all expert forecasts say that we can get them". Whether there can be additional mandates depends on whether DAVA will reach other voters outside the Turkish milieu.

"The huge media echo of the past days is in our favor, now we are known all over Germany. We wouldn't have been able to achieve that even with a large marketing budget," she adds.

If DAVA de facto manages to break through to other groups of voters, such as Muslims with German passports, they would have the potential to win a seat in Strasbourg, Aver estimates, but doubts that they will succeed.

"Many politically interested Turks are already passively or actively engaged in the established German parties and will not switch to DAVA", he believes.

DAVA's long-term goals

In addition to the European elections, DAVA also has long-term plans in focus. Local and provincial branches should be established soon so that they can participate in other elections in the future. The researcher of extremism, Bozaj, believes that the strengthening of such ethnic-religious-nationalist-oriented parties as DAVA is possible "also because of the current racist climate in Germany." In addition, Bozaj points to the danger that DAVA could emphasize extremist tendencies or tensions between different groups and within the community of Turkish origin. Especially at the local level DAVA could try to influence local political decisions and thus influence coexistence.

"Above all in the cities, where the share of people of Turkish origin in the population is very high," warns Bozaj.

Source: Deutsche Welle/ Author: Elmas Topcu

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