Turkey Eyes German Elections Closely

‘Nonsense’ to let Turkey Join EU–says ex Chancellor

ISTANBUL (AKI/Guardian Ulimited)–The ‘Turkish factor’ is featuring strongly in the final decisive days of the German presidential election campaign–and in Turkey itself the event is being closely followed by the country’s media. The early election called by incumbent Gerhard Schroeder–a staunch supporter of Turkey’s entry into the European Union–sees him challenged by Christian Democrat leader Angela Merkel.

Over the past three weeks–Merkel has made it abundantly clear that she opposes Turkish membership of the European Union. Her Christian Democrat (CDU) party wants to offer Turkey a "privileged partnership" instead.

On Thursday morning–Merkel won support for her views from an unlikely source: Germany’s former Social Democratic chancellor Helmut Schmidt. In an interview with Die Zeit newspaper–Schmidt said that Merkel had got it right: it would be "unfug" (nonsense) if Turkey were allowed to join the EU–he said.

For most Turks–a Merkel victory would mean the loss of a strong ally in EU: Social Democrat leader Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder.

Merkel was well ahead in opinion polls but recent surveys show the September 18 vote will be a close race. Schroeder’s comeback has excited the Turkish press–which is giving extensive coverage to the run-up to the elections as if the election were taking place in Turkey.

Many newspapers and television networks have sent their columnists and correspondents to various German cities to test the pulse of the electorate. Pro-EU liberal-left daily Radikal covers the latest developmen’s with a special logo–writing ‘Germany`s Choice.’

Though angered by his social welfare and unemployment reforms–pro-EU Turkish columnists are also encouraging Turkish-German citizens to vote for Schroeder. An estimated 600,000 of the 2.6 million Turks in Germany are German citizens with right to vote.

Aydin Dogan–one of Turkey’s biggest media moguls–hosted Schroeder at his media group’s offices in Frankfurt two days ago–a clear sign of Turkish media support for the Chancellor and of Schroeder’s desire to capture the Turkish vote.

"It is very difficult to estimate who will win but one thing is certain. If Merkel comes to power–very tough days will start for Turkey," predicted columnist Seda Serdar in the conservative daily Zaman. She also underlined that although Merkel ignores Turkish votes–Schroeder needs them.

Murat Yetkin–from Radikal–stressed in his article that if Merkel becomes the next chancellor of the country–Germany will be a strong partner of the US–but will move away from Turkey.


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