German Bundestag Elections: Will They See Wider Migrant Voting?

Social Activist Launches Initiative to Encourage Migrants to Vote
Migrants arrive at the main railway station in Munich, Germany September 13, 2015. REUTERS/Michaela Rehle

In the 2021 Federal Parliament (Bundestag) elections, 7.4 million Germans with immigrant backgrounds are entitled to vote for their new representatives. But what is the expectedturnout of voters with immigrant backgrounds this year? Doimmigrants fall within the circle of interest for the German political parties?

On September 26, 2021, Germany will hold elections for a new parliament in the post-Angela Merkel era. 

Polling stations will be opened, and voters will cast their ballots to choose a new parliament. However, there is a large group entitled to vote in the elections who are often not taken into account by German politicians and parties. 

These are the Germans of immigrant background. There are about 7.4 million people who are entitled to vote who haveTurkish, Syrian, Russian and other origins. 

This is equivalent to 12 percent of the total number of peoplewho are entitled to vote in Germany. Although the number of these voters is significant, communication with them is rarely direct, according to sociologist Sabrina Meyer.

Mayer is currently studying people with immigrant backgrounds in Duisburg, a city in North Rhine-Westphalia known for its multicultural population. 

During her tour of the city, Meyer recounts with astonishment, "In a city like Duisburg, which has a large population of immigrant backgrounds, we rarely see topics that concern themon election posters."

This may be the reason for the low turnout in the elections by Germans with an immigrant background. In the latest Bundestag elections of 2017, the participation of this group of voters was 20 percent lower than the average voter turnout rate. 

Mayer stresses that the decline is expected, but at the same time there is a need to understand the reason because otherwise it threatens to create a vicious circle.

“If voters do not feel interested in the elections, their participation in the vote will be less, which in turn will lead to the parties moving away from addressing the issues for this segment. This in turn leads to a continuing low voter turnout.„


Ali Can, a Twitter activist shows the symbol of his social media slogan #MeTwo during a TV interview in Cologne, Germany, July 27, 2018. REUTERS/Wolfgang Rattay

Initiatives to urge immigrant Germans to Vote

Social activist Ali Can, who launched #MeTwo on Twitter to draw attention to discrimination, is well aware of this problem. 

Can, who was born in Turkey, is of Kurdish descent, and his family fled to Germany in 1995. Can also seeks to increase the turnout for electoral participation among people of immigrant backgrounds.

For the Bundestag elections, the social activist has launched a multilingual application to assist electoral participation.

“In the twenty-first century, there should be no barriers to participation in elections," he said.

But he nevertheless calls on the same immigrant groups to become active again.

“We have failed to give people with immigrant backgrounds the feeling that they also belong to Germany. But it also has to be about winning people over emotionally.”

“In the end, what we all want is a greater turnout from these voters to participate in the vote."

Why Low Turnout?

Insofar as there is a lack of data, there is little information about the reasons why voters with immigrant backgrounds choose a particular party. 

Statistical studies have a role in this. In typical election analyses, the numbers of voters with immigrant backgrounds in the samples are often very low, making reliable data difficult to obtain. 

It is possible to conduct statistics tailored to this segment of the electorate, but the costs of doing so would be very high, and would include only the largest immigrant groups in Germany.

The Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung, which is close to the CDU, conducted two such studies in 2015 and 2019. The focus was on the three largest immigrant groups in Germany at the time, namely, those with Turkish (2.8 million), Russian (1.4 million) and Polish (2.2 million) backgrounds.

In one study, voting results were found to be relatively stable for a long time in two groups of voters with immigrant backgrounds.

The results of the first study showed that Germans of Russian descent mostly voted for the Christian Democratic Party and the Christian Social Party while Germans of Turkish origin supported the Social Democratic Party.

However, these percentages are beginning to decrease as the latest study indicates a change towards voting for the right-wing party among Germans of Russian descent, while the proportion of Germans of Turkish descent who support the Christian Democratic Party and the Christian Social Party has increased.


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