The right to vote – a precious asset

Why people with a migration background are voting in Germany’s parliamentary elections. Three of them tell us their reasons.

Waiting at the polling station (archive image 2020)
Waiting at the polling station picture alliance/dpa

On 26 September voters in Germany will be electing a new federal parliament – the Bundestag. 60.4 million people are entitled to vote. An estimated twelve percent of them, about 7.4 million people, have a migration background. Three of them tell us why they will be casting their votes.

“I was incredibly excited the first time I was able to vote,” says Alexander Davydov. “I did it to make sure my vote counted, and it was thrilling to know that it was important.” He was five years old when his parents brought him and his brother to Germany from St Petersburg in 1993. After the collapse of the Soviet Union, Jews faced increasing anti-Semitism there, and many of them were able to immigrate to Germany as so-called quota refugees. The father spoke German. He had learned it at school. As a qualified engineer he found work in Dortmund, where Alexander grew up. He says that voting in elections was always very important in his family. “My father always voted for parties that supported families. He wanted us to have a secure future and to buy a house for us as soon as possible,” says Davydov, who works as a sports editor in Frankfurt. The family was naturalized in 2001 when Alexander was thirteen. After graduating from school he served in the Bundeswehr and later travelled the world. He backpacked in Asia, Oceania, West Africa and the Middle East. Nowadays, he still enjoys travelling. “I was in more than 70 countries around the globe, and they included dictatorships and kingdoms. Every time I return from a journey, being able to live in a democracy and vote is like taking my first sip of clear drinking water: incomparably precious.”

Being able to live in a democracy and vote is incomparably precious.

Alexander Davydov, sports editor

Sevgi Sanna came to Germany from Turkey in the early 1970s. Her mother carried her in her hand luggage. Her father worked on construction sites in Baden-Württemberg and then brought his family over to join him. “A typical migrant worker’s story,” says 48-year-old Sevgi. She now lives near Frankfurt am Main. “I gained German citizenship at 19,” she says. Her mother and her seven siblings also acquired German citizenship in the 1990s. Her father decided not to. “He always felt like he was just a temporary guest worker in Germany, and later he returned to his old homeland.” He died in Turkey before he was able to fulfil his dream of enjoying the fruits of his hard work. Her mother wavered for a long time, but in the end she stayed with their children and grandchildren. Sevgi graduated from school and now works in a bank. “When I first became entitled to vote, it was very important to me. It helped me to feel at home in Germany, to feel I belong.” She votes in every election. “Turkish people are very sensible politically. They talk a lot about politics in their families and with acquaintances, unlike traditional Germans,” she says. Their mother often asked her and her siblings about what each party stands for. “She gained her information from us and then voted, even though she had never really learned to speak German well.”

Voting was very important to me. It helped me to feel at home in Germany, to feel I belong.

Sevgi Sanna, bank employee

https://www.deutschland.de/en/2021-bundestag-elections

“Too little knowledge of German.” That was the reason why 40-year-old Amina Chebli from Morocco was not entitled to vote. She has been living in Germany for 20 years and was naturalized in 2013. Amina Chebli has four children. The eldest is 18, and the youngest is five years old. “I’m a housewife,” she says. But she is also a voluntary integration commissioner for sport. And during the Covid-19 pandemic she worked in the Rhine-Main area to bring women with a migration background out of their cramped accommodation so they could become more mobile and join in sporting and fitness activities. She often talks with her family, friends and neighbours about which party is the best to vote for. But “Everyone says something different!” She comes from a politically active family. Her brother is a mayor in Morocco. Meanwhile, she has improved her knowledge of German and wants to vote for the first time in the parliamentary elections for the Bundestag. Even so, she has a suggestion for improvement: “I would like more information in Arabic from the parties.”

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