Erdogan Entrusts His European Lobby to a German-Turkish Nationalist

Germany-based largest Turkish diaspora organization, Union of International Democrats (UID) has elected a new chairman and board on January 24th after former head and longtime member Bülent Bilgi surprisingly decided to step aside. Election of Koksal Kus as new chairman alarmed German media as he has been close to nationalist “Grey Wolf” ideology which Germany has been trying to ban.

Nationalism has been on the rise in Turkey as both governing Ak Party and the opposition block need the nationalist constituency as a tilting majority to win the much-anticipated 2023 presidential elections. Stormy Turkish politics have its spill-over effects in Germany as well especially since Turkish diaspora was granted voting rights in 2014 as nearly 2 million eligible Turkish voters live in Germany. A nationalist figure rather than a traditional Ak Party loyalist being elected as a chairman of Erdogan’s European lobby body UID has been the latest sign of increased nationalist agenda towards Turkish diaspora as well.

Koksal Kus making rounds of visits in Ankara after being elected

Köksal Kus was born in Turkey in 1960 and has lived in Germany since 1979. He studied mechanical engineering and has been active as an entrepreneur in the construction industry. Kus’ political and ideological views have been shaped by nationalist sentiments. Europe-based leftist Avrupatürk daily has reported that Kus was an active member of the “Federation of Turkish Democratic Idealists Associations in Germany” for several years, an organization that, according to Baden-Württemberg intelligence, is a “collection of extremely nationalist people with a Turkish migrant background. The new UID chairman has also embraced on his Facebook page the late leader of Grey Wolf ideology, Alparslan Turkes whom German Channel 1 labels as “fascist.” However, Grey Wolf ideology and nationalists have been embraced even by secular politicians in Turkey. Most recently, popular Istanbul mayor Ekrem Imamoglu has commemorated Turkes’ passing anniversary on Twitter. However, German media overlooks the blatant recent flirtation of seculars of Turkey with the nationalist voter base while extensively reporting on Erdogan’s relations with them.

Istanbul Mayor Ekrem Imamoglu’s Twitter post commemorating the passing anniversary of Alparslan Turkes

German Bundestag has recently passed a cross-party motion at the end of last year to ban the “grey wolves” ideology. Turkish-German institutions with nationalist backgrounds have outcried the Bundestag motion pointing out the fact that “nationalist Turks” have never been involved in violence in Germany.

Turkish president Erdogan already has large support among Turkish diaspora but Islamische Gemeinschaft Milli Gorus or IGMG which runs around 500 mosques in Germany indicated withdrawing support from Erdogan. In that case, it would be important for Ak Party to make sure nationalist diaspora vote don’t slip away to anti-refuge Iyi Party, a splinter of Erdigan’s ally MHP on the opposition block.

UID was founded in 2004 by Turkish president Erdogan as mainstream German parties also have their own institutions in Turkey. Kondrad Adenauer Foundation belongs to Chancellor Angela Merkel’s CDU while Friedrich Ebert is an establishment of SPD. Also, Friedrich Nauman has been liberal FDP’s global lobby arm and the German Green Party has Heinrich Böll Foundation to carry out lobbying activities in several countries globally. All German parties allocate considerable amount of budget to the activities of those foundations.

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