DPI reports on Erdogan’s AKP lobby and Erbakan’s legacy in Austria

Parties and organisations from Turkey have built networks of influence and mobilisation within the ethnic Turkish community in Europe.

For the Turkish presidential and parliamentary elections to be held on 14 May 2023, more than 100,000 people of Turkish origin are eligible to vote in Austria and are still allowed to vote abroad until 9 May 2023. In the current DPI Focus series, the Austrian Fund for the Documentation of Religiously Motivated Political Extremism (Dokumentationsstelle Politischer Islam) informs in two reports about the background, connections and transnational activities of Islamic-Turkish association structures. It is explained how the AKP offshoot UID (Union of International Democrats) assumes a bridging function between the Erdogan government and the diaspora of Turkish origin. In addition, the European outpost organisations of the Saadet Partisi (Bliss Party) – Saadet Europe as well as the youth organisation AGD (Avrupa Gençlik Derneği) – which is part of the opposition alliance in the 2023 election, were examined.

“The Millî-Görüş ideology is spread from Turkey through various organisations of Political Islam among communities of Turkish origin worldwide. Necmettin Erbakan founded an Islamic counter-model to a liberal-democratic state. The origins of the UID, Saadet Europe and AGD, which are active in Austria, go back to this ideology, which strives for a social order according to Islamic rules,” says Lisa Fellhofer, director of the Documentation Centre Political Islam.

UID: Erdogan’s long arm mobilises in Austria

The AKP’s front organisation, which operates under the name UID (until 2018 Union of European-Turkish Democrats, UETD), established itself in Austria as early as 2006. With three locations (Vienna, Salzburg, Vorarlberg), the UID is active throughout Austria. Among its dialogue partners is the ATF (Turkish Federation in Austria), which belongs to the Grey Wolves. In addition to its lobbying work for the AKP, the UID regularly organises events for AKP officials, including leading Turkish government members.

The mobilisation potential of the UID was recently demonstrated in its activities around the current Turkish election campaign. The highlight of the election events in this country was a visit by Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Cavusoglu to the UID Vienna in April 2023 with around 1,000 guests from Turkey, to which Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan spoke by telephone. Erdogan critics are repeatedly denounced as “anti-democratic” or even “terrorist” by the supporters of the AKP lobby organisation.

Saadet Europe and AGD: Erbakan’s last Millî-Görüş project

With its offshoots, Saadet Europe and the youth organisation AGD, the Saadet Party has created its own structures in Europe that provide a stage for its politicians. The central importance of Austria becomes clear with the choice of Vienna as the European headquarters of the AGD, where the MGV Publications, already well-known in the media, also operates, which in the past offered literature with anti-Semitic, Islamist and right-wing extremist content. The founding father of the Millî-Görüş movement, Necmettin Erbakan, shaped the Turkish party landscape for decades with his ideology in terms of an Islamist policy that radiated to Europe and created a final political legacy with the Saadet Party. His last Millî-Görüş project is now in opposition to the ruling AKP, which Erdogan founded with his followers in 2001 to break away from Erbakan’s influence.

DPI Focus: Im Dienste der AKP – Union Internationaler Demokraten (UID)

DPI Focus: Erbakans Vermächtnis – Saadet Europe und Avrupa Gençlik Derneği (AGD)

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