Migrant candidates seek to reverse trends dividing German politics


First and second generation migrants are running for the Bundestag in Germany’s September 26 elections, trying to appeal to the country’s increasingly diverse electoral demographics and reverse under-representation.

As Germans head to the polls later this week to elect their representatives to the Bundestag, migrant communities are increasingly making their voices heard with parties fielding dozens of candidates to capture the demographic diversity of voters.

The September 26 elections will determine who succeeds Angela Markel as chancellor, while the prospect of a ruling multi-party coalition grows as the traditional dominance of the center-right CDU / CSU and center-left SPD is replaced by a more fragmented political landscape.

A 2020 study by the Expert Council on Integration and Migration found that 65% of Germans from so-called “migration backgrounds” – first or second generation migrants – voted in the last few years. federal elections in 2017, compared to 86% of those who speak German. roots.

The research group also points out that voting in general elections is contingent on German citizenship, which further compounds the gap – in 2019, only 2.5% of eligible people were naturalized. Federal statistics show that the number of Syrians who acquired German citizenship increased by 74% in 2020 to 6,700, but that still represents only a fraction of the 700,000 Syrians who live in Germany according to estimates.

Those who are not excluded from German electoral life may feel alienated by a general lack of minority representation in the Bundestag.

Research has found that while 22.5% of the German population is of an immigrant background, they remain under-represented in parliament as only 8% of German MPs are migrants or have at least one relative with roots in the country. foreigner. Here are some of the stories of candidates seeking to reverse this trend.

Shoan Vaisi, German-Iranian

Kurdish from Iran, Vaisi arrived in Germany as a refugee ten years ago.

“I know that from my own story. What it’s like to have to run away from death. When you’re so desperate you try to run away at all costs,” the 31-year-old former wrestler said in an interview with the German public broadcaster. , Deutsche Welle.

Vaisi is running as a candidate for the left-wing Die Linke party in the Land of North Rhine-Westphalia in western Germany, far from the party’s traditional eastern base.

While he sees his work with Die Linke as a mere continuation of his political activism in his country, he decided to run for a seat in the Bundestag when he saw a Green candidate of Syrian origin, Tareq Alaows, step down. of the race after receiving death threats. .

Earlier this year, he wrote on Twitter: “The threats against Alaows have shown how alarming the idea of ​​a refugee sitting in the Bundestag is for racists in Germany. I would like to make their nightmare a reality.” He says social inequality and a more humane migration policy are at the top of his agenda.

Joe Chialo speaks to reporters on September 3, 2021 at CDU headquarters in Berlin. (John MacDougall / AFP)

Joe Chialo, German-Tanzanian

Joe Chialo, 51, a former music industry manager born in Bonn to a family of Tanzanian diplomats, shows up with the center-right Christian Democratic Union (CDU) in Berlin’s upscale Spandau district.

“At first my brother and I were the only two black kids in a school with 1,000 students,” Chialo said in a recent interview with The Associated Press. “The line, ‘Oh look, there is a black man,’ tells you how unusual we and many other blacks my age were back then in Germany.”

In 2018, he founded a music label aimed at promoting creative and economic cooperation with African countries. Campaigning for the CDU, the party of current Chancellor Angela Merkel, Chialo stressed his intention to defend the arts and culture sector, hard hit by the COVID-19 restrictions.

Only one of the 709 current members of the Bundestag has Afro-German roots.

Ana-Maria Trasnea, German-Romanian

Ana-Maria Trasnea, of Romanian origin, is a candidate for the center-left Social Democrats (SDP) in another Berlin constituency, the sprawling Treptow-Köpenick, in the south-east of the city. At just 27, she has been involved in local politics for almost a decade.

Trasnea moved to Germany at the age of 13, joining her single mother who had emigrated to Germany five years earlier, seeking to provide a better future for her two daughters. She grew up in Piatra Neamț, a town located in one of the most disadvantaged regions of the European Union in northeast Romania.

At school, she became an anti-racist activist in a neighborhood where certain areas were known at the time as neo-Nazi strongholds. Equality and youth policy are among the themes on which she campaigns.

“It was difficult in Germany at the start,” Trasnea said in an interview with The Associated Press. “But I was ambitious and realized this was an opportunity for me, so I decided to do whatever I could to gain respect and fit in.”

Cansel Kiziltepe speaks to residents of Berlin's Kreuzberg district during the election campaign.

Cansel Kiziltepe speaks to residents of Berlin’s Kreuzberg district during the election campaign. (TRTWorld)

Cansel Kiziltepe, German-Turkish

A member of the Bundestag since 2013, Kiziltepe is campaigning for re-election in the ethnically diverse constituency of Kreuzberg-Friedrichshain in Berlin. Fourteen Turkish-German MPs were elected to the Bundestag in 2017.

“My parents were the first generation of ‘guest workers’ from Turkey, they lived here for 60 years, but never voted, they didn’t feel very German, never wanted to actively participate in this society . But this is a widely held sentiment among Turkish Germans, ”Kiziltepe told TRT World in a recent interview.

Years of popular activism led Kiziltepe, an economist, to develop a deep understanding of social inequalities in German society and the determination to fight against them.

“I want to bring educational reforms, more funding for education, which would see children attend extended school hours, focus more on better learning the German language, better cultural orientation, better integration into society. Thanks to all this, they will eventually get better degrees and be able to move up the socio-economic ranks, ”said Kiziltepe, who remembers that when she was growing up, every summer there was a discussion about returning the family to Turkey. Until one day, she said, she decided that Germany was her place.

Source: TRT World


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