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German parties wake up to growing migrant vote 15 septembre 2013

Posted by Acturca in EU / UE, Immigration, Turkey / Turquie.
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Arab Times (Kuwait) September 15, 2013, p. 16

AFP, Sept 14, Berlin

German Chancellor Angela Merkel once alienated many immigrants by declaring “multiculturalism has failed,” but as elections near her conservatives and other parties are scrambling to reach the growing migrant vote.

The question, say analysts and immigrants, is whether the nearly 10 percent of voters with foreign roots will buy the message or smell a rat, mindful of having long being treated as a problem, not an opportunity, for Germany.

Merkel, who faces elections on Sept 22, met with an awkward moment in a recent TV town hall-style meeting, when an ethnic Chinese German confronted her with the comment she made three years ago. “Until your speech, I felt like a German,” architecture professor Wilfried Wang told Merkel. “Since then I feel like a Chinese with a European passport issued in Berlin.”

Merkel assured Wang she had meant no offence, explaining that “everyone with different cultural roots can contribute to our culture, but we have to live under the same laws and speak the same language.” She stressed that multilingual citizens were well-positioned for the globalised economy.

If the chancellor’s message is inclusion, it has not yet reached Abdullah, a maths student from Berlin’s Kreuzberg district, a centre of Germany’s three-million-strong Turkish community.

“In this district, I feel like a human,” said the 23-year-old, who asked not to have his surname published. “When I get on the train, I feel like a foreigner.”

He said in the election he would probably settle for the opposition Social Democratic Party (SPD) — the traditional working-class party, close to the labour unions — like his “guest worker” father had done. Abdullah’s fiancee Gozde Sibel, 24, voiced “sympathy for the Greens”, a left-leaning party that has the highest ratio of national lawmakers with migrant roots, about nine percent.

The problem, Sibel said, is that she can’t vote.

Under German law, she had to choose at age 18 between a German and a Turkish passport, and opted for the latter.

It is a conundrum for second-generation Turks in Germany that the SPD and the Greens have promised to resolve by allowing dual nationality, a concept Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union (CDU) opposes. It’s an issue close to the hearts of many in Kreuzberg.

“I’ve lived here for 41 years and I still can’t vote,” said Ihsan Aktamar, 49.

He recounted how, when dual citizenship was an option in the 1980s, he was handed a thick wad of forms, asked to pay a non-refundable fee and quizzed on whether he knew the German national anthem. “I just walked out and never went back,” he said.

Merkel’s CDU — which wants to modernise its image with young, urban and female voters — has promoted more members with foreign roots.

“We will do more for integration,” Merkel pledged last month on Turkish community TV.

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