As three German states prepare to hold local elections in March 2016, Turks, who make up the largest ethnic community in the country, seek voting rights. The 1-million-strong Turkish community in North Rhine-Westphalia launched a petition to win voting privileges, complaining of double standards in voting rights among foreigners. They demand the same voting rights held by citizens of European Union member states, who are granted the right to vote after residing in Germany for three months. Bahattin Demirci, an activist for Initiative to Vote in North Rhine-Westphalia, says it is unfair to give the right to EU citizens while Turks “who have served this country for the past 54 years” are exempted. Germany’s large Turkish population is the product of a post-World War Two economic development program which saw thousands of Turkish “guest workers” flock to the country.
Apart from the petition, the community plans to stage rallies and marches. “It is an opportunity for us to take action (for voting rights) at a time of debate over amendments to the state’s constitution,” Demirci says. He added that they were seeking to collect at least 50,000 signatures by February, before staging a rally outside the state parliament.