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Turkey recently had presidential elections and apart from around 62 million Turks living in Turkey people with Turkish nationality but permanent residency in some other country were eligible to vote. The biggest such group is in Germany with approximately 1.5 million people eligible to vote, approximately half of them actually voted (source).

Suppose the German government wants to prevent these German residents from voting. How could it legally achieve that?

The people in question have Turkish nationality and either a permanent residence permit for Germany or additionally German citizenship. Their primary residence, place of work, school etc are all located in Germany. The voting happened in Turkish embassies and consulates located in Germany.

Measures that only work for most people would also be interesting. Discussions on whether the German government should or shouldn't do that are opinion-based.

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    I know it's not really relevant, but is there anyone in Germany that would actually want this? I can think of reasons for Turkey to prevent these people from voting, I can't think of any reason why Germany would do so. Is there a group, even an extremist group, that actually proposes something like this?
    – James K
    May 31, 2023 at 7:16
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    This is a bit too hypothetical. Are there maybe examples of democratic countries doing such things? If yes, they would answer the question. If no, well then still the possibilities are almost endless. The German or any other government wanting to pursue this goal could do almost anything if only it wanted to. And my guess is that currently nobody wants to. The question needs to basically lay out the limits. May 31, 2023 at 7:16
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    @JamesK The people that voted in Germany voted about 2/3 pro Erdogan. Hence the current Turkish government is very much in favor of Turks in Germany voting in Turkish elections and large parts of the German population would have preferred if Erdogan lost the election and preventing Turks in Germany from voting would have made this a lot more likely.
    – quarague
    May 31, 2023 at 7:19
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    Would you accept a simple answer of "it could pass a law" (being a sovereign county, it can pretty much pass a law about anything it wants)
    – James K
    May 31, 2023 at 7:23
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    @Trilarion I can't really think of a single good legal way the German government could prevent a Turkish citizen to go to the Turkish embassy and inside the embassy the German government has practically no power. So I'm somewhat surprised if you say the options are limitless. My impression was more that it is impossible (and therefore not done) which would be a valid answer.
    – quarague
    May 31, 2023 at 7:23

2 Answers 2

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Germany is a sovereign state, so it can pass a law:

Any Turkish citizen who votes in the Turkish Elections while resident in Germany is subject to losing their German citizenship and deportation.

Now, you can't stop a person from visiting their embassy, and it might not be easy to be certain that a person voted or not. But a draconian law like that should effectively stop people from voting - who would want to risk their home and livelihood if found out?

But this is cloud-cuckoo land! It goes against 70 years of democratic traditions in Germany and would require a change to the Basic Law of Germany (the equivalent of the Constitution). Democratic countries might have opinions about the leaders of foreign countries, but they don't deprive people of their democratic right to vote. It is probably a violation of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights - so breaks international law. It could result in Germany being removed from the EU. So it is not done not because it is impossible, but because every major party in Germany support the right to vote.

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    Your proposed law not only violates democratic tradition but also Article 3 Section 3 of the Grundgesetz, because it disfavours people based on their homeland. You would have to ban anyone (not just Turks) in Germany from participating in foreign elections (this includes French or US citizens among many others).
    – xyldke
    May 31, 2023 at 14:38
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    I'll add that, but note that the basic law can also be amended.
    – James K
    May 31, 2023 at 15:06
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According to DW:

Today, around 2.5 million people with a Turkish background live in Germany, meaning either they or their parents were born in Turkey, making them the largest migrant group in the country. Around 700,000 Turkish migrants have German citizenship. In contrast to citizens of EU countries, Turks cannot have dual citizenship. If they possess both, they must choose between Turkish and German citizenship by their 23rd birthday.

Germany could avoid the discrimination problem in James's answer by doing the following:

  1. Mandate that all non-EU permanent residents either receive German citizenship within 5 years of becoming one or lose their permanent resident status, with a grace period for existing residents.
  2. Those who apply and receive German citizenship will have to abandon Turkish citizenship, thus making them ineligible to vote. Those who don't will be expelled from Germany.
  3. This will leave a relatively small number of permanent residents who have only become residents within the past 5 years, but the number of Turkish voters in Germany will be drastically reduced within a year or two.

This could be combined with drastically increasing the requirements for becoming a German citizen, such as requiring applicants to speak German at the C1 level of the CEFR guideline. No one will be discriminated against on the basis of their ethnicity and no one's rights will be restricted, so I'm pretty sure it could not be challenged in the courts.

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    The requirement to abandon Turkish citizenship in order to get the German one has already been in place for a long time, and was often evaded by the new Turkish-Germans getting their Turkish passport back, which Türkye happily helping. Do you want to disallow people with German passports to enter Turkish embassies during election time? Do a body search on every one of them and check for a Turkish passports? It'd be hard to enforce anything without violating basic human rights in a way that is, incidentially, worse than any anti-democratic measures that we accuse Türkye of. May 31, 2023 at 19:49
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    @GuntramBlohm it's already illegal to get a second passport as a German citizen without surrendering the German citizenship (unless you get a permit). All you'll have to do is start enforcing that law - one easy way would be to encourage reports of dual citizenship and start deporting as many people as possible if a second passport is indeed found. No need to do anything special for Turkish people or Turkish elections, just enforce the law equally for everyone. Take away German citizenship (and throw in a lifetime ban for good measure) from a few thousand people and the rest will listen. May 31, 2023 at 19:56
  • Your last paragraph seems entirely optional, I think this would work just as well if Germany were to hand out German citizenship like free candy.
    – quarague
    Jun 1, 2023 at 6:08
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    "Those who apply and receive German citizenship will have to abandon Turkish citizenship, thus making them ineligible to vote." – Then, Turkey just passes a law stating that former Turkish citizens who were forced to abandon their citizenship because of dual-citizenship restrictions are still eligible to vote. Jun 1, 2023 at 7:57
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    "start deporting as many people as possible if a second passport is indeed found" – There's an easy workaround for that: give back your Turkish passport, but not your Turkish citizenship. Jun 1, 2023 at 7:58

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