Many of Germany’s 4 million Muslims feel forgotten and ill-inclined to vote in the Sept. 27 general election, and even politicians acknowledge they have woken up too late to their ballot box potential. In Duisburg in the industrial Ruhr region that is home to Germany’s biggest mosque, conservative Chancellor Angela Merkel and Social Democrat (SPD) challenger Frank-Walter Steinmeier stir little interest, still less political passion.
“I haven’t got a job, nor have my mates. Politicians don’t care,” said Ismet Akgul, 19, standing with friends outside an amusement arcade in the Marxloh suburb where about 60 percent of the population has immigrant, in most cases Turkish, roots. “Firms see a foreign name on an application form and chuck it in the bin.” (Photo: Merkez mosque in Duisburg, 26 Oct 2008/Ina Fassbender)
Of the roughly 2.8 million people in Germany with Turkish roots, only about 600,000 can vote, many failing to register or acquire citizenship. Only five lawmakers out of 614 in the Bundestag (lower house of parliament) have Turkish origins.
The main parties in Duisburg, which is traditionally an SPD stronghold but has just re-elected its first conservative mayor, are targeting the Turkish community with special campaign events and posters and adverts in Turkish.
“We neglected immigrant voters for too long. But we’ve woken up now and are starting to win them over,” said Thomas Mahlberg, a conservative Christian Democrat (CDU) lawmaker from Duisburg.